Nice save, New York!

25 May

I was in New York this week to launch a new website at Internet Week. Except the website doesn’t exactly exist yet, so I guess I was just in New York.

Meanwhile, Alan was taking a week’s vacation in Michigan to celebrate his birthday. And I would’ve been with him, celebrating and vacationing, had I not been launching a non-existent website in New York.

Does that make any sense? No, it doesn’t.

Which is why I was a bit of a sourpuss when I boarded the train on Sunday for New York.

Alas, great city that she is, New York was prepared to provide some redemption.

I’ll admit, it didn’t seem that way at first – when I stepped out of Penn Station, there was a steady drizzle. I was soaked by the time I arrived at my hotel in Chelsea. After helping set up our space at the event, I had a list of things I wanted to do that afternoon (a “Me Party” of sorts, as my sister calls it) to treat myself to a mini-break before diving back into work.

On my list:

  • Check out the Highline
  • Walk up to the Green Flea Market
  • Scout out the new food hall at the Plaza
  • Hit the TKTS booth and snag a seat at a show that evening

All of that was scrapped when I realized I was not only drenched, but didn’t have proper clothes for zipping around a wet city. I contemplated crawling in bed and indulging in a pity party, but instead, I texted my old roommate, David, from Capitol Hill, whom I hadn’t seen in four years and who lives in Manhattan.

Lady Fortune was with me, because he promptly wrote back and offered to meet at a restaurant near my hotel. An hour later, we were hugging at Markt, David appearing to have come straight from a duck hunt: he was wearing jeans, Wellies, a button down shirt and a quilted vest. It was very Dick Cheney. And he’s one of my few friends who would consider that a compliment.

We parked ourselves at the bar, ordered a bottle of wine, some mussels and a crock of French onion soup, and shrugged off the rain.

As we neared the end of our meal, David looked past me and said, “I think that is Chef Todd English sitting next to you.”

Interestingly, that name would have meant nothing to me only four hours earlier, but in researching restaurants in NYC, I’d noted that Todd English was something of a celebrity.

“No way,” I told David. “I can’t believe you would recognize a CHEF. Who does that?” (Actually, Alan would also do that because he watches the Food Network, but I don’t have a television, so I’m a bit clueless.)

“I’m pretty sure,” he said, doing a Google image search on his phone. “Doesn’t he look like Chef Todd English?”

I verified that the photo looked like the guy next to me, nodding. Then said, “You keep saying his name like it’s officially three words: Chef Todd English. Just call him Chef. Or Todd. Or Chef English. But not all three. Right?”

David shot virtual daggers at me, leaning forward with an eyebrow raised to say, “Chef Todd English?”

Which prompted the guy next to me to look up and say, “That’s me.”

Which prompted me to say, “Oh my gosh. I didn’t even know who you were until a few hours ago.”

Which is a discreet way to say, “Please don’t even begin to pretend you’re the shit.”

Mr. English didn’t seem to know what to make of being both recognized for and denied his celebrity status simultaneously. But I’ve never let an opportunity go to waste, so I decided it was a good time to interview him.

Even though I knew nothing other than that he was the brain behind the Plaza’s Food Hall I’d intended to visit, I rambled off a series of questions.

Here’s a loose one-way transcript of the wine-fueled interview:

I would imagine being a chef is weird, like being an author.

People know your work and respect you, but you’re not easily recognized so you don’t have to mess with the trappings of celebrity.

Do you find that to be true?

<Answer that you can probably find on Wikipedia>

 

Do you like it?

<Answer that you can probably find on Wikipedia>

 

How would you change things if you could in this regard?

<Answer that you can probably find on Wikipedia>

 

Clearly we just recognized you.

Does that irritate you when you’re just trying to have a beer?

<Don’t need to look at Wikipedia to find the answer>

 

Wait – why are you just sitting here drinking a beer?

<Probably NOT available on Wikipedia>

 

You’re waiting on your girlfriend?

Do you need to go pick her up?

<Still not available on Wikipedia, but his cell phone indicates YES>

 

Don’t let us keep you.

But I will keep asking questions until you get tired of us and leave.

How did you get into cooking?

<Answer that you can probably find on Wikipedia>

 

Were you an only child?

<Answer that you can probably find on Wikipedia>

 

Why can’t your sister cook?

<Answer was probably on Wikipedia until his sister edited it>

 

Is she envious of your success?

<Sister probably isn’t even mentioned on Wikipedia after she’s done editing it>

 

Do you miss playing baseball?

<Answer that you can probably find on Wikipedia>

 

Was it a rotator cuff that sidelined you?

<Answer that you can probably find on Wikipedia>

 

Did you have surgery?

<Answer that you can probably find on Wikipedia>

 

Don’t you need to go meet your girlfriend?

<Yes. End of Twenty Questions.>

 

As it turns out, he’s a nice guy. Especially for someone with three names.

Good save, New York.

(And thanks for brightening my day, David. Next time, though, I expect you to take me here. Though I’m not a fan of ladders.)

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5 Responses to “Nice save, New York!”

  1. Michelle May 25, 2013 at 8:39 pm #

    Haha! Awesome interview!

    • pithypants May 26, 2013 at 7:07 am #

      I’m just bummed I didn’t think to ask him if he ever baked bacon.

      • Michelle May 26, 2013 at 11:19 am #

        LOL! That would have been just too brilliant!! I’m gonna be baking some today, actually. Pre-heated oven, of course. 😀

  2. thesinglecell May 28, 2013 at 6:37 pm #

    This looks a lot like my conversations with my nephews last weekend. Except they don’t cook. And you’re being them.

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