Compliments and Insults: The Lost Art of Dining in Restaurants

Alex von Bidder

News Story: March 17, 2014

Alex von Bidder, the managing partner of New York City’s renowned Four Seasons restaurant, will deliver a talk titled, “Compliments and Insults: The Lost Art of Dining in Restaurants” on April 22 at 6 p.m. at The Ferguson Library in Stamford.

His talk is part of a series on Civility in America, sponsored by Sacred Heart University and The Dilenschneider Group, along with Hearst Media Group in Connecticut and The Ferguson Library.

A native of Zurich, von Bidder began his career as an apprentice in the famed Movenpick restaurant group. After a brief stint as a paratrooper in the Swiss military, he enrolled in summer school at Cornell University where he was hired right out of the classroom to manage a restaurant in New York City’s Loews Hotel and later by Leona Helmsley’s Park Lane, where he worked as the food and beverage manager.

His success at the Park Lane brought von Bidder to the attention of The Four Seasons owners, who in 1976 hired him as the banquet manager.
Together with longtime business partner, Julian Niccolini, von Bidder created the Four Seasons famed “power lunch,” an expression that Esquire magazine coined to describe the restaurant’s noontime scene.

During the booming 1980s, they took the restaurant on a jet-propelled thrill ride to the top of Zagat’s popularity charts. In the 1990s, von Bidder and Niccolini purchased the restaurant.

Under their leadership, the Four Seasons won the James Beard award for “Best Restaurant in America” and the New York Times raved, “their eclectic mix of ingredients of styles virtually define American cooking.” At the turn of the century, the Four Seasons became what the Associated Press called “an international publicity machine” with its innovative cuisine, colorful clientele and A-lister, see-and-be-seen soirées.

Today von Bidder and Niccolini continue to dazzle the restaurant world. In the Zagat 2014 Survey, New Yorkers raved about the Four Seasons’ “flawless service” and “delectable New American cuisine.”

An avid sailor, who moonlights as a yoga instructor, Alex von Bidder is also the co-author of Wiggens Learns His Manners at the Four Seasons Restaurant, a children’s etiquette book, and The Four Seasons: A History of America’s Premier Restaurant, a social history of the restaurant’s first forty years.

Public opinion polls show that in every sector of society, civility has declined, and this decline is manifested in political attacks, lack of personal decency, outrage in the media and cyber-assaults in the blogosphere.

Robert L. Dilenschneider, founder and president of The Dilenschneider Group, who conceived the idea for the series, said, “Incivility has become socially acceptable and commonplace. The lack of civility in every segment of society, from politics to academia, from the media to the blogosphere, from talk radio to the pulpit, has become a crippling epidemic that threatens the future of our country. Something must be done.”

For information about the series, call (203) 964-1000.