With 36 restaurants around the world and four Michelin stars (two in New York, one in Tokyo, and one in Sao Paulo), Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten splits his time between multiple continents, with monthly bicoastal treks from New York to Los Angeles. At the Waldorf Astoria in Beverly Hills, The Rooftop by JG just launched a new brunch and an Asian-inspired lunch and dinner menu. Back in New York, the French-born chef has opened two back-to-back restaurants in historic spots at JFK and South Street Seaport, crowning him as one of the busiest and most successful toques on the planet.
Here, Jean-Georges guides us around Los Angeles and New York to some of his favorite spots for breakfast, lunch (never!), dinner, and late-night meals.
On the rooftop in Beverly Hills, we’ve made the menu a little more Asian but we also have guacamole on a few things like tacos. For the new menus, we have ginger fried rice, tofu pad Thai noodles, chili beef skewers, chicken samosas, and black pepper shrimp. It’s a little more fun finger food for sharing. We have the best view in L.A. and we should have the best international flavors up there. On the new brunch menu, we have the tuna tartare or Thai short rib burger.
When I was 23 years old, I spent five years in Asia, starting in 1980, with two years in Bangkok. I worked for a few months at The Mandarin Oriental hotel, then I went to Singapore, Hong Kong, and Tokyo. I learned a few tricks and flavors that were unknown to me that changed my life. My palate was really French from cooking in Lyon and the South of France, but then I discovered lemongrass, chilis, and ginger, which is one of my favorite ingredients—it’s so pungent and fragrant. The ginger margarita on The Rooftop at JG is my favorite drink.
Downstairs is more “Jean-Georges,” but not too much fine dining. It’s elegant yet light and fresh—we are using more from the garden. L.A. has always been an inspiration because there is a garden year-round and I’ve always been a vegetable person. The avocado pizza with jalapeno, cilantro, and lime was created for L.A., which is a wink at avocado toast since L.A. is the avocado capital of the world.
Breakfast in L.A.
We went everywhere from Eggslut to Gjelina Take Away in Venice. California is super healthy and the garden of America, but they like French food as much as in New York and everything fried more than anything else. L.A. is a great place for us; we always find new recipes and dozens of new ideas.
No Country for Lunch
I never go out to lunch in L.A. or New York, as I always have to be working.
Gathering Inspiration from L.A.’s Top Chefs
[When in L.A. restaurant research], for dinner, we went to Bavel for Middle Eastern inspiration. For Asian, it was Majordomo to see what David Chang was doing, and we ate lots of sushi from the original Matsuhisa by my friend Nobu and at Sushi Park. Chef Ludo is also a good friend and I always want to see what he is for doing the French way (at Trois Mec and Petit Trois); also Republique; Animal; Jon & Vinny’s; and Mozza. I tried to go everywhere to see what is going on and what people are eating. It’s like New York—something is always happening.
Last time, I went to the Farmers Market in Santa Monica and saw all the beautiful cherries and strawberries before they hit the market in New York. We have a shorter season there and have to rely on a bounty of ingredients from L.A.
Breakfast in New York
In New York, we are in Union Square, where we opened a vegan restaurant a few years ago, abcV, and we have beautiful dosas but I also like the chia bowl for breakfast. I also love Sadelle’s. They make their own bagels and smoked salmon. It’s very delicious, very New York. I also like the old school Greek diners on Madison near The Mark Hotel.
Late Night Bites
As a chef, you always try to find places that are open later, so after work you can really enjoy, have a nice drink and a little snack. I finish working later at 10:30 or 11 p.m., so I want to eat sushi or steak tartare with French fries and oysters. There are so many places to go late at night. Great NY Noodletown is a favorite for Chinese in Chinatown; in the West Village, Don Angie has great lasagna and a nice late-night scene. 4 Charles Prime Rib is from the same team behind Au Cheval in Chicago and has a great burger, the best steak, and charcuterie, and it’s only three blocks away from my house.
Latest East Coast Openings
We just opened the Fulton seafood restaurant on Pier 17 in South Street Seaport overlooking the water and the boats—so beautiful! We also took over the food and beverage at the TWA Hotel at JFK. It’s an iconic 1962 building design and we kept the same name, Paris Café. Those are my two latest children. We opened two restaurants in 24 hours and it was completely crazy!