“I first visited the UN Delegates Dining Room after covering the First Lady’s African nations tour. I hosted a benefit here in support of Aids orphans in Botswana. Since then I have interviewed Kofi Annan when he was still Secretary-General, Jan Egeland when he was the UN humanitarian chief and George Clooney about his time in Darfur. I like this room a lot, it makes me feel comfortable and I love the perspective it offers. My last meal would involve a big table by the window at the international buffet with enough time for a healthy dose of reflection.
Good food has always punctuated moments in my life and some of my earliest memories are of baking corn bread with my father and eating it slathered in butter and honey. Nowadays my signature dish is pasta puttanesca – marinate garlic, anchovies, tomatoes, olive oil and basil in the sun for 12 hours and then pour it over freshly cooked pasta. It was supposedly invented by Neapolitan ladies of the night who would leave their windows open to lure johns into their homes with its saucy aroma. Needless to say, when I’m cooking at home my Gramercy Park skylights stay firmly bolted.
When I’m on assignments I take my own food – you can’t afford to get sick with live feeds to anchor. I’ve been known to carry a bottle of Châteauneuf du Pape in my bag, which makes me very popular, especially at the end of a tough day.
I’d like to think that by the time I do eat my last meal, I will have fulfilled my father’s simple wish for me to have been of service to others. Then I’ll be able to celebrate with family, close friends – and one final bottle of Châteauneuf du Pape.
With armed guards, sniffer dogs and walk-through metal detectors, the UN Delegates Dining Room must have the strictest door policy in town. Entry to the building and refectory is through passport control as the UN headquarters were designated an international zone on completion in 1952. Its fourth-floor location gives 180-degree views of the Queensboro Bridge, Roosevelt Island and the 59th Street funicular crossing the East River. Chef Daryl Schembeck is responsible for the daily international buffet. “We have a lot of palates to cater for. I guess we’ve developed a compilation of dishes to suit all tastes.” We had hoped that, after a couple of bottles of Red Guitar Tempranillo we’d find the odd loose-lipped attaché. If only we’d brought a Burundian dictionary…
Fourth Floor, UN Building, 1st Avenue between 42nd and 48th Street, New York
Baby spinach salad with mustard fruits, ricotta crouton and raspberry vinaigrette
Tuscan roasted vegetables, goats’ cheese, red pepper, spinach, artichoke and rocket
Wild blueberries, cranberries and raspberries with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream
Glass of Red Guitar Tempranillo Navarra