Four Seasons' Farewell: Storied Memories, Tipsy Guests and Chefs Gone Wild

Stefano Giovannini
From left: Daniel Boulud, Cesare Casella and Jean Georges Vongerichten

After 57 years, the restaurant, hotspot to power-ati in media, politics and fashion, shutters with Daniel Boulud, Thomas Keller and others feting the crowd before jumping pantless into the pool on a charity dare.

Much of the sadness that was felt at one of the Four Seasons final dinners last night was a sense of bidding farewell to an institution that opened in 1959, and stood for an elegant and formal style of dining in New York. Though the restaurant, which lost its lease, will reopen a few blocks away in about 18 months, it will never again occupy the grand, timeless space designed by Philip Johnson, with its chain curtains and central pool.

As part of the closing week’s festivities, Citymeals, New York’s prime foodie charity that feeds the homebound elderly, gathered the nation’s top toques, including Daniel Boulud, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Thomas Keller, Cesare Casella, Michael White and Daniel Humm to prepare a final feast at which tickets in the famous pool room went for $1,250 and $2,500.


Charlie Rose and Martha Stewart

At the cocktail hour, Dom Perignon flowed, while the distinguished chefs in their crisp whites greeted some of the restaurant’s well-heeled guests, including Martha Stewart and Charlie Rose, who served as the evening’s master of ceremonies.

“At the end of the day, success is based on memories,’’ mused Keller as he fielded requests for reservations at the French Laundry and Per Se.

Humm explained of his shiso leaf wagyu short rib carpaccio canapé: “This night has a lot of weight, but we wanted something bright in color and deep in substance that wouldn’t wear people out. We want them to go swimming in the pool!’’ Of his fellow celebrated cooks, he mused with admiration, “They are all dudes!’’

During the seated meal, Margo Nederlander and Bill Rudin spoke, invoking their formidable families and recollections of the room’s legendary power lunch. “My father shook hands and connected so many people here I thought he was a maître d’,’’ laughed Rudin.


The chefs of Four Seasons and Julian Niccolini inside of the restaurant's pool

After the guests were served a very serious dinner of eggs benedict with caviar and corn, followed by tuna tartare, epaulettes with rabbit, summer truffle and reblochon, and bison tournedos with chanterelles and marrow-bordelaise paired with five wines and Casa Dragones sipping tequila, the evening began to take on a different tone.

“If anyone gives $25,000 I will jump in the pool, and for $50,000 I will jump in naked!’’ offered Julian Niccolini, the famously puckish co-owner. One tipsy guest grabbed the microphone and began rambling about how much he loved Mick Jagger, Ron Wood and Bobby Flay before he was escorted away.

Suddenly, the ever-distinguished Boulud, who is Citymeals co-president, decided to take up the dare that was in the air, running out in his skivvies and climbing into the pool. He called on Vongerichten to join him, and that chef also threw off his trousers and jumped in. Soon Casella was knee-deep in the water, followed by Niccolini, and as guests leaped out of their seats to capture the moment, the waders began splashing and soaking the crowd.


Boulud pictured at the Four Seasons kitchen

“We love these two boys and what they have done for our industry!’’ said Boulud of Niccolini and co-owner Alex von Bidder.

Niccolini beamed in appreciation, and despite the gravity of losing his beloved professional home, managed to find a silver lining. “In the next year, I will have a lot of sex!’’ he declared.

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