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An advance team of security arrived at four-star restaurant Jean Georges on New York City’s Upper West Side to prep for President-elect Donald Trump’s Tuesday evening dinner with Mitt Romney and Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus. But the only ones at the restaurant who knew the identity of the expected diners were the chef, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, and his brother and general manager, Philippe. The reservation was made under the name Suzie Mills, general manager of Trump International Hotel and Tower, which houses the famed three-Michelin-star eatery.
The detail arrived at 6:15 p.m. on Tuesday, about an hour before the high-profile politicos, who were greeted with a round of applause by the other diners. Trump, Romney and Priebus were led to Trump’s regular table, 21, but offered no customary wine list, as the president-elect doesn’t drink alcohol and his guests followed his lead.
“He usually dines here around twice a month, but we haven’t seen him in about two years, since he started the campaign,” Vongerichten tells The Hollywood Reporter. “He looks very well considering all the stress he has been through.”
The trio first ordered two garlic soups with wild frogs legs from the Everglades, as well as scallops with caramelized cauliflower and raisin caper emulsion for the table to share. Trump followed with steak, while Romney went for the lamb and Priebus the sea bass.
The sit-down was Trump’s second with Romney, as the once-outspoken critic of Trump is now the president-elect’s potential pick for secretary of state. In the past, Romney had called Trump a “phony” and a “fraud.” Priebus is Trump’s incoming White House chief of staff.
Though Trump generally doesn’t linger much more than an hour at dinner, he stayed closer to two and a half hours on Tuesday night. “They were smiling and I guess they had a lot to talk about,” said the chef.
The gathering created a bit of a situation for the Central Park restaurant, because early diners didn’t want to give up their tables to make way for later reservations. “One couple had come in for pre-theater at 5:30 p.m., but decided to skip their show and stayed until 10 p.m.,” says Vongerichten. “I guess they thought this was better theater.”
Appropriately, the trio received another round of applause when they left. As for any comments from the staff, Vongerichten says simply: “They know we don’t do politics here — we do food only.’’
While details of the table conversation were not released, Romney told reporters in the hotel lobby after the meal that he had a “wonderful evening.” He also praised Trump over his transition team efforts, saying, “I happen to think that America’s best days are ahead of us.”
The meal was captured by photographers as well as fellow diners on social media, with users quickly circulating one snap of Romney’s questionable expression in a series of memes and “caption this”-style tweets on Tuesday night.
— Good Morning America (@GMA) November 30, 2016
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Portia de Rossi
James Gordon Meek