Julia Child taught restaurateur Danny Meyer one of the most important lessons he’s ever learned about hospitality. It was many years ago at the Union Square Cafe — he can’t recall exactly when — and he had received notice that she would be coming in for a celebration.
“Of course I spent the entire day, and day before, transfixed on what this experience would be like,” Meyer said. He put some of the late chef’s favorite dishes on the menus, and made sure they were freshly printed. When she came in with a group of 12 or so people, “Of course, the entire time she was there, I was obsessing over her table the entire meal.”
Child had a lovely dinner. The next day, Meyer received a hand-delivered letter from the New York Times, and was excited to open it up and read it.
“It turned out to be a very long typewritten letter from the managing editor of the New York Times telling me that he had been at the restaurant the last night, and Julia Child was at the next table. And ‘It was clear that we mattered a lot less than she did.’ It turned out to be a scathing and very very painful letter to read. He was absolutely right, in retrospect,” Meyer said. “It taught me one of the most important lessons of my career, which is that there’s only one Julia Child, but there are many regulars and celebrities that come to the restaurant. The lesson was how critically important it is to pay more attention to the people you don’t know first, because then they won’t notice how much time you’re spending elsewhere. But if you go to people you don’t know last, they may spend their entire meal with the feeling that they didn’t matter to you.”
Meyer, of course, went on to write “Setting the Table,” one of the most impactful books on hospitality. And on Tuesday, the Julia Child Foundation for Gastronomy and the Culinary Arts announced that the Shake Shack founder and owner of more than a dozen other restaurants will be the recipient of this year’s Julia Child Award for his influence on the hospitality industry. When he heard the news a few months ago, he was on his way to Chez Panisse, and “I was skipping up the steps to the restaurant.”
That memorable visit from Child wasn’t the first time she had come to his restaurant, which was shortly after Union Square Cafe had opened.
“As a 27-year-old first-time restaurateur, to have Julia Child come into the restaurant was akin to if I were the priest of a very small church and the pope were to pay a visit,” Meyer said. “It completely rocked my world and it helped to put us on the map.”
For the rest of the story, see: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/food/wp/2017/07/18/shake-shack-founder-danny-meyer-wins-the-julia-child-award/?tid=ss_fb&utm_term=.208c29bb413d