Bistro Owner

Bristot Paul Bert courtesy of Christian Sarramon

There has never been a better time to open a bistro. The public is looking for comfort food before we lunge off the fiscal cliff. And according to various news reports, everyone’s a foodie these days.

In 1986, I wrote American Bistro with contemporary recipes, menus, and tales of restaurateurs in the pursuit of dreams. At the time, I thought we were at the evolutionary stage of a marvelously intriguing adventure, trying to sample everything, and all at once. (You can buy this book on Amazon for $1.00 now!)

On the menu we were offered sautéed breast of duck with fresh foie gras and golden caviar and cornmeal pancakes with fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy. What imagination!

I can still remember having a wonderful time shouting applause and encouragement for these bistro chefs while spurring them on to new creations to delight us.

The late restaurateur George Lang with his wife, Jenifer, was owner of the magical and legendary Café des Artists. For my book he wrote this recipe for a perfect bistro:


Yield One

The Cooking Utensils

About 4,000 square feet of space near a paved road.
One very long lease, which is like the girdle on a fat lady:
maybe it’s tight but it lets her breathe.


The Dough!

Several sackfuls of money,
preferably not yours
and without strings attached

The Flavoring

A well-seasoned chef, male or female (between 120 and 200 pounds),
preferably one whose ego has to be fed only once a day.

1 bouquet garni of assorted cooks and key personnel.
Average age should be 30 years old with a minimum of 20 years of experience.

1 bartender with four hands and no pockets.

A medium-sized, all-purpose kitchen planner.

The Yeast

1 fully-grown manager
who will make the BISTRO rise without too much kneading

Making the Sauce

1 fully-ripened interior designer
(do not remove backbone)

1 fine-grained graphic designer and
one uniform designer (optional)

The Topping

1 public relations person,
whipped until a froth has formed


Before combining the ingredients, undertake dozens of market research studies,
then ignore them and go with your own instincts.