Chef & Restaurateur John Delucie
This New York City-based chef offers a snapshot of his hectic daily life.
My alarm (iPhone) goes off at 8 am. Today, like most mornings, I wake to the soothing, comfortable tone of the NPR anchor. I listen to the “top of the hour” newscast, and in five minutes, I learn everything that’s going on in Manhattan and the world. I hang on every word and decide it’s safe to venture out and start my day.
First, I’m off to the gym for an hour of torture. After I pay my dues in sweat, I need to get to the Union Square Greenmarket (it’s Wednesday) to source products for some new menu items. Although it may sound cliché, I’m inspired by the market. All those hard-working rural folks who work the land smack in the middle of all this madness—I imagine they can’t wait to get the hell out of here at end of the day.
I stop at a stand that has the most beautiful, delicate little greens blossoming with colorful flowers. But at $12 a pound, it’s a bit prohibitive. A $30 salad is not a good look at The Lion or Crown, so I keep walking. The next booth has gorgeous mesclun, which I pick up with my hands and immediately get yelled at by the vendor. He tells me in no uncertain terms that it’s washed and organic, and now he can’t sell anything I’ve touched. I manage to find some puntarelle and sprouts and head to The Lion to try them.
Sunday happens to be Easter, and my team and I go over the day’s menu, like lamb ragu, which we’ll serve with pappardelle. My family is coming, so I will make a really old-school tomato sauce, with just garlic, olive oil and dry oregano. I’ll probably do it with rigatoni and finish with Parmigiano Reggiano.
I promised myself that to alleviate the stress of running two restaurants, I would play/practice my guitar at least an hour a day. I’ve been playing since I was a kid, and the rock ’n’ roll dream dies hard. I arrive at my Greenwich Village apartment around 4 pm and play some scales for an hour. It’s great for focus and takes my mind off the busy night and all of the things that can go wrong during dinner service.
I arrive at The Lion at 6 pm. At the garde manger station, I prepare myself a ridiculously large salad of mixed baby lettuces with sliced blood oranges and roasted cashews. I dress it with Spanish olive oil and some of the oranges’ juice. It’s so delicious and crunchy good that I even forget about its nutritious aspects, which is why I’m eating it instead of the pork terrine special. I meet with our wine director at The Lion, Jerusha Frost, and we discuss the menu and daily specials. Jerusha makes suggestions on wine pairings that could work well and discusses the wines with our staff during the meeting.
I watch service for a while, then race uptown to Crown, on East 81st Street, taking my Vespa. I love riding up Madison Avenue. I have to meet with Jason Hall, our executive chef, to taste some new dishes.
The hand-rolled trofie pasta is excellent, and I succeed at not eating the entire plate. I observe dinner service here for a few hours and say hello to some loyal Upper East Side patrons. Nothing really goes wrong tonight. Well, not nothing exactly. A busboy spilled water on a woman’s expensive suede coat. It happens. Luckily, we have a fabulous dry cleaner right next door who has seen this happen many times and knows exactly what to do. I offer to buy her and her friend a cheesecake in a jar. I ride my Vespa back downtown to check on things at The Lion. All is well, so I head home at 1 am to play guitar and relax.
Favorite Songs & the Wines That Harmonize with Them
1.“Sara Smile” by Hall & Oates with Domaine du Comte Liger-Belair 2009 Clos du Château (Vosne-Romanée). A top-quality red Burgundy from a seductive vintage, this wine strikes every chord. Like the song, it hums a charming, nuanced melody.
2. “Superstar” by Luther Vandross with Domaine J.L. Chave 1990 Hermitage. This benchmark wine mirrors the song in its complex weave of spice, smoke and character.
3. “One Hundred Ways” by James Ingram with Vega Sicilia 1970 Unico (Ribera del Duero). Both song and wine are soulful and complex, a blend of elements unifying with time.
John DeLucie is the chef-proprietor of Crown and The Lion in New York City, and author of The Hunger: A Story of Food, Desire and Ambition (HarperCollins, 2009).