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East Coasters once were arrogant about the superiority of their restaurants. But as produce began to dominate protein on menus, California gained an ingredient edge — and now New York chefs are heading west to join the vibrant scene. For an off-the-menu discussion comparing drinking, tipping and eating habits in N.Y. and L.A., THR spoke with eight migrating chefs and restaurateurs for their insights: Jean-Georges Vongerichten, whose NYC Trump fave Jean-Georges opens at the new Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills in June; The Lambs Club’s Geoffrey Zakarian, whose recent Georgie is a hit at the Montage Beverly Hills; April Bloomfield and Ken Friedman, whose West Village hotspot The Spotted Pig soon will open in Hollywood’s old Cat & Fiddle space; ex-Scarpetta toque Scott Conant, whose The Ponte in Beverly Grove premiered in February; Brooklyn chef Sara Kramer, whose Kismet in Los Feliz and Madcapra in L.A.’s Grand Central Market are sizzling; and The Smile’s Matt Kliegman and Carlos Quirarte, whose The Smile’s di Alba launched this year in downtown Los Angeles.
DINERS’ DIVERGENT ATTITUDES
Carlos Quirarte In L.A., they like to hang, have a conversation. We think, “What are they doing? What are their jobs?” In N.Y., from the moment you see each other, you’re trying to figure out how to get away from each other.
Geoffrey Zakarian A big difference in L.A. is unsustainable traffic: If you’re taking 45 minutes to get there, you’re damn straight you’re staying a while. And in L.A., they may be wearing a T-shirt and flip-flops, but they are not any less demanding.
Jean-Georges Vongerichten L.A. is more relaxed, and we are more serious in New York.
A POLARITY OF PALATES
Scott Conant In New York, they ask you to change the flavor profile — a different sauce or vinaigrette. In L.A., there is a lot of, “I can’t eat this and I can’t eat that.”
April Bloomfield I don’t get that many requests in New York. Waiters come in to ask me about special additions, but what they really are saying is, “Pretend I’m asking you.” In L.A., I plan on having the menu be less meaty with lots of salads, vegetables and cocktails with shrubs.
Zakarian I thought that L.A. is where your body is your temple, but I sell more spaghetti and meatballs and rib-eye than fish or salads.
WHO BOOZES MORE
Conant L.A. is more of a cocktail culture, while New York is more about wine. It takes longer to get a drink made in L.A. because they use tons of ingredients.
Sara Kramer People in L.A. drink less, but there is a lot more weed around.
Friedman Everyone says nobody drinks in L.A. because they have their trainers in the a.m.
WHO LEAVES BIGGER TIPS
Friedman In New York, people drink more, so they end up tipping more.
Quirarte New Yorkers will tip for any reason possible and out of habit, but in L.A. they hang out more, so it’s more related to service.
WHICH CITY KISSES MORE VIP ASS
Matt Kliegman In New York, if someone famous walks in, the move is to pretend they are not there. It’s almost to a fault, so they wind up getting bad service.
Friedman Our VIPs are our regulars. If Brad Pitt shows up in L.A., he’s going to have to get in line behind them.
This story first appeared in the April 13 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
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