As a new year twinkles brightly like a Harry Winston jewel on the horizon, we take a lingering look back to remember the many wonderful steak-loving legends who have graced our restaurants throughout 2011 whether to celebrate a private event, relax after shooting a movie or just to enjoy a good meal with family and friends. From movie stars (George Clooney, Matt Damon, Mark Wahlberg) to rock stars (Carlos Santana, Shakira, Ricky Martin), PGA TOUR players (Sergio Garcia, Vijay Singh, Chi Chi Rodriguez) to politicians (John Boehner, Rudy Giuliani, Barbara Boxer), and athletes (LeBron James, Rafael Nadal, Mario Andretti) to news anchors (Wolf Blitzer, Soledad O’Brien, John King), you never know who you’ll sit next to at Morton’s!
Throughout December, Morton’s welcomed the following celebrities…
Anaheim Ducks’ Head Coach Bruce Boudreau
Washington Redskins’ Kevin Barnes, Erik Cook, Jonathan Crompton, Rocky McIntosh, Chris Neild, Eric Olsen, Logan Paulsen, Aldrick Robinson, Nick Sundberg, Brandyn Thompson, Lorenzo Alexander, Bryon Westbrook, and Doug Worthington
Actress Ruta Lee
Atlanta – Buckhead
Actor Don Cheadle
Actor Peter Billingsley (Ralphie from A Christmas Story)
Boyz II Men
NASCAR Driver Kyle Busch
Charlotte Bobcat’s Kemba Walker
Edmonton Oilers’ Hunter Tremblay
Carolina Panthers’ Jonathan Stewart
Chicago (State St.)
Jersey Shore’s JWoww
Actor Mr. T
Cincinnati Bengals’ Jermaine Gresham, Gene Atkins Jr.
Cleveland Cavaliers’ Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson
MLB Legends Tommy Lasorda and Juan Marichal
Dallas Mavericks’ Brian Cardinal, Delonte West
Rock and Roll Musician Bob Seger
Chicago Bears’ Jay Cutler
Miami Dolphins’ Marvin Mitchell, Ryan Cook
Chicago Cubs’ Marlon Byrd
Tennis Player Ryan Sweeting
Real Housewives of New Jersey’s Kathy Wakile
Former Governor George Ariyoshi
Hawaii Five-0’s Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park
Hawaiian Entertainer Danny Kaleikini
Celebrity Chef Roy Yamaguchi
PGA TOUR Golfer Colin Montgomery
Former Owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars Wayne Weaver
King of Prussia
Members of the Pittsburgh Penguins
Actor Mark Wahlberg
New Orleans Saints’ Jonathan Vilma, Sedrick Ellis, Will Smith, Cameron Jordan, Malcom Jenkins, Roman Harper, Tracey Porter, Jabari Greer, and Jo-Lonn Dunbar
CNN Host Soledad O’Brien
PGA TOUR Golfers Chris Kirk and John Jacobs
Washington Redskins’ Chris Cooley
Oscar-Winning Director Steven Spielberg and Actress Kate Capshaw
San Francisco 49ers Frank Gore
San Francisco 49ers Patrick Willis
PGA TOUR Golfer Doug Tewell
Actress Carina Lau
Actor Sean Lau
NHL Hall of Famer Ted Lindsay
Washington D.C. (Connecticut Ave.)
Sportswriters Tony Kornheiser, John Feinstein and Christine Brennan
Investigative Reporter Bob Woodward
Former University of Maryland Men’s Basketball Head Coach Gary Williams
Speaker of the House John Boehner
C-SPAN Host Steve Scully
Mayor of Washington D.C Vincent Gray
Washington Nationals’ Owner Mark Lerner
Musician Tori Amos
Q: If you could celebrate New Year’s Eve with any celebrity, who would you toast in a glamorous new year with?
Celebrity reporting coverage by Wayne Pua and Sally Shorr
Throughout 2011, some of the biggest names in sports partnered with Morton’s to share their stories, serve our guests and most importantly, support worthwhile charities.
Some pretty special servers traded in their uniforms for aprons at Morton’s locations across the country to help raise funds for their preferred charities, and our “Celebrity Servers at Morton’s” series saw another banner year…bringing in an astounding $1, 585, 000! This year’s total, combined with the proceeds from 2010, equals almost $3 million!
From Baltimore to Las Vegas, guests were able to rub elbows with some of the best in the business and saw their favorite athletes offering passed hors d’oeuvres, cracked pepper on their salads and refills on their wine.
Some highlights included Larry Fitzgerald’s event at Morton’s in Scottsdale, raising $220,000 for the Carol Fitzgerald Memorial Fund and the First Down Fund; Ryan Howard’s event at Morton’s in Philadelphia, raising $200,000 for Ryan Howard Family Foundation and the Jonathan Vilma event at Morton’s in New Orleans, when the whole Saints team came together to help raise $196,000 for the Jonathan Vilma Foundation. You can visit our website to see the whole line-up of “Celebrity Servers” from 2011 or browse our blog for recaps from these incredible events.
