Michael McCarty, the man behind the power lunch spot Michael's, recently launched a new Korean-influenced bar bites menu and seasonal cocktail list that's drawing younger media types to the bar after work. His 27-year-old executive chef, Kyung Up Lim, has developed delicious snacks like spicy beef tacos, fried oysters and Korean-style, fried chicken drummettes to go along with Michael Flannery's creative, seasonal cocktails. McCarty took some time out to talk after a hectic Wednesday lunch, the day when bold-face names often converge.
I'm assuming it's younger kids gathering at the bar, not regulars like Barbara Walters.
No, you won't find Barbara Walters hanging off a bar stool, but a lot of our regulars are stopping off before they head downtown for dinner.
Who was in for lunch today?
It was insane. We had 190 people. Michael Douglas with Ari Emanuel, Gayle King, Star Jones, James Toback, Joanna Coles, Cindy Lieve.
How does Michael Douglas look?
He looks great, really healthy.
You always Tweet who's there right?
I've been so busy today I haven't had a chance to tweet yet. Nobody comes to Michael's to hide. If I don't mention somebody having been here they're insulted. I get a call.
Is it a more relaxed dress code at the bar?
We've always had a no-dress code. When the dot-com industry took off we definitely noticed it was a tie-less group. There are so many levels of casual chic, there aren't any rules anymore.
A lot of great chefs have gotten their start with you, especially at your restaurant in Santa Monica -- Jonathan Waxman, Nancy Silverton, Sally Clarke. Where did you find Kyung Up?
He was the sous chef. Three years ago our executive chef left to open his own restaurant and Kyung was on the line. I sat down with a lot of different people and had them cook for me. I told Kyung, 'Do me a twelve-course menu that comes from your heart, what's true to you. Don't try to please me.' He hit it.
Has he changed your famous Cobb salad?
No. We're clearly not a Korean restaurant. We're all about ingredients and taking influences from different countries and cultures.
You were friends with Julia Child. What do you remember about her?
She was just wonderful. We met in 1972 when I was studying at the Cordon Bleu in Paris. When I moved back to the States and opened Michael's in Santa Monica in 1979, Julia walked in the first week. We had a blast together and cooked together all over the place. When she retired to a nursing home, or assisted living place, in Santa Barbara, we'd go there and cook.
Julia was still cooking in a nursing home?
Well, she was eating more than cooking. She still loved her wine. She had bad knees and had surgery for it and the people working at the facility would tell us, 'Mrs. Child is not allowed to have any wine. It makes her fall asleep in physical therapy.' But we'd still pour her a glass or two.
Since so many media people come to your restaurant, you've been on the front lines when magazines close, when there are massive lay-offs. You must have seen dark days.
The first part of 2009 I watched the media business being scared shitless by the digital world. Now they full embrace it. It reminded me of Hollywood a decade or two ago, but if you get fired from a studio job you walk away with a $500 million production deal or you're the head of another studio in ten minutes. We've been open for 33 years in L.A. and 23 years in New York so we've seen a lot.
I have to ask you about the devastating review Frank Bruni gave Michael's in 2008.
That was a completely ridiculous review, the dumbest thing I ever read. There might have been a few clunkers on the menu, but it was an insult to my restaurant, to my chef, to my industry. He was mad because he got sat in what he thought was Siberia. Go fuck yourself, buddy.
Did you find out who your real friends were?
People who eat in our restaurant know it and love it. That review didn't make a dent in our business.
24 W. 55th St.