When celebrities eat, they bite, chew and swallow

Local establishments were faced with feeding the hordes of common folk in town for President Obama’s swearing-in, but they also had the opportunity to get their food in the mouths of people who attract media attention when they yawn.

The trick to serving A-list clientele, two D.C. restaurateurs say, is that there is no trick. The more you can treat Sharon Stone like your cousin, they say, the better the entire experience will be.

“Everybody really puts their socks on the same way,” said Todd English, whose new restaurant, Cha, is slated for a spring opening but hosted several VIP events and guests during the Inauguration. Jon Bon Jovi, Dana Delaney, Lenny Kravitz, Sheryl Crow and Josh Lucas ate there during Inauguration.

English said he enjoys the chance to use his food to impress the people who impress him. Other than that, he does not stress out about serving celebrities.

“The biggest thing, actually, is to provide an environment where there’s not so much fuss,” he said.
Dan Mesches, the CEO of the restaurant group that owns Zola, said the restaurant has become good at handling the security detail and other needs of high-profile diners.

“What we do for a celebrity is really make sure that no one bothers them,” Mesches said, adding that Zola has hosted Robert DeNiro, Tom Cruise and Vivica Fox as well as high-profile politicians like White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and Health and Human Services Secretary-designate Tom Daschle.

“Our staff doesn’t get autographs,” he said. “We don’t let other guests do that.”

English, who is also the chef for the Washington restaurant Olives, went so far as to say that having celebrity guests is one of the less stressful situations in the restaurant business.

“It’s actually much simpler in many ways,” he said. “Just put them in a corner and give them good food.”