The Restaurant Business Is Like the News Business, Says Geoffrey Zakarian

Lots of reading, no TV

Geoffrey Zakarian
Age 54
Accomplishments Chef and restaurateur (including The Lambs Club and The National Bar & Dining Rooms in New York); winner of Food Network’s The Next Iron Chef: Super Chefs; judge on Food Network’s Chopped, The Next Iron Chef and 24 Hour Restaurant Battle; newly named culinary director of the Plaza
Base New York

What’s the first information you consume in the morning?
I immediately check my tweets, which is how I keep up with everything. Then I read The Wall Street Journal and Financial Times of London online. I still have the New York Post delivered because it’s so garrulous and nasty and wonderful when you read it in print. Some things just don’t translate online.

Your restaurants have always been popular media hangouts. Do you follow the media industry?
I do because it’s a very fast-changing industry, and we’re involved in it all the time. It’s like the restaurant business—you have to be aggressively aware of what’s going on. We have these people eating in our restaurants; we need to know who just got promoted or who’s backing a new venture.

So where do you get your media news?
We gossip, we read the Post, we read different magazines—WWD, [Adweek corporate sibling] The Hollywood Reporter, Time Out, Vanity Fair. I’m most attuned to fashion media. It touches everything. If you have your finger on fashion, you have your finger on music, food, trends, lifestyle.

Are you a TV junkie?
I don’t usually have time for TV. When I get home at night, I just want to fall asleep. The one show I really, really enjoy—other than CNBC, which I watch way too much of—is Magic City on Starz.

How do you wind down?
I begin my day online and end my day online. I like to prepare myself for the next day and have a sense of closure before I go to bed.

Give us the skinny on your favorite app.
Uber. Oh my god, it’s addicting. And I love Pandora. But I’m generally a Luddite when it comes to apps—I’d rather figure something out for myself than have an app do it for me.

How about cooking apps or food blogs?
I don’t do any food apps or blogs—they’re mind-numbing. But I read all of the food magazines that I can get my hands on, as well as the ones that are foreign like Australian Vogue Entertaining + Travel and a lot of German magazines.

What other food magazines do you read?
Bon Appétit has done an outstanding job of redoing their content and how they present it. It really comes from a fashion standpoint versus a food standpoint. And Food Network Magazine has so much depth and so many interesting articles that you want to read, and useful information. I really think Saveur is getting better and better. And there’s a British publication called Delicious that’s also great.

With such a bloated media universe, how do you cut out the fat?
Determine who you are and what your brand is, and what you’re not. The rest of it is just a lot of noise.