Elisa Herr With Gael Greene

The culinary and philanthropic communities joined Citymeals-on-Wheels stalwarts and just plain foodies tonight to cheer the legendary restaurant critic Gael Greene over the more or less harrowing hurdle of her 80th birthday.

“I don’t know how this happened so quickly,” said the “Insatiable Critic,” her tag for 40 years in New York magazine before she was fired and moved her critiques to “One evening I was 40 and disco-dancing and all men were 26, and next…this frightening big number. As she spoke, two towering chocolate birthday cakes, each marked “40,” would roll into Stella 34 Trattoria at Macy’s, overlooking the spire of the Empire State Building, where friends and supporters will gather to roast and toast her.

Greene, who managed to write seven books including two erotic best selling novels and a memoir between meals, started her journalism career at the New York Post in 1957, after a brief dalliance at United Press. Her memoir “Insatiable: Tales from a Life of Delicious Excess” documents the 40 year revolution in dining, how New York and, therefore America, fell in love with food.

The usually anonymous critic melted even the icy hearts of restaurateurs she chewed out when she co-founded Citymeals-on-Wheels more than three decades ago with the beloved American chef James Beard. Since its creation, the charity has delivered more than 47 million nutritious meals to homebound elderly New Yorkers.

In lieu of birthday gifts like emerald earrings, a crocodile clutch or recycled cologne, guests were asked to consider delivering meals to the city’s frail aged shutins in Greene’s name. By Monday, several thousand meals had already been donated.

Among those at the Big Birthday bash were Kathleen Turner, Hasty and Jacques Torres, Gail Sheehy, Deana and Stephen Hanson, Fran and Barry Weissler, Drew Nieporent, Andre Soltner, Alain Sailhac, Margo and Jimmy Nederlander, Ninah and Michael Lynne, Ruth Finley, Zarela Martinez, David Rockwell, Tren’ness Woods-Black, Karen Page and Andrew Dornenberg, Michael Tong, and Judy and Stanley Zabar.

With Nick Valenti and the Patina Group as hosts, guests were greeted with cocktails, passed tastes from Stella’s Italian menu and a walk-around dinner. The chance to roast or toast Greene followed. If she did not melt in a puddle of embarrassment, she planned to reply.

Chef Daniel Boulud, Co-President of the Citymeals-on-Wheels Board of Directors said, “Gael Greene is Citymeals’ foundation and soul. Tonight, we celebrate Gael’s insatiable influence on many generations of chefs, foodies and critics. But, most importantly we celebrate the valuable contributions she has made to Citymeals-on-Wheels over the past 30 years. So I welcome you to join me in wishing Gael a happy birthday.”

Citymeals was seeded November, 1981, when Greene and Beard read a Times article saying that government funds delivering weekday meals to the city’s frail, aging shutins did not cover weekends or holidays. Unwilling to accept that reality, she called James Beard who agreed, and with Barbara Kafka, they made a round-robin of calls to food world friends raising $35,000 over the weekend. That Monday, offering to deliver the money to Janet Sainer, then commissioner of the NYC Department for the aging, Greene demanded that not a dime be deducted for a phone call or a stamp. Sainer agreed.

That 100% donation principle remains the guiding foundation of Citymeals-on-Wheels.

What began in 1981 with a group of like-minded individuals and a historic public-private partnership serving Christmas dinner for 6,000 needy elderly at a cost of $35,000, has matured into an organization now underwriting over 2,000,000 meals annually, delivering 40% of all home delivered meals in New York City, and raising over $19 million this year alone.

Gael has Asked that well-wishers Consider Making a Donation to Citymeals-on-Wheels

About Citymeals-on-Wheels 

Feeding and caring for older New Yorkers since 1981, Citymeals-on-Wheels ( supplies a continuous lifeline of nutritious food and human company to our city’s homebound elderly. Citymeals works with 33 community-based meal centers to deliver over 2 million weekend, holiday and emergency meals to 18,000 of our frail aged neighbors. Last year, more than 12,000 volunteers provided over 55,000 hours of volunteerism. One hundred percent of donations from the public goes toward the preparation and delivery of meals for our most vulnerable neighbors. Citymeals, a 501 (c)(3) charity, has a Charity Navigator 4-star rating and meets the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance Standards.

Photo Courtesy of: Lawlor Media Group