Graydon Carter

vanity fair

It’s cliche to say, but it’s hard to write an introduction on a man who needs no introduction. Graydon Carter – Editor-in-Chief of Vanity Fair – is no doubt a New York cultural icon. Carter has a hand in a number of industries, navigating each with the same ease he displays at the helm of his magazine. He’s the kind of tastemaker who falls into an industry and ends up doing it better than many who’ve been at it for years, and the restaurant industry has proved to be one of them. Carter is at the forefront of three classic New York Spots – The Monkey Bar, The Waverly Inn and The Beatrice Inn. On the brink of The Beatrice’s much anticipated re-opening, we couldn’t think of a better time to profile the man behind it. So we’ll leave you with this restaurateur – one of the few we think should probably be writing his own introduction…

We are The New Potato, a website celebrating the integration of food, style and culture. As Editor-in-Chief of Vanity Fair, owner of three iconic New York restaurants, as well as an award-winning producer, how important do you find blurring the line between the industries of entertainment, food, culture and style? 

Food and dining are as central to the culture as any other art form, especially these days when chefs are fawned over like rock stars. I love having a hand in creating restaurants. For me, it’s not up there with the great privilege of editing a magazine like Vanity Fair as I have done for the past twenty years, but some days it comes close. In each case, it’s all about taking a classic—whether it’s a 10,000-word story, or American macaroni and cheese—and making it new, while maintaining the spirit of the old.

Does what you do in one inspire the other? 

Magazines and restaurants are essentially the results of careful curation. In both cases, I’ve tried to avoid the trendy and stick to basics. In the magazine, that means having a stable of writers who are great storytellers and in the restaurant, it means hewing to a menu of classic American fare.

In a new world where content is the watchword, how do you decide what’s relevant? 

Content has always been the watchword. You can have the greatest iPad or flatscreen TV in the world, but if there’s nothing to read or watch on them, they’re pretty useless.

In your opinion, how have The Waverly Inn and The Monkey Bar managed to stay so iconic and timeless? How important was timelessness to you in opening them?

They’re both slightly updated versions of what they’ve been for decades. As I said, we stay clear of trends in food and design. I can’t name a cutting edge restaurant in New York that’s lasted more than a decade.

Can great restaurants be time capsules?

They can be time capsules in two ways: in the manner of their look and style, and in the clientele they attract. The restaurant 44 in the lobby of the Royalton Hotel was an early 90’s classic. It was designed by Philippe Starck and to my mind it should have been landmarked, because it’s gone now, and what replaced it is pretty lame. And Elaine’s, in its day, was a time capsule of a rougher, less-monied New York where writers and artists could still afford to live reasonably well.

What New York restaurants, will never go out of style?

Le Grenouille, Le Bernardin, Keens, 21 Club, and Balthazar. I can only hope that the Waverly, the Monkey Bar, and the Beatrice fare as well.

The recent Sopranos eBook from Vanity Fair covered the entertainment industry experience from every different standpoint – from crewmembers to actors to producers. We cover all aspects of the restaurant industry – literally moving from the back of the house to the front of it. How important do you find this all-encompassing view of an industry to be?

Restaurants are like live theater with a different cast and script every night. There are a myriad of moving parts, both in back of house and in the front. When it goes right, which it so seldom does, there is a magic in the room.

If there was one Proust Questionnaire question that encompassed food – what would it be?

I guess it would have to be: “What would you want your last meal to be? And do you want that with fries?”

*Photo by Mark Seliger