Drew Nieporent May Be the Last Old-School Restaurateur Standing

At a time when chefs get all the attention, the owner of Nobu and Bâtard is still the effusive greeter and public face of his restaurants.

Comments: 41

  1. My husband, Tom Sixsmith, and I did our first-year culinary internships at Montrachet, way back in the late 80's. Our time there left us with lasting lessons that have served us well throughout our careers. More than anything else, it was really Mr. Nieporent himself who showed us by example what it is to be successful in a nasty business by being a decent and kind human being. Fast-forward twenty years and we are back in New York, seated at a performance of "War Horse," and we hear the voice of Drew behind us. I had thought I saw him at the lobby at intermission, but what were the odds of that? "I never forget a face." We were just the interns. Drew, we will never forget you, either.

  2. Love and admire him to bits! A true New Yorker, a fabulous restaurateur, and a great man! His restaurants are the best and he is always around -- which is probably why they are the best. Never stop, Drew!

  3. The one and only. What I've learned from Drew, and continue to learn, is of enormous value. Dining for grown-up's, ahead of the curve, value for food, respect for employees, honesty, a career trajectory, no excuses.

  4. A wonderful bio piece on a consummate foodie and a person with a big heart. Drew was my manager in my first job in NYC many years ago at Tavern on the Green. He always cared about everyone, no matter what position they held in the restaurant hierarchy, and would help anyone if he could. He never became a snob in a business that is rife with them. I happen to be in Melbourne, Australia right now, eating my way around this wonderful city of every kind of food imaginable, and just had the best dumplings of my life in Chinatown. Drew would love them.

  5. I knew Drew from my days at Citymeals-on-Wheels. Always generous in support of our fundraising efforts. A kind and extraordinarily talented man.

  6. This story confirms that dining in good restaurants is truly an Undemocratic experience. It's who you know--and the rich and famous oftentimes jump the line. No wonder Mr. Nieporent closes more than keeps his restaurants open these days. Back when I was a longtime TriBeCa resident, I stopped going to his restaurants, something my husband and I did often, because no one spending that kind of money wants to feel like a nobody.

  7. But, MissyR, you wear the "nobody" crown so well!

    Try Puck's restaurants, you'll fit in just fine.

  8. @John - At MissyR's expense you gave me a much needed belly laugh this morning.

    So, my apologies to MissyR and my thanks to John.

  9. With all the celebrity hype around chefs, there are few who truly love the "business" side of a very risky endeavor. This article is about the last of a great breed of restaurateurs in the City. Another is the late Leon Lianides, of the Coach House. Both knew that the food was paramount, but that it was impossible to achieve greatness without the people skills of the owners with his customers.

    This is a great article about a great New Yorker. Again proving that there truly is no place like New York. The gentleman has earned that girth. May he enjoy it for many years to come.

  10. I love Batard but miss Paul Liebrandt, a brilliant chef.

  11. But roast chicken ice cream is a crime against cuisine.

  12. Agreed. Chefs need to leave ice cream to its own devices....and by own devices I mean totally alone.

  13. I'm a fellow Stuyvesant alum, and a chef, and the man is rightly a NY legend. But the "last old school restaurateur?" Isn't that a bit presumptuous as long as Sirio is still alive? It would have been better to say that he and Danny Meyer created the modern American restaurateur in NYC. Joe Baum, who employed a couple of the Professors at the Hotel/Restaurant school that I went to, was old school (Forum of the Twelve Caesars? Everything flambeed tableside?), but gave birth to the modern NYC restaurant with both The Four Seasons and Windows on the World. My wife and I ate at Montrachet several times, and loved it. But the real reason Nieporent had to run around was the near impossibility of getting to the far north end of lower West Broadway (not the one in SoHo) where Montrachet was located, where, in the 80s, no taxi driver could find it. It was one way downtown, but you could not get to it from Church Street, one way uptown one block over. There were no streets that went through. In fact, it was easier to get there if you were coming out of the freaking Holland Tunnel than coming from anywhere other than the First Precinct.

  14. From Church St - left on Leonard, right on Hudson, right on Ericsson, right on Beach, right onto West Broadway for 239 West Broadway. A bit of a trip.

    https://goo.gl/maps/iHi3zZ5J4p72

  15. Or, park on Church, and walk one block over...

  16. Of course, neither Google maps nor GPS were available during the restaurant lifespan of Montrachet...

  17. If Drew doesn't lose weight, there won't be a Chinese restaurant.

  18. Very nice to read this profile of Drew. Missing from this profile is what I consider to be a major part of his success: the way that he treats all of his employees-- chefs, cooks, waiters, busboys, dishwashers -- with respect and kindness. I worked for ten years at Montrachet. In a business that can be fairly ugly, he keeps his staff very happy and inspires loyalty.

  19. Seems like a great person, but fortunately, he is not the "last." Every time I have been to Red Farm I have been personally welcomed by Ed Schoenfeld and I am just some out of towner on holiday (or sometimes evacuee).

  20. Great bio! He would have no idea who I am but when I would eat at Montrachet back in its early days when I lived in Tribeca he treated me and my wife like we were the most important people in the room.

