On July 6, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal published extensive obituaries on my friend, George Lang, one of America’s most successful restaurateurs.
George had a truly fascinating and exciting life. He was born in Hungary in 1924. He was Jewish and escaped a Nazi forced-labor camp and imminent execution in the Second World War. He came to New York with no money, but with hopes of becoming a concert violinist.
When his violin career did not work out, he pursued a career in restaurants. He worked for Restaurant Associates and was instrumental in establishing the Four Seasons Restaurant in New York City, one of the world’s most famous. George also established and ran the famous Café des Artistes Restaurant in New York. He wrote a lot of cookbooks and was one of the most renowned restaurateurs of all time.
When he left Restaurant Associates, we got together. As we talked we came to the conclusion that it might be a good idea for George to establish a consulting business and I offered us up as the first client. At that time, we were big-time in the airline catering business. We just acquired the Qantas Airline account at our London Flight Kitchen at Heathrow. Qantas flights to Australia were, of course, a long haul and very expensive in first class. They were charging a lot and expected the highest level of service.
George volunteered to go to London and create a very high-end food service for Qantas in-flight catering. He not only designed it, he stayed on in the kitchen for many weeks, training the chefs and ensuring that they did an outstanding job.
When we opened our Marriott hotel in Budapest, Hungary, I was there for the opening and George showed up. He was there opening a very famous restaurant in Budapest and joined us for dinner.
He was a great friend and George and I worked together on many projects through the years. I will miss him. He made an outstanding contribution to the restaurant industry for over 40 years. And he certainly helped me out when I really needed it the most with Qantas in London.
I’m Bill Marriott and thanks for helping me keep Marriott on the Move.