Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business
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A landmark, bestselling business book and a fascinating behind-the-scenes history of the creation of Danny's most famous eating establishments, Setting the Table is a treasure trove of valuable, innovative insights applicable to any business or organization.
of fried chicken, Brunswick stew, and hush puppies on offer. From as far back as I can remember, I’ve been eating with my eyes, nose, and mouth.When I was four I fell in love with stone crab at the Lagoon restaurant in Miami Beach. I couldn’t stop eating it (and apparently I couldn’t stop talking to anyone who would listen about the “cwacked cwab”). Over the next years I remember savoring variations of key lime pie in Key West; eating my ﬁrst roadside cheeseburger somewhere in the hills outside
add signiﬁcantly to the artistry and the handcrafted feel of a new restaurant. I feel the entrepreneurial spark when some instinct tells me that a certain dining “context” doesn’t currently exist but should exist. I then ask myself a series of questions that force me to examine and challenge the status quo—and then change it. Each question begins with these ﬁve words: “Who ever wrote the rule . . . ?” Who ever wrote the rule, for example, that you shouldn’t be able to enjoy a reﬁned dining expe-
assuring each one that if we could make a restaurant work there, it would let us lead an effort to revitalize the downtrodden park outside our front door. The park itself was poorly landscaped, dirty, and unsafe—not unlike Union Square Park circa 1985, but without even a spark of retail activity on its perimeter.Twenty-third Street had a hodgepodge of fast-food places, shoeshine shops, and delis; and the three-block stretch of Madison Avenue, as well as Twenty-sixth Street and Fifth Avenue, was
adapt to a fast-changing industry. However, classiﬁed ads are expensive, and one tough year, after several had yielded no returns, I resorted to some unorthodox approaches. I asked readers of Union Square Cafe’s newsletter—among them hundreds of guests who had written to praise our staff—to act as recruiters for us. If they ever came across people at other restaurants whom they’d love to see serve them at Union Square Cafe, I wrote, “I would really appreciate if you would refer them to us.” (I
struck again, when Gael Greene, still writing for the magazine’s listings section, suggested that the ribs were “wimpy,” and that I had never been in front of a pit in my life. That did it. I had to respond. I wrote Sally and Nardie Stein, the longtime owners of Camp Nebagamon, and asked if they could unearth any photograph showing me as a fourteen-year-old in front of the ﬁre the night I was declared the cowinner of the Chef ’s Cap outdoor cooking contest. Inveterate archivists, they managed to