Book Deals Go Down Easily at Michael's At Michael's restaurant in midtown Manhattan, the signature Cobb salad is often accompanied by a book deal. The publishing hotspot is owned by chef Michael McCarty.
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Book Deals Go Down Easily at Michael's

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Book Deals Go Down Easily at Michael's

Book Deals Go Down Easily at Michael's

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Andrea Seabrook.

Looking for a new spot for your next power lunch? Yeah, me neither. But if you were, you might be one of those following the hoards to Michael's in Midtown Manhattan. It's one of those ritzy restaurants where the media and publishing elite close big deals while nibbling on Cobb salads - that's one of chef Michael McCarty's signature dishes, by the way.

After browsing through McCarty's new cookbook, "Welcome to Michael's," NPR's Lynn Neary decided to check out this hot spot in the land of the chic.

(Soundbite of people talking)

LYNN NEARY: A lot of the people who come to Michael's - well of them really -look like they're rich and famous. The women and often blond, always thin. The men dress in good suits or are casually elegant. But the truth is, with a couple of exceptions - NBC's Al Roker or the New York Post's Liz Smith for example - most of these people really are not so famous that you actually know who they are. That's why the uninitiated needs a god and there's none better than Diane Clehane.

Ms. DIANE CLEHANE (Writer and Journalist; Blogger, Wednesdaysatmichael's): So many people are eating here two or three times a week. It's just - this is a high school cafeteria for cool kids without the adolescent angst and much better clothes.

(Soundbite of laughter)

NEARY: Clehane who says she was voted biggest gossip in her own high school writes a weekly blog called Wednesdaysatmichael's. Perched at the bar, she has a view of the entire front room, which, she says, is the only place to be seated if you're somebody.

Ms. CLEHANE: Today is - it's sort of high season. Once the holidays come, you know, it's, you know, its firing on all cylinders. There are the usual suspects here - the social swans, the moguls, the - a lot of producers. There's a good fashion contingent here. There are some - a good social contingent here and there's a requisite author lunch happening on table one.

NEARY: And presiding all over this? Michael McCarty himself.

Mr. MICHAEL McCARTY (Chef; Author, "Welcome to Michael's: Great food, Great People, Great Party!"): (Unintelligible) in the house. Table one unintelligible), if she wants to come in.

NEARY: McCarty stands next to a huge autumnal arrangement of leaves and flowers and fruits, greeting each guest as they sweep into the restaurant. He seems to know a lot of them by name and certainly knows many of them well enough for a friendly air kiss.

Unidentified Woman: Hi, buddy.

Mr. McCARTHY: How are you?

(Soundbite of kiss)

Unidentified Woman: Good to see you.

Mr. McCARTY: Proceed here. Everything's great?

NEARY: McCarty was one of the young chefs back in the '70s and '80s who wanted to revolutionize American eating and he declares triumphantly we won. With the restaurants all go for the country now serving beautifully prepared regional dishes with wonderfully fresh ingredients.

Mr. McCARTY: I set out years ago, 1978, when I came back from France to put together what I have substantially called sort of a new American, modern-American restaurant.

NEARY: McCarty knows it takes more than food to make a great restaurant. He wants everyday to feel like a party with a beautiful setting, gray but not fuzzy service and just the right mix of guests. He opened his first restaurant in Santa Monica in 1979. Ten years later, he opened a New York Michael's in midtown because he wanted to draw an eclectic mix of business, media, entertainment and publishing types for lunches that would combine business with pleasure.

Mr. McCARTY: And fortunately, at the end of the block was the William Morris Agency and every day I would have eight to ten book agents who would reserve here. Then when the William Morris agents came from California to represent the TV and the movie business, they would then be told to book here. And so we would have the sophisticated author and we'd have the wild movie stuff.

NEARY: And, surprisingly, says Diane Clehane, a lot of work actually does get done at Michael's.

Ms. CLEHANE: We see at a lot of editors coming here wooing people. We see a lot of agents wooing clients here. Television producers come and they sort of nab people here and then next thing you know, you know, they'll stop by the bar and say to me, oh, I'm having lunch with such and such producer and now I'm going to be on their show in two weeks.

NEARY: For publishing types, lunch at Michael's might be an occasional perk for an underpaid editor or a brush with the glitterati for an unknown author. For the big name, says Clehane, it might be one way to get some buzz going about a book.

Ms. CLEHANE: Tina Brown was here periodically throughout the spring and I noticed that she was coming with greater frequency as the publications date of "The Diana Chronicles" drew near. So it's very interesting, you know, people sort of I think make it part of their sort of P.R. candor, unofficial PR campaign, as sort of a coming out when they have a book.

NEARY: And when Michael McCarty was looking to get a deal for his new cookbook, he hardly had to leave the restaurant. His literary representative, Bob Burnett, is a regular.

Mr. McCARTHY: He, of course, did Bill Clinton. He did Hillary Clinton. He's had Alan Greenspan. He guested Tony Blair. This is his spot from Washington. He's here - this is where he does his work. And not that I quite got the advance as those people did.

NEARY: Michael McCarty. His new cookbook is called "Welcome to Michael's." Of course, if you want to be as thin as those social swans who lunch at Michael's, you're going to have to leave a lot of that Cobb salad in plate.

Lynn Neary, NPR News, Washington.

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