OR HERE TODAY-GONE TOMORROW – OR MAYBE NOT!
Yes, it’s true, the Picasso curtain, Le Tricorne, is no longer hanging at The Four Seasons restaurant. And, it’s also true that The Four Seasons will no longer be at the beautiful space in the Seagram Building, their lease was not renewed. Thankfully, the interior of the restaurant, along with the building, now has landmark status so the space with the soaring ceilings and the beaded curtains will remain.
Our family was in the hospitality business when The Four Seasons was “the” restaurant to go to. We purposely visited the top restaurants in the City to learn and to teach our children who were in the business…lessons on the success of great restaurants and to observe how it all came together.
And it certainly did at The Four Seasons. The food was lovely, but it was the whole experience that made it so special. The mood was set when first entering the lobby of the Seagram Building and then walking up the stairs, past the Picasso, sitting in the Pool Room surrounded by seasonal gorgeous flowers, plants and yes, trees, combined with the unassuming service, the quiet but lively conversations, and the buzz, it was theater!
Our pleasure, sir or I’ll have dessert with my dessert!
A family tradition started at The Four Seasons by my husband. It was about the desserts. Everyone would make their choice and then he would say to the waiter, “Please bring us every other dessert on the menu.” The tradition was to take a taste and pass it along and then talk about the presentation, our favorites and why. And yes, notes were taken. Those polished waiters would not blink an eye and just smile and say, “Of course, sir”
We didn’t learn about the vanishing soufflé from my then future son-in-law until a few years later. He had ordered one of his favorite desserts – a chocolate soufflé. (At The Four Seasons a soufflé had to be ordered at the same time as the main course to allow the chef to prepare it to perfection).
As was our tradition, the desserts arrived – all of them! His soufflé was placed before him. He said he was in awe as he put his spoon into that deep chocolate delight for the first time. He took another spoonful and then heard the word, “Pass”. He looked around a little confused. He wasn’t quite sure what to do, as he saw the desserts on the move, all he wanted to say was, “Sorry, this is mine!” But off it went.
He told me that his eyes followed that chocolate wonder as it moved around the table. When it finally arrived back in front of him, he stared into the almost empty cup. He looked at my daughter with quizzical eyes saying as he showed her the few remaining crumbs, “What just happened?” We had forgotten to tell him about our tradition. Whoops!
And now, what?
The Picasso is hanging grandly at the New York Historical Society, another restaurant will take over the glorious space, and The Four Seasons is opening in the fall at a new location just down the block. With any good luck, chocolate soufflé will be on the menu – still needing to be ordered at the beginning of the meal so that it can be prepared to its wonderful and perfect deliciousness. Perhaps being shared and perhaps not!
Although, I haven’t been to The Four Seasons in many years, it remains one of my favorite restaurants for so many reasons, but mainly because of the happy memories of good times and laughter shared with my family. None of our operations were even close to the level of The Four Seasons but one of the lessons learned there was the importance and impact of a gracious wait staff to the dining experience …no matter what was requested.
Here’s to The Four Seasons at the Seagram Building
Important to know:
The Picasso curtain measures 19 x 20 feet and was designed by him for a ballet, Le Tricorne or the Three Cornered Hat in 1919 for the Ballets Russes in Paris It was chosen to hang in the restaurant by Philip Johnson, the designer of The Four Seasons in 1959. It did not receive landmark status as did the restaurant and the building because it was not a physical part of the architecture. The landlord had made a decision to remove the work in order to repair the wall behind it, he said. There was great controversy about moving the work not just because of its significance to the restaurant but also due to its delicacy and age. After the courts stepped in to delay its removal, the work was finally awarded to the New York Historical Society where it now hangs for all to see. There is an interesting video on the Historical Society’s website showing the painstaking installation process and another in the New York Times on the removal of the delicate artwork prior to its installation at the Historical Society http://www.nyhistory.org/exhibitions/picassos-le-tricorne
There are many articles about the restaurant and especially about Le Tricorne on the internet. An article appearing in Vanity Fair has an interesting take especially about the controversy.
Good to know: There are rumors that a book is to be published and a TV special about the restaurant and the Picasso in the fall.
Photos courtesy of The Four Seasons and LA Times
Disclaimer: I try for correct info on Kay’s Notes and my posts but no guarantees people.