For the 3rd year running, Morton’s also partnered with ESPN to broadcast live ‘Lunch with a Legend’ and ‘Dinner with a Legend’ events from our private dining rooms. Our guests had front-row seats and exclusive access to some legendary sports figures, including Dodger great Steve Garvey and super agent Leigh Steinberg in our LA-area restaurants, Legendary Temple basketball coach John Chaney in Philadelphia, former NHL star Jeremy Roenick in Chicago, and Browns top running back Peyton Hillis in Cleveland. Guests also got to reminisce with Bobby Dandridge and Kevin Grevey of the 1978 NBA Champion Washington Bullets, who won the dramatic Game 7 with seconds to play against the Seattle Supersonics.
As you can see, 2011 was a very exciting year for Morton’s. Sports celebrities came off of the field and on our turf to raise money for charity and provide our guests once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. We raise a glass to the athletes for donating their time and their passion to help those less fortunate and for spending time with our guests. And we raise a glass to all our guests who supported these events, their causes and their local Morton’s.
Here’s to an equally, if not more, successful 2012 for everyone…both on, and off, the field!
Like many of our business guests, I do my fair share of travel. Recently, I visited Asia for a two week period, at rapid speed, to see potential sites and (hopefully) some future Morton’s locations. I wanted to share some of my thoughts with you throughout my travels, city by city:
Tokyo: My first stop on this tour and my first ever trip to Japan. What an amazing metropolis of nearly 13 million people, filled with great restaurants, and high end shopping and fashion. I also traveled to wonderful areas like Roppongi Hills and Ginza. Tokyo might possibly be an exciting future destination for the Morton’s brand.
Beijing: Outstanding visit to Beijing! Being the capital of one of the fastest growing economies certainly makes this city enticing to open up a global restaurant and my expectations were high before my visit. I have seen and heard so much of this thriving city and now after this trip, I am even more convinced and excited about a potential Morton’s here. A top city in China, Beijing offers the perfect brand alignment for us. I can’t wait to find the perfect location and open our first Morton’s here.
Taipei: Another great potential city for a Morton’s steakhouse. “The Best Steak Anywhere” would make a real splash in this amazing city. As I talked to many folks and business travelers I discovered there was strong brand awareness already here in Taipei, even though we don’t have a Morton’s in this city. A good reminder to me of how prestigious our brand is in Asia and what great opportunities lie ahead for us in this part of the world.
Macau: Morton’s has been here for four years in the Venetian Hotel and Casino. One of the top 25 tourist destinations in the world, we continue to be a point of destination restaurant and a wonderful oasis for expats and travelers. Our management and staff at Morton’s in Macau truly make all the difference. Our business continues to get stronger here each year.
Hong Kong: This was our second Morton’s restaurant that we opened in Asia, back in 1999, and we’re located in the Sheraton Hotel. What a gorgeous view of Hong Kong, right from my table! We continue to win “Best of” Awards here every year! And we’re so involved in the community as well. We have a very tenured management team lead by our General Manager Steve McCrimmon, and he and his staff have created an American Steakhouse institution in Hong Kong….endless stories of local and expat “WOW” experiences! Recreating the Chicago steakhouse experience in Hong Kong! We are excited in our pursuit of a second Hong Kong Morton’s–more to come on that.
Singapore: Our first Morton’s in Asia, it’s hard to believe that we opened in the prestigious Mandarin Hotel way back in May of 1998! Every time I visit this wonderful city, I get more enamored with this incredible country and how the Morton’s brand has grown with it. Our Singapore location serves as our stepping stone for growth and expansion throughout Asia and has taken care of so many business travelers over our 13 successful years in this market. I am so proud of our people and our reputation here! I feel honored to represent our company and I had the chance to promote our brand and Asia expansion on a recent segment on Channel News Asia.
Shanghai: And now to visit our first restaurant we opened in Mainland China. Morton’s in the IFC celebrated its One Year Anniversary in October. Beautiful views, 11 private rooms, and alfresco patios looking right at the Pearl in Pudong. And of course the BEST STEAK money can buy, delivered by our highly trained and caring Morton’s staff! This is certainly our winning formula. I can’t wait for Morton’s Shanghai #2. One of my highlights was meeting Stacy Ohlsson and Randy Zinck, two Morton’s regular guests. Randy has made it his “Bucket List” to dine at every Morton’s location and had designed a visit to China around dining at three of our Asia Morton’s, in Hong Kong, Macau and Shanghai. [Read the recap of their Shanghai adventure below]
What an unforgettable trip for me. We have such a special brand and our success here is made possible by our dedicated and passionate people in each of these cities! I am so touched to see our unparalleled brand be so recognized amongst the finest brands throughout the world! I leave Asia, once again, humbled by the dedication of the Morton’s staff, which makes all the difference with our guests and in each of our local communities.
