Michelin: will it drive American chefs to suicide, too?

Last night’s activity was probably outside the bounds of this blog, I’ll admit, but I thought I’d post today about the Michelin Guide NYC 2006 launch party anyway – hey, it was free!  Full disclosure: I’d like to say that I got in via twentyaday.com credentials and yukked it up with D-Meyer and Jean-Georges, but in reality, my girlfriend works for a magazine and the invitation was her doing rather than mine.  Thanks, hon!

Located at the lovely, scaffolding-clad Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum on 5th Ave. and 89th St, the event began at 7pm and had a line out the door by 7:15, when we arrived.  After filtering in, slowly, we made our way to the bar to pick up our complementary beverages.  I opted for the Verve Cliquot champagne (sponsor of the party) – is this good stuff?  I have no idea.  My girlfriend chose the red wine.  Can’t really go wrong with beverages at a French party, I suppose.  Just don’t put your dirty champagne glass on a tray filled to capacity with clean wine glasses, as I saw one probable Madison Av. resident try – show a little class like the Park Av. types and hand them to an empty-handed busgirl who’s obviously trying to go do something else.  Thanks!

We made our way over to the only spot left with breathing room, near the fountain at the bottom of the circular interior ramp.  This was to be our vantage point for the next hour, and a fortuitous spot it was indeed, except for the acquisition of the tiny morsels of sushi and hors d’oveurs that apparently were the only food.  They were coming out of the kitchen/back room area, and I think that the folks standing over there basically scarfed them all – probably press types (who, incidentally, are the shabbiest-looking people in any gathering like this – love it!).  I suppose all of the heavy hitters were retiring to Jean-Georges afterwards, but I was starved and certainly not going to any 3-star restaurants any time soon.

Not long after we got to the fountain, the mascot of the evening – the Michelin man – danced by.  Lord, I wish I had a camera; it would have gone nicely next to the picture of me with the Bowlmor Lanes bowling pin mascot.  Unfortunately for the struggling yet oblivious actor-dancer who likely inhabited the Michelin costume, he danced right into the guy next to us, spilling his champagne all down his front and my girlfriend’s back.  Fortunately, for comedic purposes, he did this in front of a party organizer, who promptly led Michelin Man outside and threw him under the M5 bus, returning to hand the guy a cloth napkin and a commemorative square of the costume with a Michelin tire mark on it.  Ah, marketing synergy.

We scanned the crowd for most of the time we were there, in search of a familiar celeb face, but quickly settled on pointing out the most bizarre-looking people we could find.  First and foremost was the lady with a REAL beehive hairdo – only Marge Simpson’s would have been longer.  Second, there were a ton of really short dudes there.  Was Napoleon a chef?  Third, half of the people looked as though they had  chain-smoked Gauloises for thirty years – yes, it was easy to tell the Americans from the French.  Last and perhaps most weirdly, they packed in enough people to this event (wall-to-wall packed on the floor of the museum) that it really reminded me of a frattish keg party – pre-gaming was probably necessary, because it was too crowded to get to the bar, and the patrons were of inappropriate drinking age anyhow.  So, if any of you are wondering when people grow out of wanting to go to extremely crowded places and drink, the answer is “never.”

Just when I was starting to get a little bored, 8pm rolled around and the speechifying began.  Of course, it didn’t begin without five minutes of concerted crowd-hushing effort by some VP of corporate stoogery from the podium.  Took me right back to middle school assembly, particularly when the crowd had to be re-hushed halfway through the second speaker (and these people didn’t talk long).  Classy!

Fortunately, after the awkward attempts at colloquial English enthusiasm by the last (native French) speaker, we had a spectacle to check out.  In true “send in the clowns” style, the books were “introduced” by a series of Michelin-apron-wearing waiters, brought down the Guggenheim ramp on silver platters.  It was cute, really, particularly when they started playing “New York, New York.”  Is it possible that we can find another New York song to play at these events?  Like, say, “I Feel Safe In New York City” by AC/DC?  Or “New York City Blues” by the Yardbirds?  Or “Across 110th St.”…okay, never mind, stick with the Sinatra.

Of course, once they started passing out the books, there was a scrum.  I mean, seriously, it was a rush to get them, even though everyone was getting one.  Was it the sticker inside proclaiming “first edition” and bearing an individual numbering that got people excited?  I mean, the internet, people – this information has been out in public for several days!  I realized almost immediately, though, that old people don’t use the internet.  Best part of the book, to me?  The subway map inside the back cover is relatively to scale and shows, in the finest European style, which streets the trains run under.  Obviously they’re hoping to sell this to tourists, because three-star restaurant patrons who live in NYC certainly don’t take the subway, dahhhling.

Anyway, we made our exit shortly after collecting our loot, just in time to watch someone practically shove a guy on crutches aside so she could walk down the white carpet to exit.  Absolutely a tremendous comedic event – thanks, Michelin!


Filed under NYC

2 responses to “Michelin: will it drive American chefs to suicide, too?

  1. Anonymous

    mike–you are my hero. your account is too funny. and you’ve inspired me to do my own food-quest (but not for $20 or $40).

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