The New Yorker restaurant closed today. “It’s the end of an era,” says—well, says everyone I talked to. Admittedly, The New Yorker has been more of an institution than a restaurant for some time. There have been a lot of foodie comments on how the place had lost its luster and its edge.
But when John Williams and Tom Sieg opened The New Yorker in 1978, it set a high bar for dining that Salt Lakers hadn’t seen before. The two-level interior with its stained glass ceiling from the old Hotel Utah, the innovative cuisine and impeccable service actualized Williams’ vision for Salt Lake City as the intermountain hub for culture and cuisine.John Williams, co-founder of Gastronomy, Inc., lived and died before we started using the term “influencer.” But that’s what he was.
These days, marketing is all about influencers. Companies target people with big social media followings, sell to them and trust that if the influencers use their product, everyone else will follow suit. Here’s what’s key: Influencers aren’t leaders by intention. They are leaders by example. Salt Lakers followed Williams in his quest for gastronomic excellence when he and his partners—Sieg and Tom Guinney—opened restaurants and our tastebuds.
He opened the kitchen doors for us and we discovered our taste for fresh seafood and real Italian food. A one-time architect, he crusaded for the preservation of historic buildings and we supported him. The New Yorker building—as well as The Salt Lake Hardware building, Ford Motor Co., Fire House No. 8 and the Pierpont building as testament to his efforts.
In Salt Lake magazine’s 20th anniversary issue, we named Williams as one of “49 Utahns who changed the state.” In our current issue, investigative reporter Stephen Dark examines Williams’ tragic murder and its unexpectedly positive consequences.
But Williams’ real legacy isn’t the restaurants that he opened and closed—it’s in the current Salt Lake dining landscape, driven by innovation and daring, moving Salt Lake into the future, expanding our palates and our imaginations. They all follow in the wake of the original New Yorker.
Thank you John.
Read the full story of John Williams’ final days in the Sept/Oct. 2018 issue of Salt Lake magazine.