Great trip and I was so happy to return home to Chicago to see my family….yes, back to my “home” city and the place where it all started for Morton’s!
Hope you enjoyed some the notes I jotted down along the way on my junket throughout Asia. If you ever plan to visit one of our Morton’s overseas, please let us know so we can be ready to take great care of you…I believe you will be amazed as I was…how the American steakhouse experience really resonates in Asia…and why I am so excited about our future in that part of the world!
The Morton’s Tour: Shanghai Morton’s
After enjoying dinner at Morton’s in Hong Kong and Macau, we journeyed to Shanghai via train. The guide books said that we didn’t need reservations in advance but we played it safe and got our tickets two days ahead of time. Much to our dismay, there were no first or second-class seats available. We would be stuck in the top bunk of a 6-bunk room. Square footage was maybe 48”. And stuck is right as we couldn’t even sit up. It was quite an adventurous 20-hour ride.
The skyscrapers and lights in Shanghai were impressive. The subway system is extensive so it was really easy to get around. Morton’s is on the fourth floor of a trendy and expansive shopping mall. It was breathtaking, as there are 11 private rooms and many of them have views of the spectacular skyline. The bar is oversized and has a nice deck with heaters so guys like Randy can have a cigar. It’s the largest Morton’s in the world!
Once again, the Morton’s staff was stellar and we were treated like royalty. We had our own corner room with a beautiful view of the city. Many different employees greeted us and we were all on a first name basis by the end of the night. The menu was, of course, the same, but the beef was from New Zealand instead of the United States. It was delicious and we added lobster to the deal which was decadent and heavenly.
We had so much fun that we returned the next day for happy hour and a view of the sunset from the deck. The same employees were there (Managers Frederic, Stan, and Diego, and the wait staff) and they kept us entertained the whole time.
We were also delighted to run into Morton’s President and CEO, Christopher Artinian and Asia’s Director of Operations, David Martin once again. We chatted with both of them and were really impressed by their dedication to the company as a whole and specifically to valuing each team member.
We returned to the U.S. on November 22. Randy continued his Morton’s Tour, however, and dined in Las Vegas after Thanksgiving with friends from Wisconsin; it was his friend Larry’s first Morton’s experience along with his nephew’s 40th birthday. Next Morton’s stop for Randy is Honolulu!
By Stacy Ohlsson and Randy Zinck
Each week, our restaurant teams are invited to share stories about their colleagues going above and beyond for their guests. The Morton’s Guest Relations team at the Restaurant Support Center in Chicago, IL receives their submissions and is continuously impressed with the level of hospitality demonstrated at our locations around the world. We wanted to share just a few of these exceptional stories…from giving the shirt off one’s back (literally!) to pulling an all-nighter to return a guest’s lost item.
A famous baseball player was dining with us, and there was little boy who desperately wanted his autograph. At the time the boy was here, it was an inappropriate time to ask, because the ball player was enjoying a meal with his family. Later that evening, our General Manager (GM) asked him to sign a baseball. Then our GM delivered it to the boy’s home. He always goes that extra mile to WOW our guests.
We received an online reservation from a first-time guest with the following note: “We will be celebrating our five-year wedding anniversary. Love the steaks, but is there any way to provide chimichurri sauce?” Our chef noticed the reservation, googled the recipe for traditional Argentinean sauce and made these guests’ day!
We had a group of six young men dining with us, and they had plans to go out on the town after dinner. Unfortunately, one of the young men accidentally spilled his red wine all over his white shirt, completely ruining it. The group’s server witnessed what happened and quickly tended to the spill. The young man then asked Josh where he could go to purchase a new shirt, but his server told him to wait and see what he could do. The server went to his locker and took his nicest freshly-pressed shirt and gave it to our guest. The table didn’t request or expect this…Let’s just say that the guys were completely blown away and wowed!
A regular guest came in alone and seemed grumpy and sad. Through conversation, we discovered that he was dining alone because his wife was in the hospital…so he was worried and upset. When we brought him his check after he was done eating, we also bought him a To-Go bag with his wife’s usual order when she dines with us. He was blown away by the gesture and has never forgotten it!
I’d like to share how our Assistant Manager (AM) went above and beyond the call of duty. Recently, after dining with us, one of our regular guests accidentally took the wrong briefcase home. The guest with the missing briefcase was very upset, because he had to do a presentation at 8am the next morning with the items in his briefcase. Our guest that left with the briefcase was not answering his phone (we later found out the battery was dead!), and it was impossible to get in touch with him. Our AM assured the guest with the missing briefcase that he would personally find and deliver his briefcase before his morning presentation. He went on to call everyone he knew to find out where his guest lived. When he finally learned the address, he went to his guest’s apartment complex. Our AM ended up waiting outside all night long, because security would not let him in. Finally, around 7am, our guest came downstairs apologetically handing over the briefcase. Our AM made it back to the other guest’s hotel with briefcase in hand…in time for his morning presentation, just like he had promised.
