June 9, 2009 / 3:29 PM / 10 years ago

Chef DeLucie lifts lid on cooking for celebrities

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - John DeLucie didn’t think the world needed another recipe for roast chicken so instead of writing a cookbook the chef at New York’s trendy Waverly Inn decided to write a memoir instead.

Undated handout photo of John DeLucie who is the chef at New York's trendy Waverly Inn. Reuters/Mark Abrahams/Handout

Since he took over the restaurant in 2007 DeLucie has cooked updates of his American comfort food to celebrities and locals.

In “The Hunger: A Story of Food, Desire, and Ambition,” he lifts the lid on what it is like cooking for the rich and famous.

He spoke to Reuters about his career, ambitions and how to get a coveted table at his restaurant.

Q: Describe yourself as a chef.

A “I’m practical. Does a chef want to be known for cooking a hamburger? As a chef, you want to be known for cooking something elegant. But when you become a partner, the market is telling you it wants to eat this product. Then who am I to say I won’t serve that? Anyway I can accommodate my customers, I will gladly do it.”

Q: How did you come up with the menu at The Waverly Inn?

A: “I had opened many restaurants over the years. There was a concept put forward. I’m not one of these chefs that could dictate a whole menu ... We had this space that’s 100 years old. It had been The Waverly Inn for many, many years. It had served this kind of cuisine for many years. We weren’t going to mess with that. I just wanted to improve upon it. My job is to get it out of the kitchen and make it as good as it could be.”

Q; What is like running a celebrity hotspot?

A: “It’s really a neighborhood joint with neighbors who happen to be famous. We do have people who are not so famous come.”

Q: For you first book, why did you choose to write a memoir instead of a cookbook?

A: “What the world doesn’t need is another recipe for roast chicken so I wasn’t interested in writing a recipe book. I have a friend who’s a writer. We sit around, drink coffee and talk about my life as a corporate drone and this new life as a book. The stories and the anecdotes are kind of funny, and I began to write them down.”

Q: How has the New York City restaurant scene changed over the years since you became a chef?

A: “It has become immensely casual. There were a lot of great French restaurants with old-style traditions that are gone now. Now hardly anyone wears a hat and coat. People try to come in wearing shorts. We try to curb that a little bit. To me, it’s a little sad in a way.”

Q: What other aspirations do you have?

A: I would like to write more, open up another restaurant. If some TV show would have me, why not?”

Q: Do you feel like a celebrity chef?

Manager Emil Varda (R) poses with chef John DeLucie at The Waverly Inn in New York August 10, 2007. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

A: “I’m a chef who cooks for celebrities ... No one really knows me. I still go to my restaurant. I’m in the kitchen almost every night.”

Q; Any tips for regular people to get a table at a hotspot like The Waverly Inn?

A: “Go and get famous right away. It would help immensely.”

Reporting by Richard Leong; editing by Patricia Reaney

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