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The Biggies


Glorious Food

AFFAIRS TO REMEMBER: The annual Met Museum Costume Institute gala since 1973 (except for 1996); the Jackson Pollock opening at moma; opening-night dinners for the New York City Ballet. Occasional parties for Nina Griscom: "They know how you like to do things, and you know how they like to do things, so everything runs much more smoothly," says Griscom.

WHO RUNS THE SHOW: President and co-owner Sean Driscoll produced TV commercials before launching GF in 1971; Brittany-born chef-partner Jean Claude Nedelec, who runs the kitchen, came onboard in 1976. GF does so many parties (ten to twelve a night in high season) that Driscoll can't be at every one; his deputies run things with military precision.

TRAY CHIC: You know you're at a GF party when the waiter scoops the justly celebrated garlic-and-horseradish-spiked mashed potatoes onto your plate, then dabs them with the caramelized onions. People may carp that Glorious doesn't update dishes often enough, but Driscoll says he's been taking his cue lately from trendy SoHo bistro Balthazar: "New York is going through a beef bourguignonne-stew-ragout stage."

AT YOUR SERVICE: Having career captains is a definite asset. "Where Glorious shines is their service," says top party planner Robert Isabell. "There's nobody better." GF waiters have tuxes and long black-and-gray ties in the closet, but they also sometimes throw on dove-gray Nehru jackets so they won't be confused with the guests. Members of the Blue Man Group were all GF waiters, as was comedian Bronson Pinchot.

THE DISH: In 1995, a sex-discrimination suit charged that GF placed a ceiling on the number of female waiters who could work an event and excluded them from working small parties. The suit ballooned into a class action; last year, the plaintiffs won a total settlement of $425,000. GF is said to be for sale. "We get offers all the time," says Driscoll, tantalizingly. "But nothing to make things interesting."

THE TAB: Cocktails from $20 per person; three-course dinners from $95. Minimum food cost, $1,000; parties from 10 up to a grazing buffet for 4,400.

Abigail Kirsch Culinary Productions

AFFAIR TO REMEMBER: When Vanderbilt Hall in Grand Central reopened this year, Kirsch catered a dinner for 1,000 to benefit the New York Transit Museum. Waiters dressed as porters served food inspired by the dining-car menu on the Twentieth Century Limited: bourbon-and-molasses-glazed Gulf shrimp, filet mignon Wellington, and baked Alaska.

WHO RUNS THE SHOW: Abigail Kirsch was a housewife with four kids who went on to become the only upscale Westchester caterer in the seventies. Eventually, husband Bob took over the business side, and Kirsch hired others to man the kitchen; her current executive chef is Alison Awerbuch.

Kirsch excels at hand-holding, catering more than 500 weddings a year. Manhattan clients take up much of the firm's energies these days. The company has started an on-premises catering business at Manhattan's Pier 60. Other exclusive venues include Tappan Hill in Tarrytown and the New York Botanical Garden.

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