Above: Oprah tastes chef's handiwork in the dining room at Jean-Georges.

OW: How do you decide when to do another restaurant? Like right now, you're doing a vegan restaurant—I may become vegan now that you're in the business.

JGV: It's a mix of raw food, vegan and vegetarian. The flavors are inspired by the world. It's called ABCV.

OW: The V because it's vegetarian?

JGV: Vegetarian, vegan, it's the first letter of my last name...

OW: That's nice! And are you dreaming up new stuff for this restaurant? Give me an idea. A hint.

JGV: We're going to have lettuce growing on the walls.

OW: On the walls? That's incredible! And speaking of lettuce, what happened with kale? For years you couldn't give away kale. So why are we all eating it now?

JGV: It was always very popular in Italian food. And I think now people know it's so healthy, it's so good for you.

OW: Food really is subject to trends. I'm trying to push truffles. You can find truffle popcorn, truffle salt.

JGV: Absolutely, truffles everywhere. I'm a fanatic about chilies. We have a dish of root vegetables—carrot, turnip, daikon, beets—roasted together and glazed with Thai chili.

OW: How are you able to manage it all? I come here, and I see you here. I go to ABC Kitchen and see you there....

JGV: I have three clones. [Laughs] It's all about having people you trust. And I love my job. I wake up and run to work.

OW: I can see it in your eyes. You have the same enthusiasm as that 16-year-old boy.

JGV: I'm still him.

OW: Of course it's wonderful to get all the accolades, but when you get a bad review...

JGV: We've had a couple flops: 66, a Chinese restaurant in TriBeCa, and V Steakhouse in the Time Warner Center. The steak house is a national treasure in America. Don't touch it. I tried to play with it. Funny appetizers, funky little things.

OW: Is that when [former New York Times food critic] Frank Bruni gave you that terrible review?

JGV: Yes.

OW: I read that you took to bed for three days. Why did that hurt you so?

JGV: Who told you that? [Laughs] The team we put together had worked so hard, and I felt like I failed them, you know?

OW: I can't imagine you taking to bed. Did you cry?

JGV: Oh, I cried. I'd think, "What happened?"

OW: What's the biggest reward for you?

JGV: The biggest thing I'm proud of is filling up the restaurant every night.

OW: How do you feel when you see people enjoying your food?

JGV: It's the greatest pleasure in the world.


Next Story