Anne Rosenzweig Is Fine With Being Forgotten
The chef, a culinary star from the 1980s through the early aughts, blazed a trail for American women in restaurant kitchens. But she’s shy about admitting her legacy, even if others aren’t
Some chefs don’t want to be written out of history. But Anne Rosenzweig is okay with it.
The chef’s talents at such culinary destinations as the Upper East Side’s Arcadia and Lobster Club through the 1980s and 1990s had been sanctioned by the culinary establishment: The restaurants she owned were frequent favorites of the New York Times. She was inducted into James Beard’s “Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America” in 1987; four nominations for “Best Chef: New York City” followed in the next decade for her work at Arcadia. She nearly clinched a spot in the White House as its executive chef during Clinton’s first term.
Her dishes, at once stylized and freewheeling, gently upset the conventions framing New American cuisine: grilled quail tinged with a rhubarb, port, and quail-stock sauce and cradled by withered dandelions. Corn cakes as flat as discs of blinis, smacked with drops of creme fraiche and smears of gold and black caviar. Lobster club sandwiches, bundles of controlled chaos with lemon mayonnaise that would dribble down the arms of patrons wearing jackets and ties. In her kitchen, she moved with hushed concentration, like an artist assembling a sculpture from a box of toothpicks. Her plates glittered with luxury; details mattered.
She elbowed her way to the top of an industry sweating with masculinity, one of a handful of women at culinary events alongside women like Lidia Bastianich, Julia Child, Zarela Martinez, and Alice Waters. But she pulled a vanishing act in the early aughts that rivaled Debra Winger’s from the movies, withdrawing from the industry where she was an outspoken star.
Rosenzweig is a willing participant in her own obscurity. “People say to me that I’m forgotten, and I say, ‘hey, that’s great,’” Rosenzweig told me one day in March. “I did what I…