The Guest Relations Team
Morton’s The Steakhouse
I recently returned from another incredible “Morton’s Wine Flight,” but I don’t feel like I’m grounded quite yet! From start to finish, it was nothing short of awesome, thanks to the fabulous group of Morton’s guests, the hospitable vintners and winemakers and the idyllic Napa Valley scenery. For today’s issue of “Wine Wednesday,” I wanted to share our journey with all of you!
The guests began to arrive, and we met in the lobby of the historic Westin St Francis. We made the short trip to Morton’s in San Francisco for a wine dinner hosted by Markham Vineyards President Bryan Del Bondio. Our President and CEO, Chris Artinian, was also in the house!
Guests were then assigned to either “Group Cabernet” or “Group Chardonnay,” after which time we all made introductions. We had about four returning couples (from previous “Morton’s Wine Flights”), and the camaraderie was quick to develop! We went on to enjoy a phenomenal dinner…the Markham Sauvignon Blanc, paired with the salad topped with grilled shrimp, stole the show.
The groups split into their respective groups. “Group Chardonnay” was off to Ladera Vineyards for a tour, tasting and lunch in the caves with the Stotesbury family. “Group Cabernet” headed to Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars to help celebrate the 35th anniversary of the Judgement of Paris, along with a tour, tasting and lunch. At this point, the group was still a little quiet and reserved, but I knew from past experience that as soon as the first stop was over they would loosen up…and I was right! By the time “Group Cabernet” was on the way to our next stop, everyone became fast friends. And it was then that the rule was made…what’s said on the bus, stays on the bus!
“Group Chardonnay” headed from Ladera to Freemark Abbey and “Group Cabernet” went to Chappellet. At Chappellet they were right in the middle of crush, and we got to see some real winemaking right before our eyes! After the winery tour, we walked up to the top of Pritchard Hill and sat at a picnic table overlooking the gorgeous view, and drank lots of great wine. One guest commented that, for all of our travels abroad, we forget that we have such beauty right in our backyard. After Freemark Abbey, “Group Chardonnay” went to St. Supery Vineyards and Winery for dinner and “Group Cabernet” went to Celani Family Vineyards. Celani (pronounced Che -lani) turned out to be the home of Tom Celani! He and his wife welcomed us to their gorgeous home, where the winemaker, Mark Herold, brought some Hamm’s Beer and a bottle of tequila to pair with his very eccentric personality! (He even has a PhD in Fish Biology!) A great time was had by all.
We started our day early and headed to Domaine Chandon Winery. (I gave “Group Cabernet” high props, because despite their late nights, they were always prompt! Amazing.) Anyway, we had a long, slow morning at Chandon…we toured the winery and then had a fantastic lunch at the highly-rated Etoile Restaurant on the property. It seemed no one wanted to leave–we had a nice table and everyone was deep in conversation–but Silver Oak Cellars beckoned. So off we went! It was amazing. We tasted so many wines and ate another nice sampling of meats, cheeses and nuts.”Group Chardonnay” went to Robert Mondavi Winery and then to Quintessa.
When we got on the bus to head back to the hotel to change for dinner, one of the guests had a present he had purchased from Silver Oak. He stood up in the bus and pretended that he was going to give it to his wife (whom he had surprised with the trip), but then turned around and handed it to me! It was a beautiful Silver Oak barrelhead lazy susan – a gift from the group! I was blown away.
So, once back to the hotel, we literally had a half hour to change and head to Raymond Vineyards. “Group Cabernet” was on point and on time! We headed to the vineyards, and, wow! First we enjoyed a tour of their “theater of nature,” where they showcase the process of sustainable farming, along with some white peacocks (which are very rare). Then, we went into the fermentation room, which was more European night club than winery! It was decked out in dark lights and baccarat crystal with club music in the background. We even got shiny lab coats and hats…it was a riot! Then, we headed into the lab so we could be winemaker for a day.
Here we broke into teams and made a few different wine blends that were to be judged. The winner of the blending contest was veteran VIP and tour guest, Mark Wagner. His blend will be a new “Wine by the Glass” selection at Morton’s in April 2012, and it includes:
8% 2010 Napa Cabernet (Neutral French Oak)
70% 2010 Lake County Cabernet
13% 2010 Sonoma Cabernet
9% 2010 Napa Merlot
After the blending session, we went out to a courtyard for some appetizers, then into the Gold Room for some more wine, then into the Red Velvet Room for more wine, (this night was decadence on top of decadence!), then back to the fermentation room/night club for an unbelievable dinner. Wow….everyone was once again blown away (and maybe just a little tipsy!)
