TravelsinTaste: In your travels through many different continents, cuisines and cultures, what has impressed and prepared you most for your restaurants' incredible success? What have you borrowed from your travels and implemented in your restaurants?
Jean-Georges Vongerichten: Many things. First of all, the customer. When I arrived in New York from Asia in 1986 it was the most open-minded clientele coming in, always ready to try new things. I was supposed to stay for one year, but I never left. The most important thing is the public. It's like theater; if you don't have a crowd coming in, you can't perform in the kitchen. A lot of chefs forget that. They perform without thinking about who is going to come to watch it. For me, the audience is the most important. If you don't have an audience the food is going to be spoiled. It's going to be bad. So when I cook, I cook for people, not just for myself. That's the only way to fill up a restaurant. That's No. 1. No. 2 is probably knowing to buy the best ingredients. Looking for the little farmer. We buy fish only from small boats; people don't realize that when they eat a piece of fish, some of it comes from big boats that leave on Monday and come back on Friday. Fish from those boats comes to the market the next Monday, which means some of it has already been on ice for four or five days. For that reason, we work only with small boats; we leave at 6 in the morning, come back at 12 and the fish is there that night or the next morning. It never touches ice. They keep it in coolers and they send it FedEx to us with an ice pack. But the worst thing for fish is ice because it washes the flavor off. Have you seen a fish market with fish covered with ice? I never buy it.