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HOME > Biographical > 100 New Yorkers of the 1970s > WESTSIDER GEORGE LANG
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Owner of the Cafe des Artistes


George Lang, artist and perfectionist, could have become a success in any of a hundred professions. In 1946, when he arrived in the U.S. from his native Hungary, he got a job as violinist with the Dallas Symphony. But Lang soon discovered that the orchestra pit was too confining for a man of his vision. He might have turned to composition or conducting; instead he decided to switch to a different field entirely — cooking. Today, at 54, he is the George Balanchine of the food world — a "culinary choreographer" with an international reputation for knowing virtually everything relevant that is to be known about food preparation and restaurants.

Lang's imagination, Gourmet magazine once wrote, "is as fertile as the Indus Valley." This imagination, combined with his keen intelligence, his concern for details, his natural versatility, and his seemingly endless capacity for work, have enabled him to rewrite the definition of the term "restaurant consultant."

As head of the George Lang Corporation, a loosely structured group of associates that he founded in 1971, he commands $2,500 a day plus expenses for jetting around the world, giving advice on restaurant and kitchen design, menu planning, and every other aspect of a restaurant from the lighting to the color of the napkins.

His large-scale projects in the past few years include food consulting and
design for Marriot Motor Hotels, Holiday Inn, the Cunard Lines, and
Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos. He was the chief planner for The
Market, a three-level, 20-shop marketplace in the East Side's Citicorp
Center. In 1975, when he took over the West Side's famous Cafe des
Artistes, the business quadrupled within weeks.

A prolific author as well, Lang has written several books and hundreds of articles for leading publications, including the Encyclopedia Britannica. His column, "Table for One," is a regular feature of Travel & Leisure magazine. He has bottled burgundy under his own label, arranged parties for the rich and famous, and served as consultant for Time-Life's series on international cookery.

His office has a miniature garden in the middle; the wall are lined with 5,000 catalogued cookbooks. He comes sailing into the room and takes a seat at his semicircular desk, which all but engulfs him. Short in stature, bald as a gourd, he moves with a darting energy that sees him through 20 hour workdays with as many as 30 food tastings. His softly accented speech is the only thing about him that is slow, because Lang chooses............
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