At one point, I overheard one of the “Wine Flight” guests ask his companions, “Would you do this trip again?” The answer was unanimous! I look forward to seeing repeat guests and new guests for our next excursion, coming up in Spring of 2012. Join our mailing list to stay informed about about the next “Morton’s Wine Flight.”
This past Saturday in downtown Chicago, more than 1,000 walkers came out to support the Hearing Loss Association of America’s (HLAA) Walk4Hearing! The Chicago chapter truly exceeded everyone’s expectations and raised over $164,000! I am so proud of how our community came together to support a cause that touches families and individuals throughout the United States. A special thanks to all the Chicagoans who participated—you were simply sensational.
As I’ve mentioned in a previous Morton’s blog, my son Peter was born deaf. My wife, Mari, and I have deafness throughout our families and have grown up within the deaf community, so we’re very familiar with this world. So when Peter was 11 months old, after much consternation and fact finding, Mari and I made the decision (controversial, even within our own family, at the time) for Peter to receive the Cochlear implant. (This story is thoroughly explored in “Sound and Fury,” a documentary that was nominated for an Academy Award more than a decade ago.)
Fast forward 12 years, and giving our son the gift of hearing has been the best decision of our lives. He’s 13 now, a truly amazing young man who thrives in just about everything that he does, and he has a fantastic future ahead of him. This past June, I had the honor of serving as the Keynote Speaker for the HLAA’s national convention, and I’ve come to know the great folks who work so diligently at HLAA to create awareness for those afflicted with hearing loss. The Walk4Hearing event has become a great platform for spreading the word, and it raises more than $1.2 million annually across the country.
From my personal perspective, when it comes to charitable efforts and fund raising for important causes, it never ceases to amaze me how our staff at Morton’s The Steakhouse, both in the restaurants and at the Restaurant Support Center (RSC) in Chicago, steps up and rises to the occasion. Talk about passion for getting on board and helping our cause! We started with a bake sale at the RSC that raised almost $1,000, and beyond our own expectations, our Morton’s team raised more than $25,000 for Walk4Hearing. At Saturday’s walk, we had over 100 participants on our Morton’s team alone, and our Morton’s guests and business partners also contributed to our fund raising efforts. WOW! I am truly humbled and so thankful for everyone who participated either in person or in spirit, and for that, my wife Mari and I (and our son Peter) are really touched by the outpouring of support for a cause that means so much to us.
Thank you all for making this past Saturday a huge success! It was fun morning with family and friends, and for the Artinian family, it was also filled with emotion and appreciation. I am already looking forward to serving as the 2012 Chicago Walk4Hearing Business Chair. We’ve thrown down the gauntlet and are fully committed to raising the expectations for fund raising for next year’s event!
I feel so fortunate to be able to give back to a community that has done so much for us. The HLAA does such meaningful work throughout the country…so please visit their website and get involved in your own communities to help them gain awareness and support.
A Memorable Day and Night Out with NFL icon Dexter Manley, PGA TOUR’s Charley Hoffman and Houston Texans’ Owen Daniels!0
Power Lunching with a Legend: Dexter Manley
At Morton’s we call the series “Lunch with a Legend,” but Monday’s event in downtown DC was a pep rally of the finest sort. The rivalry between the Washington Redskins and the Dallas Cowboys started on October 9, 1960 and has since become the greatest rivalry in the sport – maybe even in professional sports altogether.
The excitement for this week’s game was palpable as more than 150 Redskins fans, former players, families and media flooded Morton’s dining room for a live broadcast of ESPN980’s “The Sports Fix,” with hosts Kevin Sheehan and Thom Loverro. The sold out crowd donned jerseys from over the years, a majority sporting #72, the number worn by the day’s honoree, former Defensive End Dexter Manley .
Raucous applause erupted at mention of Manley’s legendary 66 sacks from 1982-1986 and his two Super Bowl rings. Former teammate Offensive Lineman George Starke arrived a few minutes late, but not without notice. Both men circled the room at commercial breaks taking photos with guests, signing autographs, and strategizing with fans how the Redskins defense could attack the injured Tony Romo.
In the end, the Cowboys prevailed in the final minutes of the game bringing the team’s record to 61-38-2 against the Redskins. The history won’t matter though. Like the classic American steakhouse, this legendary American tradition is here to stay.
Read all about it! Dexter Manley Lunch with a Legend media coverage included Washington Examiner.
Reported by Anthony Hesselius, Linda Roth Associates, Inc.
Morton’s The Steakhouse Scores a Hole-in-One With PGA TOUR Pro Charley Hoffman
The young guns of the golf world took over Morton’s The Steakhouse Las Vegas as UNLV Alumnus Charley Hoffman and 10 of his friends dropped their 7-irons to serve more than 160 guests. The guest servers who kept every wine glass filled and delivered hot entrees to the guests were Chris Riley, Bill Lunde, John Mallinger, Dean Wilson, Billy Horschel, Andres Gonzales, Ricky Barnes, D.J. Trahan, Chez Reavie and Troy Matteson.
