Saturday afternoons at the Four Seasons restaurant is not the typical suit-and-string-of-pearls power-lunching affair. For one, it's closed to the public. For two, it's a lot wilder.
Over the last few years, the restaurant has hosted cooking classes for 20 to 25 loyal patrons during its Saturday downtime. For $250, guests pay for lessons from the restaurant’s executive chefs and enjoy a four-course lunch in the famed Grill Room. On occasion, visiting chefs, such as former White House pastry head William Yosses, also join the party. Think more boozy brunch than typical socialite luncheon. And think quickly: The iconic New York restaurant is shutting down July 16, so only a couple of classes are left.
Classes start off gracefully at 9:30 a.m, enough time for a leisurely a cup of coffee and a croissant, while flipping the recipe booklet for the day ahead. Don your personalized apron and into the kitchen, where things get interesting. Guests are taught everything from how to shuck oysters to how to prepare a panna cotta, and the recipes vary from class to class. The class itself is three hours, which may seem long upfront, but when you are sipping rosé champagne time flies.
“I think the most important thing that we deliver at the Four Seasons is happiness,” said Julian Nicollini during our recent Saturday visit. The Four Seasons co-owner is the ring master of the luncheon. “It is an experience that people come back to.”
Indeed, after the class ends and you make it to the grand table in the Grill Room to indulge the spoils of your labor, the indulgent, electric side of the restaurant comes out. Nicollini guides you through all four courses and a generous wine tasting. If you are lucky, he will even saber a 3-liter bottle of champagne and top it off with pink cotton candy.
Nostalgia, New Days
With only two months and two more scheduled cooking classes left (dates aren't listed; e-mail direct to book) before the 57-year-old restaurant shutters, guests are nostalgic. While clinking glasses, they share stories about first dates and wedding anniversaries at the restaurant. They take photos in the pool room, gleefully placing cotton candy on their heads.
It's an experience the Four Seasons hopes will carry guests to its next location, which Niccolini says will not be far from its current Park Avenue residence. "The party is not over yet; it's only the beginning," he said as he raised a glass to his guests.
In addition to the cooking classes, the restaurant has arranged a number of specialty events for patrons before moving out of the Seagram Building.
On June 22, it will host a $300 wine dinner with Chefs Mario Batali, Cesare Casella, and Dario Cecchini. And the restaurant will perform its grand finale on July 13 with the help of Chefs Daniel Boulud, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, and Daniel Humm. This dinner party costs $1,250 for an individual seat and benefits Citymeals on Wheels.