In his Noho penthouse, with a rooftop pool and a large Salvador Dalí sculpture in its sprawling living room, a hedge funder-cum-filmmaker pries open a crate of Bordeaux, while eight dinner guests sip Dom Pérignon and snack on deviled quail eggs topped with Ossetra caviar. In the kitchen, New York-based chef Yann Nury, 35, preps a casual dinner of the most expensive ingredients money can buy. It’s just one of some 200 luxury dinners he will cater with his small brigade of guns for hire this year.
“I’ve flown chickens private,” Nury says. “I had my Parisian driver go to Rimowa to buy suitcases, line them with Styrofoam, go to the supplier in Bresse, pick up 14 chickens, bring them to the airport and drop them into a jet. I can’t even tell you what that cost.”
Since leaving Daniel Boulud’s catering business in 2011, Nury has become the go-to cook for top brands such as Netflix, Omega, Dior and Tiffany, as well as 1 percenters looking for a private but nonetheless extraordinary meal.
For a “simple” barbecue, Nury rode into Virginia with $12,000 worth of beef: 48 wagyu tomahawks, which he personally dry-aged for 300 days. To cater an East Hampton soiree, Nury made sure that his live blue lobsters from Brittany got the same VIP treatment as the guests themselves, with a private helicopter flight and a chauffeur ready at the airport. In pursuit of the freshest seafood possible for hors d’oeuvres at a Bottega Veneta show in Manhattan, he shipped 1,000 live langoustines from Scotland.
“Catering is kind of a silly word,” says Nury, who grew up in Ardèche, France, and studied hospitality at Paul Bocuse’s school in Lyon. “It makes it sound like the pizza place on the corner does the same thing that I do.”
He says that the general concept of his business is “the best of everything.” He purchases hundreds of pounds of truffles and caviar each year. He sources only the best ingredients no matter the expense or geographical logistics, down to the cooking wine, olive oils and salts (of which he has 65 varieties). He makes every aspect of every meal from scratch, including doughs and smoked goods.
Costs can vary widely based on ingredients and the number of guests: Nury’s starting fee is $5,000 — but he’s prepared a dinner for more than $15,000 per head.
“For people who can afford him, it’s an incredible experience,” says Amir Korangy, 45, the publisher of real estate trade publication the Real Deal and a frequent dinner guest of Nury’s. “He has this French accent going on and the way he serves food is like theater. Every spoon and every plate is perfect.”
Nury’s clients often work in finance or fashion and learn about him via word of mouth — although he has also cooked for numerous celebrities including Martha Stewart, John Legend, Karolina Kurkova and Oprah Winfrey. Not only do they appreciate his meticulous presentation, which often includes vintage Tiffany silver and anachronisms such as a 19th-century duck press, but his ebullient approach to the all-too-frequently solemn fine-dining experience comes as a relief. He’s known for pouring tequila shots between courses such as foie-gras-stuffed scallops cooked directly in a fireplace.
Does the party atmosphere occasionally involve drugs or prostitutes? “It exists,” Nury admits.
“But it’s not like a nightclub where you put the coke on the table,” he adds. “I’ve had people too drunk to sit down for dinner. That’s happened many times.”
However, he says that his clients are usually undistracted and enthusiastic about his toothsome repasts.
“He’s at the table and educates you about every aspect of the food,” says the 46-year-old owner of the Noho penthouse, who asked to remain anonymous. “His enthusiasm is infectious. I always ask him to stay for a glass of wine at the end of the night.”
Nury has no interest in opening a restaurant of his own. He says that working as a nomad, unencumbered by the burdens of running a brick-and-mortar restaurant, gives him the freedom to push the culinary envelope — creating a surrealistic dinner inspired by Dalí’s “Les Dîners de Gala” one night and “a childish yet luxurious” flower-themed four-courser in Shanghai the next.
He says the setup even allows him to charge cost for his truffles, caviar and wine.
“I have the highest food costs in the culinary world. But because I don’t have to pay $100,000 in rent, I can take 20 percent of that and inject it into my food,” he says. “So am I price-competitive in the city? From a bottom-line perspective, probably not. But if you look at the value of what I offer, I am extremely competitive.”
Along the way, he hopes to change the face of the catering business, from purveyors of forgettable “second-rate food” to the acme of haute cuisine.
“At Eleven Madison Park, 100 people eat the exact same menu at the exact same time. It’s not an exclusive experience,” he says. “No top chef will ever see me as their peer, but I make more money than they do, so I don’t really care.”
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