Many of us have our favorite restaurants that we frequent. Maybe it's by our jobs, a workout studio or just a place that feels like home. You know the staff, menus, other regulars and more - but how much of an insider are you? At Balthazar, by Reggie Nadelson, looks at one of NYC's iconic restaurants in every way possible by breaking down who has been a part of its success, the staff that keeps it running smoothly, the patrons that visit and more!
ATHLEISURE MAG: The book has a number of notables that have been at Balthazar: those in the literary, acting, publishing, and culinary communities. Although you are referencing them in terms of their visits to Balthazar, it's also a reflection of a who's who in your network! In reading this book, you're also sharing who you interact with, we'd welcome an invite to your dinner party anytime. Please tell us about your background as the diversity of characters shared in this book seem to represent people you have encountered during your day-to-day or through your work as a writer. What is your background as we know that you are a writer as well as someone who has eaten at a number of restaurants - tell us more.
REGGIE NADELSON: I think you’ll see in the book that many of the famous people are not necessarily my friends. I do have friends who are writers and actors, but most of my friends are lawyers, doctors, editors, house-painters, teachers, not necessarily famous; just fun. I grew up in Greenwich Village in a pretty free-wheeling world. It was the 1960s and 70s, and by the nature of the time and place, there was a lot of diversity.
I’ve been a journalist all my adult life, have worked in London and New York, for magazines such as Departures and Conde Nast Traveller UK, as well as newspapers like the Independent and the Financial Times.
I’ve written a series of mysteries featuring Artie Cohen, a New York Cop, which have been published in New York, London and translated into a dozen other languages.
I’ve travelled a lot, including to Russia, Iran, across Europe and to South America., as well as across the USA.
AM: You have eaten at so many places, why did you decide to write a book about Balthazar as opposed to another restaurant in Keith McNally's portfolio or another restaurant group?
RN: The answer to this question is the book itself. I think you’ll find the first chapter really does it best. It has long been my neighborhood place, where friends and family hang out.
AM: There are a number of anthems/themes that run throughout the book - resilience (what it means in the restaurant industry, a retail establishment in the tough NYC market, and what it means in a 9/11 - post/9/11 world), the importance and necessity of immigrants, change and adaptation, the importance of being a brand that moves into a culture and how those who are at the helm continue to manage this, honoring the past (old NY vs new), and the global perspective (how Balthazar embodies a french style while being in the bustling center of the world) - were these intentional elements that you planned to weave in the book as this is very relevant in today's world and really makes you think of the intricate fabric that we live in.
RN: Of course they were intentional elements. I’m glad it works for you.
AM: What do you think is next for Balthazar?
RN: Another twenty years, I hope.
AM: You share the many faces of Balthazar in terms of the interactions that you have had with the staff and identifying those relationships that are real versus those that exist during your meal - who has become a part of your personal network from the Balthazar world where you have a relationship with outside of the restaurant's world?
RN: James Weichert, who was the morning manager, has become one of my best friends, though he has moved on to real estate development.
AM: Your commitment to writing this book was so integral to making it a phenomenal read. When you went to the oysters farm (do you like them more now), meat processing plant, winery and received your potatoes - which of these trips were your favorite and those most insightful?
RN: Gosh, I can’t really say. I enjoyed them all so much in various ways.
AM: Soho is just as much of a character as the restaurant and we've seen the changes that have come over this area - what do you think is next for this neighborhood?
RN: If I knew, I’d buy real estate and get rich. Hard to say. More shopping. More tourists?
AM: Do you think with the unique characteristics that make Balthazar what it is - that there will be the "next Balthazar"?
RN: For me, if something is unique, it is unique. There will certainly be another special restaurant, a place that stands out. But not a Balthazar.
AM: What's next for you - what are you working on and/or what's the next book of yours we should be reading?
RN: I’m working on a documentary about ELLA FITZGERALD for her 100th birthday, which is this year.
But you can always ready my mysteries, all available on Amazon under my name.
AM: We enjoyed reading the shifts of how Balthazar evolves from day to night and the characters that move about - what is your favorite time of day there?
RN: I like the very early morning when almost no one is there, and if I’m up, very late at night at the bar.
AM: In a general week, how many times would we see you at Balthazar?
RN: In a normal week, a couple of times at breakfast, maybe once each at dinner and weekend brunch
AM: What are your top 5 restaurants in NYC?
AM: What is your perfect meal at Balthazar for breakfast vs lunch vs dinner?
RN: Lunch: cheeseburger with raw onions and frites.
Dinner: cevice to start, Steak frites or skate, then banana ricotta tart for desert.
AM: Who are your favorite people you interviewed for this book?
RN: It would be like choosing your favorite child, but Chef Shane McBride, and Chef Eric Ripert were fun.
AM: Will you write another book of this nature - if so what and do you plan on writing another about Balthazar?
RN: I just don't know.
AM: You span the 20 years of Balthazar while being extremely current to as late as last year, how long did it take for you to research and write this?
RN: In a sense, twenty years. In actual terms of writing, about two.
AM: When you're not eating at fabulous iconic places, what's a general NY day like for you?
RN: Up around 7, out to grab a coffee, back to do some writing, out to Fanelli’s, our local bar for a late breakfast/early lunch/ back to writing or doing interviews. Maybe a pilates class. Always a long walk.
Out to the movies, occasionally the theater, or a jazz club or concert with boyfriend/friends. Or out to eat with friends, or friends over to eat here.
I always read for a couple of hours be-fore bed, usually a novel.
Favorites: Pride and Prejudice, Age of Innocence, Anna Karenina, Midnight’s Children, Portnoy’s Complaint, The Yiddish Policeman’s Union…too many to name.
Interior pictures courtesy of Peter Nelson and book cover by Simon & Schuster
Read more from the Mar Issue and read Beyond Balthazar in mag.