Above: Working at the line.

OW: Is food love?

JGV: Absolutely. It's all love. And you do it three times a day.

OW: What is your favorite part of the job?

JGV: Creating a new place. When I was a kid, before that birthday at the restaurant, I wanted to be an architect. And now today I'm doing both: making food and designing spaces to eat it in. I'd like to do a hotel one day. If you're at my restaurant, I get you for two, two and a half hours. At a hotel I would get you all night. I have you for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

OW: Starting with that egg with caviar. What do your parents think of your success, your father who thought you were—

JGV: Good for nothing. He was like, "I can't believe it. You have over 5,000 employees?"

OW: Let me ask you this: I've never met a chef who didn't have trouble in their personal lives. You're married to the work.

JGV: I got divorced once. I came to New York married, my son was born in '81 and my daughter in '87. And six months after I got my four stars, my wife said, "I don't want to live here. I'm going back to France." I said, "Are you kidding me? I can't leave."

OW: Did those stars cost you your marriage?

JGV: The work did. The 16-hour days, six or seven days a week. She took the kids to France, and they'd go back and forth.

OW: Have you learned to balance it a bit more now?

JGV: Oh, yes. I never work on weekends.

OW: Really?

JGV: Well, I'm 58 now.

OW: Are you still doing 16-hour days?

JGV: Fourteen. I leave in the morning at 8, go to the gym, then the office for a while....

OW: And then on weekends, are you able to chill?

JGV: Completely. I'm a different person.

OW: And when are you happiest?

JGV: I like chaos. At 8, 8:30 at night, when it's bustling—I love that. I love the action.

OW: Final question: What do you know for sure about yourself as a food composer?

JGV: What do I know for sure? I know what tastes good.

OW: Yes, you do. I know that for sure, too.


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