Obama-Driven Business Boom Likely for Harlem's Red Rooster
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
President Barack Obama's $30,800 per plate fundraiser at Harlem's Red Rooster Tuesday evening has been much buzzed about.
And although there's much emphasis on the president's choice of location as a way to re-energize his base and some grumbling about the soiree's pricey tickets, it seems likely that the event will also serve as a boon to business for Marcus Samuelsson, Red Rooster’s famous owner.
The restaurant might benefit from the presidential seal of approval as others have in the past, such as Spiaggia in Obama's hometown of Chicago.
"All the time people come in," said Tony Mantuano, Spiaggia’s chef and partner, "and ask where they [the President and the first lady] sat, what they eat, what they’re like."
Mantuano said the upscale Italian restaurant "absolutely" saw an increase in the number of customers as the word got out the Obamas were regulars while they lived in Chicago and after they celebrated presidential election victory there. Today, guided food tours make a stop, pointing to the place as one where the president ate — often his favorite dish, roasted scallops.
Whether food tours in New York will soon add Red Rooster as one of their stops, remains to be seen. While Samuelsson — who won the "Top Chef Masters" title in season two of the reality show chef competition and prepared the first state dinner for the Obama administration — is well known, the Red Rooster is fairly new to the neighborhood. It opened in December 2010.
It is advertised as one that celebrates "local farmers and artisanal food makers," and it serves dishes such as fried yard bird at $18 and uptown steak frites at $32.
In January 2010, the President surprised the first lady with a birthday party at the Restaurant Nora in Washington, D.C., where they were joined by 24 of their friends, according to Nora Pouillon, the owner of this organic food spot. The president ate scallops (again) and apple pie for dessert, while his wife, celebrating her 46th birthday, enjoyed grilled lamb chops and chocolate cake, Pouillon said.
The organic eatery saw an upsurge in the number of clients in the weeks that followed, with customers inquiring about the first couple — but it lasted for only a couple of weeks.
"Like with everything, it doesn't last that long," Pouillon said, "especially in Washington where there’s something happening every minute."
Therein might lie the best lesson for Samuelsson: Make the best of the weeks to come.