Restaurateur Danny Meyer gives some travel tips

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Danny MeyerFebruary 6, 2014- The WSJ reports, “If one person were to be crowned king of New York’s dining scene, there’s a good chance it would be Danny Meyer. Back in 1985, he opened Union Square Cafe, a relaxed yet refined eatery in a then-iffy Manhattan neighborhood. Today, the 55-year-old’s Union Square Hospitality Group has some 3,000 employees, 10 fine-dining restaurants and a handful of casual establishments. Collectively they have received 25 James Beard awards; in 2011, Eleven Madison Park was awarded three Michelin stars (it has since been sold to executive chef Daniel Humm and general manager Will Guidara).

In New York, most evenings find him visiting—but not eating at—his restaurants. He has dinner at home with his wife, Audrey, and, if it’s not too late, their three teenage children. Their 20-year-old daughter, Hallie, attends Yale, but her father still sees her plenty: He opened a Shake Shack in New Haven her sophomore year.

Q&A

My best travel tip is: if you love a meal you eat in another city, connect with the people at the restaurant and say, “Can you give me the names of another two or three restaurants that you think are close to being as good as you?” You really get people talking.

My rule when I fly is: such a cliché, but I don’t drink alcohol on airplanes. Just a ton of water. I rarely drink tomato juice now that I know how much salt is in it. Every three hours I use David Kirsch’s Vitamin B12 spray. I never get sick on airplanes, which is incredible. You’re basically in a flying petri dish.

Some of my favorite hotels are: the Sheraton in Doha, Qatar. The Mandarin Oriental in Hong Kong. I adored the Ritz-Carlton in Roppongi Hills, Tokyo. They offer things that you don’t have in your own home—I don’t get my shoes shined at home, my bedroom is not that spacious and I don’t have someone at my beck and call to make me reservations. But they’re welcoming in a way that makes me feel like it is my home.

Developing airplane food is a challenge because: food tastes different on a plane. The chef can taste a dish or a sauce in the kitchen and that’s pretty much what it’s going to be like at your table. But your taste buds are completely different at 30,000 feet than they are at sea level. Trying to adjust for seasoning or acid is something we don’t have a lot of experience with right now.

I always pack: Saucony running shoes and a pair of running shorts. I run in London, in San Francisco—any city that’s got a waterfront or park.

Every traveler should: walk. One of the greatest life lessons I ever learned was from one of my college professors. He told me that we learn at an inverse proportion to the speed at which we travel. If you’re in a car, you’re going to see some things. If you’re on a bike, you’re going to see more things and if you’re walking, you’re going to see a whole lot more things—and that’s where great ideas come from.”

 

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