  21. I really enjoyed reading this piece (and am happy to read the comments about Mr. Nieporent's kindness to his employees as well.) Is there any better food than a New York City Chinese dumpling? That's the concept Mr. Nieporent should brand. Please bring it to Maine when you do.

  22. Like my best friend David, Drew is a true genius and a beloved mensch.

  23. Three cheers for Drew: a true-blue restaur * auteur * !

  24. Three cheers for Drew: A restaur * auteur * true-blue! -- A man for whom a plate of food Is less to be eaten than * wooed * .

  25. Thank you Mr. Richman for your well-deserved tribute to one of the few contemporary NY restaurant jolly good giants. A kindly, caring, friendly individual who along with Danny Meyer invented and refined the term hospitality as we know it in the restaurant scene today.

  26. Neighbor, friend, awesome soccer dad and guest photographer who never said 'no' when asked. He facilitated my engagement on the floor of Barclay Center in front of E Street Nation in April 2016 and even documented it for us! Batard, The Grill and Nobu are always on the short list when we come to town and we are always treated like family. The only missing piece? I'm still waiting for a Myriad project in Berkshire County, Mass......Drew, there is not a good Chinese restaurant within 50 miles!!!! Come north brother.

  27. An old school restaurateur and general manager. His restaurants are not data driven impersonal food establishments where you become just a data point right after you have dined there. Your name forgotten and your experience meaningless. You will never forget a meal at Drew's restaurants and you will never forget Drew.

  28. Very surprised to see no mention of his brother, Tracy whom I've known for many years. Tracy is a hard working intregal part of his brothers well earned
    Success. I've known both brothers for years and both are wonderful
    Guys. All the best for years to come.

  29. "Even as a kid, he didn’t eat like one. For sure, at 5 or 6 he’d kick his older brother, Tracy, under the table whenever his parents took the family to restaurants, but mostly he was paying attention, learning about the food of a time in Manhattan when the top restaurants served German, Swiss or other cuisines that are infrequently celebrated these days."

  30. It has been a longstanding joke in our house that my husband took his past girlfriend to Montrachet, but never took me there. To celebrate our 27th anniversary, I just made a reservation to Batard on November 4th! I'm not missing out again Adam!

  31. What a fun article! Have never been to any of his restaurants, but they sound like a wonderful experience with great food. And I loved the setup in the NYT Cooking newsletter/email, with the story about him jovially greeting the food critics and laughing about it. A pleasure to read.

  32. It should also be said that Drew is one of the nicest, down to earth people you will ever meet.

  33. I met the man once at a seminar in Honolulu and I will never forget his advice:
    "Happy Owners=Happy Employees=Happy Customers"
    I wholeheartedly agree with him on that, but not on this other little thing: tablecloths are now seen as not necessary in fine dining....an optional expense that is easily done away with....how is it that when paying over $100 per person this detail is now deemed unnecessary?! Not for me, sorry!

  34. great article. worked with Drew at McDonalds and all the rest of the crazies that g eww up in stuyvesant town and peter cooper village. still have a postcard he sent me somewhere from his first job on the cruise ship to Copenhagen! he'd never remember me but i do remember him. his parents knew my parents and would've loved this article.

  35. Billy Martin, the latest owner of the eponymous restaurant in Georgetown DC, is an effusive greeter every Monday night at his absolutely wonderful restaurant.

  36. I met Drew several times through the 'wuzband' who also was there from that photo of Joe Baum and Drew in 1994, and at Cornell. A lovely guy, who was raised loving and eating good food, and has passed that love onto others. May he live a very very long time.

  37. One of my favorite dudes in food. I met Drew once in Vegas years ago, and within five minutes he gave me his personal cell # and told me to call him if ever I needed anything in New York. Whatta mensch.

  38. Having known Drew for over 35 years I believe he represents something sorely lacking in the restaurant business these days. He personifies a mensch!

  39. Mr.Richman !!! Finally we get to read an article from you ! You disappeared from GQ years ago and I despaired of the loss of a great writer on cuisine and restaurants. Great to see you back in good form and though I know NYT has spiffy restaurant critics , they would be doing themselves a huge favour if they requested you to do restaurant analysis again. I hope you are in good health and cheer and here's looking forward to reading much more of your legendary writings on NYT ! (my compliments to NYT for featuring AR)

  40. As a restaurateur, I've looked up to Drew and all he's accomplished for 30 years!! This article solidifies why he has achieved the long and prosperous career he enjoys. Drew truly understands the meaning of hospitality, and is obviously committed to providing that to all his guests. His restaurants have stood the test of time and are still as exciting to visit as they were when they opened. There are not many Drew Nieporent's in the world and the hospitality/culinary world is blessed to have him!!

  41. This is an absolutely wonderful article, paying tribute to an amazing person! Drew was my Sous Chef at an event at Cornell when we were students. We would see each other occasionally since, and each time, he would remember all of our conversations, and pick up where we last left off. He always has a positive attitude, and a welcoming gesture. A devout family man, the consummate restaurateur, and especially a generous "giving" person. Thank you Mr. Richman, for writing this great piece, and thank you Drew, for....well, for being YOU!