When we think of great content, we no doubt think of Vanity Fair’s soon-to-be Former Editor-in-Chief Graydon Carter. We had the absolute honor of speaking with Carter back in the very first days of The New Potato, and his piece is more timely now than ever, with the news that he’s moving on from the magazine he’s been at the helm of for twenty-five years. To us, Carter is king when it comes to long form, and he truly embodies the world and psyche of Hollywood in a way no other editor has. Here are his musings on restaurants as time capsules, content, and sticking to the basics…
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?
How important do you find an all-encompassing view of an industry, like food, 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?”