We hate to use the phrase, but if there was ever a renaissance man, Hal Rubenstein would no doubt be one. Currently the editor-at-large for InStyle magazine, Rubenstein seems to have an extensive history in every industry (including food). One of the most esteemed restaurant critics for two decades, Rubenstein’s worked alongside luminaries such as Michael White, Sirio Maccioni and Steve Hanson. Also an icon in the fashion industry, he’s known for creating InStyle’s signature section “The Look,” making the publication an authority on celebrity style.
You know you’re having a great interview when every other sentence sounds like a quote that people will be tweeting, retweeting, and even referring to for years to come. Quotes on food, fashion, and lifestyle can be found at every turn of this two-part interview, as Rubenstein has a hand on the pulse of every industry – to us the sign of a truly amazing writer and editor. Even more so though, in our talk with Rubenstein, conversations about food became conversations about fashion; conversations about fashion became conversations about entertainment; thoughts on entertainment brought us back to musings on food. Isn’t that what we’re always trying to do here at The New Potato?
What would be your ideal food day?
You’ve delved into so many industries – food, fashion and entertainment. Do you find that there’s a common thread between all of them?
Oh my god, yes. Frankly, it’s all about having a good life. All pop culture is intertwined. Music influences fashion; fashion influences film; film influences television; television influences journalism; it’s all the same. It really is. It’s all different ways of how we view the world, each other, beauty and how we see ourselves. So I believe they’re all connected; I don’t see any differentiation. All pop culture is about what excites us in life.
Does what you do in one industry inspire what you do in another?
I think there are connections. Especially living in a city like New York. In New York, our greatest form of social interaction is going out to eat. Unlike other cities, we don’t have country clubs. We’re not going to sit by the pool or go to the golf course. Restaurants are where we do business transactions, go on dates and make connections with our friends. Very often, when you’re getting dressed to look your best, it is to go to a restaurant.
And do you think this makes your critique of restaurants have a broader scope than other restaurant critics?
I don’t want to compare myself to anybody else, but while great food is an incredible draw, New Yorkers are really looking for a great evening or a great time out. Every meal can’t be an epiphany – nor should it be. That’s way too much work. We’re looking for places that reflect our personality, our desire to have a good time, the nature of the people that we’re going out to eat with and the reason that we’re going. You go out with coworkers to one place; you go out with lovers to another; you go out with relatives to another.
There are restaurants with incredible food that I don’t go to because I find the energy stillborn or it doesn’t fit the rhythm of my life and my happiness. And then there are other restaurants where the food is maybe less good but I love the atmosphere, the people and the way I’m treated, so I’ll go there. There are some restaurants where the delivered focus of that evening is the food coming out of the kitchen. It’s about the chef; it’s not about you, it’s about them. When you’re in those kinds of places, you submit. When you want it to be about your friends and about you, you pick a different restaurant.