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The Four Seasons, The 'Power Lunch' Mecca, Turns 50

The Four Seasons, The 'Power Lunch' Mecca, Turns 50

Four Season Dining Room in Hong Kong (photo by Creative Commons user jay.tong)

Verena Dobnik | Associated Press Writer

The Four Seasons: ‘Power Lunch’ Mecca Turns 50 By VERENA DOBNIK Associated Press Writer

NEW YORK-The Dalai Lama. Madonna. Bill Clinton. Mary J. Blige. And a 13-year-old celebrating his bar mitzvah, complete with scantily clad dancers his father hired to usher the teen into manhood.

They all were recent guests at The Four Seasons restaurant, the storied dining room that practically invented New York’s concept of the “power lunch” a networking mecca of money, clout, good looks, even global spirituality.

This year marks the 50th anniversary for the restaurant just off Park Avenue on Manhattan’s East Side, a two-story culinary cathedral awash in creamy Italian marble and French walnut designed by architect Philip Johnson. Chairs and bar stools are by another architectural genius, Mies van der Rohe, who designed the Seagram skyscraper above the restaurant.

It’s hardly cozy. But that’s not the point.

The Four Seasons is an international publicity machine and, despite its age, still a place to be seen. Competitors have cropped up hot venues like Jean Georges, Per Se and Momofuku but none are landmarks, a status The Four Seasons earned in 1989.

At the helm is Julian Niccolini, the Tuscan-born managing partner. Part joker, part provocateur, part power-broker, he presides over the dining room and knows the details of guests’ lives, secrets and all.

Niccolini loves to rib guests he once sent a top investment banker a sack of raw potato spuds, with a ridiculously long recipe for baking potatoes, to make up for what the guest said were overpriced potatoes.

The power-lunch regulars returned the ribbing at a 50th anniversary Friar’s Club-type “roast” of The Four Seasons on Tuesday a $300-a-plate benefit for Citymeals-on-Wheels.