The evening benefited the Charley Hoffman Foundation, which donated $18,000 each to five Las Vegas children’s charities – Goodie Two Shoes, Blessings in a Backpack, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and Zelzah Shriners Transportation Fund. All-in-all, more than $90,000 was raised over the course of the day!
The Celebrity Server Event was the conclusion of a golf-filled day as Charley Hoffman hosted his annual Pro-Am at TPC Summerlin. Pro-Am participants, golf enthusiasts and Morton’s regulars filled the dining room with a high-energy atmosphere. Comedian George Lopez and baseball great Greg Maddux came to Morton’s as well and each won a live auction item! Maddux even donated an autographed baseball glove and baseball to the evening’s silent auction.
Morton’s first-ever Celebrity Server Event in Las Vegas was a tremendous success. A great deal of money was raised for charity, everyone in attendance enjoyed themselves and, most importantly, no plates were dropped by the guest servers!
Reported by Stephen Miller, Preferred Public Relations
OH, WHAT A NIGHT! 2nd Annual Owen Daniels Celebrity Server Event Scores Big
Cameras, lights, football stars and fans packed Morton’s the Steakhouse Houston Galleria the evening of September 26 for the 2nd Annual Owen Daniels Celebrity Server Dinner. The event sold out ten days prior and the 185 guests were ready to party and party they did. Beginning at 7 pm, Bar 12.21 was packed with guests shopping the silent action items, sampling the bar bites and ready for the action to start.
Houston Texans Tight End Owen Daniels called in the big hitters from the team to help with the fun and activities as Andre Johnson, Arian Foster, James Casey, Chris Myers, J.J. Watt, Shaun Cody, DeMeco Ryans, David Anderson, Steve Slaton, Garrett Graham and Brian Cushing demonstrated their waiter skills throughout the evening. Autographs were the number one request but players were busy refilling water glasses, serving wine, offering dressing for salads and being great sports.
The guests enjoyed a four course Morton’s dinner, silent auction, live auction including two trips to Cabo and opened their hearts and their wallets to help The Owen Daniels Catch a Dream Foundation. Highlights of the evening included the Texans players getting their waiter instructions from the Morton’s team and the live auction with Arian Foster, David Anderson and Shaun Cody demonstrating their auctioneer skills to the joy of the crowd. The big auction items were a Texans autographed 3 liter Monte Bello Red Blend bottle of wine being sold for $5,600 and the two trips to Cabo being sold for $15,000 each, all of which will benefit the Owen Daniels Catch a Dream Foundation.
Special news on the Morton’s Celebrity Server Dinners from Roger Drake, Morton’s Senior Vice President, Marketing and Communications; “With two celebrity server events last night – one in Houston with Owen Daniels, and one in Las Vegas with Charley Hoffman and his PGA TOUR friends, Morton’s expects to exceed the $2 million dollar mark in proceeds raised over the past two years. Morton’s is proud to partner with stellar athletes and committed humanitarians such as Owen Daniels, who is truly focused on helping kids in Houston with his Catch a Dream Foundation work.”
Oh, what a night in Houston. Everyone went home with stories to tell, memories to cherish and knowing that they helped a great cause with Owen Daniels and the Catch a Dream Foundation.
Reported by Joe Pogge, Strike Marketing
Last week I wrote to you aboard Azamara’s Journey, the ship for “Morton’s Wine Cruise.” But today, I’m writing to you from my home. Indeed, reality has hit me hard after an incredible journey through the Italian and French Riviera.
For today’s “Wine Wednesday,” I wanted to pick up where I left off with last week’s blog. After our excursions in Italy, we continued on to France where we were, once again, greeted with great wines and great hospitality. Last Wednesday, we spent an amazing (albeit long) day in the Northern Rhône, which started with a three-hour bus ride from Marseille to the town of Tain Hermitage. There, we where treated to a tasting at the famed Chapoutier Winery and had lunch that included a regional specialty…the “throat of the pig,” as explained by the chef. It paired amazingly well with the Chapouitier wines.
We then went to the town of Cornas to meet Mr. Jean Luc Colombo, a Rhône-based winemaker, who had trucks lined up to take us through his vineyards, which reminded me of the wineries in Germany on the Rhine. What was stunning to me was the steepness of the grade…the vineyards are impossible to pick by machine. I also noticed there was never any equipment in the field for watering the vines. As Mr. Colombo eloquently explained, “We never give our vines more or less water than what nature gives us. If you do, then there is no difference in the vintage from one year to the next.” This struck me because most of the new world wines use water if it’s a hot or dry season, and it is true that most new world vintages blend together because of this. One point for the French!
