Somehow, Charles managed to fly more or less under the radar of the food media until we found out that the Waverly Inn’s John DeLucie would be consulting chef. We asked DeLucie to spill the beans about the place, and though he wouldn’t give up the names of its apparently well-connected owners, he did tell us a little about the “healthy-esque” menu. Apparently chicken pot pie will not be an option.
So tell us about your gig at Charles.
It’s a great old space, 60-some-odd seats. It was a French place [La Maiterie] for 23 years. It’s going to be cool, with a great designer, Rafael de Cárdenas, and a Mediterranean menu. There’ll be a good list of old-world wines and some nice house cocktails. The wine consultant [Keith Goldston] owns a wine bar [Clo] in the Time Warner Center.
Is the menu a departure from the Waverly?
It’s completely different. It’s in development right now, so it’s a work-in-progress. But it’ll be heavy on fish and olive oil — I don’t think we’ll use any butter. We have a great chef, John McAllister, who worked at the Heartbeat — I like his really clean healthy-esque take on Mediterranean. I’m there to make sure the food gets out of the kitchen quickly.
But you created the dishes, too?
I’m working in conjunction with him. In any kind of consulting job, you want to let the chef do what he does, and I tweak it and do what I do and make sure it works in the space and execute it quickly. It’s a small space and we’d like to do some numbers there.
Are you sticking to comfort food, or will there be an element of the stylized dishes you prepared at Arizona 206? Are you happy to get away from the Waverly’s rather set menu?
My background is Italian so when I can roll out some ravioli and work with Italian cheeses and olive oils, it’s always fun to see new things and play with new products. Stylized food is not my thing — my thing is to deliver something that’s accessible. I’m not looking to challenge anybody. I’ve worked at La Bottega doing 1,000 dinners a night — I’m interested in making people happy and leaving the place with a good experience. It’s a corner in the West Village and it should be good and great and nothing more.
So who are the owners?
They’re guys I met while drinking coffee at Sant Ambroeus, but I think they want to remain quiet for the time being.
Are they the types who can pull celebrities?
With any restaurant that opens in the West Village, a lot of celebrities live here, so you’ll have that contingency no matter what. But the guys that are involved, yeah, it will certainly have a fashion contingency.
Is part of your job as consulting chef to bring some of the Waverly crowd?
There will, no doubt, be some overlap. But I certainly won’t pull anyone out of the Waverly to walk them over to Charles. I’m not sure how much juice I have personally as a chef!
Have you done much consulting in the past? Steve Cuozzo says he’s sick of consulting chefs.
I’ve done some gigs in L.A. Before the Waverly opened, I consulted with NDC and a hotel company. My time is kind of precious and I’m completely focused on the Waverly, but this was a good opportunity and it’s around the corner from my house! Obviously, chefs aren’t the richest people in the world, and if you can gather another income stream and it doesn’t interfere too much, you can try to do it.
You’re a very busy man, between this, the Waverly, and your memoir, The Hunger.
Yeah, I’m up at 8 a.m. I write from 9 a.m. to 3 or 4 p.m. and work till midnight six days a week. It’s not easy, but the memoir is almost done. That’ll be a relief. It’s coming out in summer of 2009.
So how much will you reveal about celebrities? Have you had to run certain passages by your patrons or by your partner Graydon Carter?
Graydon is involved in every aspect — I bounce many things off him and make sure he’s okay with it. He’s actually going to write the introduction. I think you wrote that the book was going to be a tell-all [Ed: Well, the release did say it would be "à la Kitchen Confidential"] which is really incorrect — it’s a tell-all about me if anything. Personally, I don’t find the celebrity aspect all that interesting, so I tend not to write about it, but it’s hard to ignore. So there are cute anecdotes celeb-wise. You’ve got to give people what they want.
Are you going to be involved in Graydon’s new place, Monkey Bar?
I don’t think so. I haven’t had any conversations about it, so it remains to be seen. As far as I know, I don’t believe so.
Any truth to the rumor that Ron Perelman is an investor in the Waverly?
That’s not true, but he’s a very good customer nonetheless. It’s me, Graydon, Emil Varda, Sean MacPherson, and Eric Goode.
What about opening your own place?
It’s in the back of any chef’s mind, but right now I’m a partner in the Waverly and it’s the best gig I have ever imagined. I can’t imagine not being there.