Food Story About Joe Baum

I’d like to tell you Joe Baum who created 167 restaurants in his lifetime. Among them were the four highest grossing eateries in the United States. They were Windows on the World, The Rainbow Room, The Four Seasons and Tavern on the Green.

Joe’s philosophy was simple: “Our product,” he said, “the measure of our success, is pleasure. We are in the pleasure business.  We are organized, equipped and staffed to supply pleasure, at a profit, which means that any threats to pleasure are bad for business. We must constantly ask ourselves, “What more can we give?” What will it cost you to give ’em a glass of champagne or an extra oyster? The more pleasure you give, the more you will receive along with at least temporary job security and higher fees.” Continue reading

Final Windows on the World Meeting

The CEO of Windows on the World, Joe Baum loved meetings, the bigger the better. He preferred that everyone crowd into his office, but now and again we met in architect Hugh Hardy’s vast studio on Broadway and 18th Street, as we did at ten a.m. one chilly day at the end of October 1995 to review the progress of the vast Windows on the World enterprise.

Eighteen experts in various fields gathered around the table in Hugh’s conference room. Blueprints of the 106th and 107th floors covered one entire wall. On the other three walls were dioramas of color-coordinated paint chips, tile patterns, carpet swatches, chair designs, bathroom fixtures, and samples of end tables for the seating areas, along with hundreds of other prototypes. Exhibited along the length of a very long table in the adjoining room were scale models of The Restaurant, The Greatest Bar on Earth, The Cellar in the Sky, and the Private Dining Suites. Here, too, were actual samples of crystal, flatware, salt and pepper shakers, and serving dishes. Famed graphic designer, Milton Glaser’s displayed his china patterns in the form of paper mock-ups because all the tableware was still being manufactured in England. His colorful menu designs were carefully placed on the tabletops. Drop-dead gorgeous boys and girls were standing by to model the waitstaff uniforms that had been specially made for the occasion. Continue reading

Windows Broke on Sept. 11

The new Windows restaurants and banquet rooms occupied two acres of space but bore virtually no resemblance to the original. When asbestos was discovered, the space had to be stripped to the steel girders. Every inch of the floors and walls and ceilings were torn down. You could walk on the 107th floor and stare down clear to the empty chasm beneath your feet.

CEO Joe Baum demanded that everything, everything, be reconsidered. I was summoned to write an essay on the very meaning of the word “restaurant.”Another day I was assigned the task of explaining the term “menu.” He insisted on knowing what people were wearing on the street, in the entrance to the tower, and on various floors of the twin towers. Continue reading

Food Job: TV Star

Today, one hundred million households can tune into the Food Network. There are stations in New York, Atlanta, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Detroit, and Knoxville. There are viewers in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Korea, Thailand, Singapore, Philippines, Monaco, Polynesia, and Great Britain. More people watch the Food Network than CNN. It no longer aims to teach cooking techniques or kitchen skills. Instead, it has lurched into the production of cooking shows featuring the assembly of store-bought components, and of cooking-competition shows that choose winners and losers. It also has an unfathomable addiction to cup cakes.

What is turning this huge audience on to all of it’s culinary idols, as featured on the Food Network though my impression is that Guy Fieri takes up 23 of the 24 hours a day. (Maybe many people like him?) Vast swaths of people appear to have the time to watch others cook and eat, and exclaim how good it all smells—but to have no time to cook for themselves. Continue reading

Food Job: Lobbyist

A lobbyist is someone who advocates for someone or an organization and gets paid for influencing legislation.  Every year, $9 billion is spent on lobbying.  It is the 3rd largest budget after government agencies and the food and tourist industries.

The Restaurant Association is just one among literally hundreds of special-interest advocates operating in Washington, D.C. These include lobbyists for agricultural and fishery industries, food processors, and every other corner of the big business of food. The American League of Lobbyists says: “We want people, young people, to enter government affairs and to be part of the great American political process.”

To be a great lobbyist you must be (or convincingly appear to be) passionate and knowledgeable about the cause you are advocating. Your rolodex and personal network are your most valuable possessions, second only to grease. Greased wheels lead to access to power. 43% of former congressmen have worked or are working as lobbyist.

To get a job as a lobbyist, try volunteering for a cause…you never know where it may lead.

Food Job: Mom

The oddest “job” I have ever had was at the invitation of a very large home builder. I was asked to stand in the kitchen of a model home, look like a mom, and cook little snacks for the house hunters. It was a hugely successful promotion. Not surprisingly, everyone gathered in the kitchen. Neighbors met neighbors and shared notes about schools and other areas of mutual interest. Sales soared.