After walking the vineyards and getting a workout, we arrived at his home on top of the hill…where he not only treated us to dinner but cooked it himself over an open fire. His family and friends from the neighborhood helped with everything, and we even had a visitor from the famous Valrhona Chocolate house (which is in the Rhône) there to pour chocolate over a fresh, locally-baked sweet bread made with orange water. If you couldn’t finish dinner, you had his three Golden Retrievers with their heads on the table looking for a morsel. It was amazing!
During our three-hour drive back to the ship after dinner, we where treated to a French radio station that featured American R&B songs sung by French artists. We danced in the aisles of our bus to “Respect” in French…then most fell asleep.
The next day, we arrived in Sanary Sur Mer and took a short ride to Aix en Provence. We were greeted at Chateau Calissanne with the “red carpet treatment,” where we were met by the owner, Sophie Kessler-Matiere. She entertained us by putting us in trucks and taking us up the steep hillsides in Aix de Provence. There where old Roman ruins, eagles nests and plentiful herbs in the making among the brush. The white wines where mostly Vermentino (Rolle) and Marsanne. The reds where mostly Mouvedre, Syrah and Grenache. One of the cool things I learned about the area was that it’s where the limestone was cut for our own Statue of Liberty!
We also had a chance to visit Chateau d’Esclans in Provence and were greeted by head winemaker Patrick Leon (some of you may already know that he, along with Tim Mondavi of Continuum Estate, made the first 20 vintages of Opus One. He now owns vineyards in Bordeaux but consults and makes wines for Sacha Lichine.) D’Esclans is a name for the area where the vineyards are located and is simply translated to “Area of Clans.” A lot of clans and tribes settled there throughout the years, and the name d’Eclans is on many wine labels from that area (much like the word Napa).
The winemaking we saw was state-of-the-art, and it was the first time I had seen the use of an electronic grape sorter. Instead of having people hand sort grapes all day (and sometimes all night), this machine uses an electric eye. The winemakers input the exact color and size of the grape they want and the machine de-stems them, rolls them like eggs into a tray, and then the eye assesses the grapes. If they are not perfect, a puff of air pushes them out of their slot and into the discard pile. It was absolutely amazing and replaced the work of about 12 people (an approximate savings of $250,000!). The wines of Chateau d’Esclans are all about Roses . They make the best Rose in the world, in this man’s opinion, and are the only ones to offer single vineyard expressions such as “Garrus.” (We carry their estate Rose on our Sommelier Selection list at Morton’s.)
After our tour of their facilities, Patrick Leon was also nice enough to come back to our ship that evening and give us a trip through a Bordeaux Wine Dinner, for which he found some amazing gems!
It was an incredible finish to an incredible journey. While I was sad to leave some of the most beautiful areas in Europe and our group of dynamic guests, I was so appreciative to have had this intimate experience at world-renowned wineries throughout the Italian and French Riviera. And after a few more weeks of having to deal with this harsh reality, I’ll be able to pack my bags to host our next excursion…”Morton’s Wine Flight” to Napa Valley, CA!
I’m lucky enough to be aboard the maiden “Morton’s Wine Cruise” with some incredible guests. I’ve previously hosted groups on our “Wine Flights” out to Napa Valley and Willamette Wine Country in Oregon, but this voyage is all things French and Italian. So I wanted to share some experiences from this trip for today’s “Wine Wednesday.”
In every port, winemakers either come onboard our Azamara cruise ship and spend time with our group, or we leave the ship and go to them! We began on our ship in Nice and enjoyed the wines of Maison Louis Jadot, including samples of their Grand Cru Pinot Noirs from their incredible portfolio. We then disembarked in Portofino and were hosted by Anna Abonna, owner of Marchesi de Barolo, at a local restaurant. We tasted through a single vineyard Barbera called Ravera and then onto Single Vineyard Barolos. At the end of the meal, we where serenaded by the staff–all of whom are siblings. There was not a dry eye in the house! It is becoming even more clear that wine and food is directly linked to family and friends in this part of the world.
Later that evening, we continued our journey with more Barolos from the famed vineyards of Gaja. We also tasted his chardonnay from Langhe and C’Armancada reds that use Bordeaux varietals to make their Super Tuscans. The “Magari” that we tasted was a blend of 50% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon and 25% Cabernet Franc. We then went on to taste his single vineyard Barbaresco “Sori-Tilden”. (The 1990 vintage earned 100 points from Wine Spectator!)
Today we have a three hour journey from Marseilles to Tain Hermitage to taste Syrah in the Rhone Valley. Almost sounds a little too good to be true, doesn’t it?!? I will share more accounts from our excursion through the Italian and French Riviera when our trip comes to an end later this week. In the meantime…Salut!
We never take for granted that there are a lot of steakhouse options from which to choose. So when a guest chooses Morton’s, we strive to exceed their expectations and make them feel like the most important person in the restaurant. When we get guest feedback that recognizes our pursuit of warm, genuine hospitality, it tells me that our efforts are paying off. But our work is never done, and each day brings with it countless new opportunities to “wow” our guests and make them feel at home in our restaurants.
I wanted to share some excerpts from recent guest feedback…each one telling a different story, and each one equally important.
“Incredible. One of the best places in Brooklyn. We were coming from Fort Greene and couldn’t figure out the location, having passed it so many times coming off the Bridge. Called and spoke with the hostess while we were in a car service – she had the manager take the call. He explained to my husband to get out of the car, because walking to the restaurant would be easier. Guess what? He met us a few blocks down to show us the way! I cannot get over the great customer service, incredible food, great waiter…the overall experience was terrific.”
“I’m not a letter writer, but I want to share this with you. I have spent a lot of time in Detroit lately on business and frequent your Troy location for dinners. I grabbed a cab and went over to Morton’s on my way to the airport. After a great dinner, I called for a cab while I finished my wine. After a half hour or so, still no cab. The bartender calls the cab company and he’s told it will be 15 more minutes. I have a 7:50pm flight to Los Angeles and its 6:15pm. It’s an hour drive to the airport, I figured 6:30pm would be cutting it close, but we all thought I’d make it. So 6:30pm came and went, still no cab. So your staff began calling any car service they knew of for me. My anxiety grew as I had to be at a job at 7am the next morning in LA, and my 7:50pm flight was the last one out of Detroit. After 10 more minutes and no luck, I figured I was really in trouble. About that time, a gentleman walked up and introduced himself as Gray Jackson, the regional director of operations. He grabbed my bag and said he was taking me to the airport. He got me there at 7:43pm, and I got to the plane as they were closing the door. I can’t stress enough the fall-out for me if I had missed that flight and not been on that job the next morning. You have spectacular employees. As a business owner myself, I truly realize how important that is.”
“My husband and I passed the dessert cart on our way out of Morton’s in Jacksonville, simultaneously remarking we each regretted not having one. The General Manager was standing nearby and overheard our conversation. He asked us to wait while he went to the kitchen. He returned with a complimentary chocolate cake to go! What an incredibly simple yet significant act of customer service. I take that back; it was beyond customer service – it was first class.”
“I have to give outstanding compliments to the chef at White Plains, NY. I am not your ‘stereotypical’ fine dining customer, but I went with several people from work. I enjoy my steak well-done and smothered in barbecue sauce and pepper. I was slightly dismayed to discover that is not how one eats that kind of steak, but I asked for some anyway. Our waiter then spoke with the chef, and he agreed to make me some barbecue sauce. (Much to the chagrin of the others in my party, who thought I was nuts for befouling a piece of meat like that). I must say the chef made THE best barbecue sauce for me; if it were bottled and sold I would buy it exclusively. Even the others accompanying me tried some and all agreed it was fantastic and concurred with my sentiments. I just wanted to take the time to praise the Chef and waiter who made that possible.”
“Our family entered Morton’s in Sacramento to have a late lunch. Upon entering we were informed by one of the staff that the restaurant was not open for service. A few minutes later we were greeted by the General Manager, Neil Swinney, who warmly welcomed us. He graciously offered us appetizers and we smacked our lips the entire time while conversing and laughing with Neil and his staff. We received “first-class” customer service and even though we were the only ones in the restaurant. We felt welcomed and most importantly, not a burden. Mr. Swinney demonstrated genuine interest and concern in us that is truly rare these days.”
“Over the past few years, I’ve developed an affinity for Morton’s steakhouses, and if I’m doing business in a city which has one, I’ll try to schedule a dinner there if I can. I’m a frequent diner, and Morton’s knows it. They have a spectacular Customer Relations Management system in place, as well as a spectacular social media team, and they know when I call from my mobile number who I am, and that I eat at their restaurants regularly. As we were about to take off [on my flight], I jokingly tweeted the following: Hey, @Mortons – can you meet me at newark airport with a porterhouse when I land in two hours? K, thanks. Walking off the plane, I headed towards the area where the drivers wait. Looking for my driver, I saw my name and started walking to the door. “Um, Mr. Shankman,” he said, “there’s a surprise for you here.” I turned to see that the driver was standing next to someone else…then I noticed the “someone else” was in a tuxedo. And he was carrying a Morton’s bag. Alex, from Morton’s Hackensack walks up to me, introduces himself, and hands me a bag. He proceeds to tell me that he’d heard I was hungry, and inside is a 24 oz. Porterhouse steak, an order of Colossal Shrimp, a side of potatoes, one of Morton’s famous round things of bread, two napkins, and silverware. He hands me the bag. I. Was. Floored.” (Click here to read this story in its entirety)
Should we have the honor as being your chosen steakhouse, it would be our pleasure to make your next special occasion, or just a “regular” night out, one to remember. And if you would ever like to share your experience at Morton’s, good or bad, please give us your feedback. Visit our Facebook page to post a comment or check out what our guests are saying.
We look forward to hosting you or hearing from you soon!