How to Feed Friends and Influence People: The Carnegie Deli: A Giant Sandwich, a Little Deli, a Huge Success


Once upon a time long ago, there were hundreds of delicatessens mostly, but not exclusively, of the Jewish persuasion, on almost every other block in Manhattan. But slowly, with changes stemming from the migration to the suburbs in the 1950s, the old Jewish neighborhoods in Manhattan vanished like the dinosaur. Statistics indicate that in 1950, there were more than three hundred Jewish-type delis in Manhattan, and today, the number is not more than ten, with only four doing 95% of the volume. In Darwinian terms, ...

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Once upon a time long ago, there were hundreds of delicatessens mostly, but not exclusively, of the Jewish persuasion, on almost every other block in Manhattan. But slowly, with changes stemming from the migration to the suburbs in the 1950s, the old Jewish neighborhoods in Manhattan vanished like the dinosaur. Statistics indicate that in 1950, there were more than three hundred Jewish-type delis in Manhattan, and today, the number is not more than ten, with only four doing 95% of the volume. In Darwinian terms, one of these three hundred old time delis (really, nothing more than a small, inconspicuous forty seat restaurant), managed to avoid extinction and survive to the present day by a rave review from Mimi Sheraton in New York Magazine and, a few years after, a serendipitous sandwich mutation: The Carnegie Deli. What started as a mistake, a byproduct of boredom, the "gargantuan" or giant sandwich launched The Carnegie Deli. How to Feed Friends and Influence People will tell the funny and interesting saga of a small deli that has become a legend in its own right, a destination that more than 200,000 people flock to from all over the world. How to Feed Friends and Influence People will be a breezy and factually anecdotal book mainly but not exclusively about business: A family-owned business. A world-renowned restaurant. A business that owns a unique niche. A business that promotes employees only from within and rarely hires from the outside. A business whose employees are trained to multi-task in case of absences or vacations. A business that neither advertises nor promotes. A business with a profitable wholesale operation, which charges the same price for one item ordered or one hundred. A business that once listened to the MBAs and franchised its operation in the United States with disastrous results. Above all, it will be an interesting and funny book that tells the story of the little deli and the raving fans th

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Milton Parker has written a book called How to Feed Friends and Influence People: The Carnegie Deli (with co-author Allyn Freeman), but if you've heard of him, that wouldn't be why. Parker is the owner of New York's Carnegie Deli.
Founded in 1937, it was not by any means the first U.S. deli — yet it remains the most famous.
This was the favorite hangout of one-liner king Henny Youngman, and the deli is immortalized in comedian Adam Sandler's Hanukkah Song in the mid-1990s.
And what's the secret to this fame? Simple: At the Carnegie Deli, you can buy a big sandwich with good meat served by a happy staff.
Half of the 10 business practices that Parker says he follows are devoted to keeping the staff happy:
• Create a family atmosphere.
• Promote from within.
• Have an open ear to staff (and customer) comments.
• Management is always responsible.
• Have fun working.
Parker, owner since 1976, claims that the success of these values is shown by the fact that many of the deli staff have been gladly working there for over 15 years.
Aside from a belief in owning the premises, the rest of Parker's business philosophy is mostly about making a big, quality sandwich.
Parker shares some of his troubles. The Beverly Hills Carnegie Deli opened in 1989 with more fanfare than any deli opening had ever received, but it could not overcome negative reviews of both food and staff. Five years later, it closed.
Parker tells the tale of New York's blackout of August 2003 and how Sandy Levine, the deli's "MBD" (which stands for "Married Boss's Daughter"), managed to keep the Carnegie Deli open and serving food all evening long.
The entertainment value of these vignettes is marred only by the fact that they are not always presented in chronological order.
Thankfully, the historical notes are interspersed with information. Tiny biographies offer a look at the waitresses or countermen. A chart of deli slang teaches that "pistol" is pastrami; "whiskey" is rye bread. Digressions into the histories of foods include where pastrami comes from, how it was named and how the Carnegie Deli prepares it.
Reading about all this food no doubt will arouse the appetite, so recipes are included, too. Cooks will enjoy having the Carnegie Deli's recipes for everything from cheese blintzes to matzo ball soup to beef brisket.
And for dessert, the book offers up cheesecake.
The last page of the book is a cutout coupon for a free slice of cheesecake at the Carnegie Deli.
Milton Parker has proved that in addition to making a very enjoyable sandwich, he can write an enjoyable book. (USA Today, January 31, 2005)

Sadly, of the hundreds of Jewish delicatessens that once fed hungry New Yorkers, only a handful are still around. In "How to Feed Friends and Influence People" (Wiley, $12.95), Milton Parker, owner of the Carnegie Deli, reveals the story of this famous institution. You'll learn Parker's philosophy and how he built the deli into such a success: Keep it simple, he says, make everything yourself, don't be greedy, and "do one thing and do it better than anyone else."
The book traces the history of the Carnegie Deli from its days as a modest 92-seat restaurant that was founded in 1937 up to the present, where it enjoys the status of a nationally recognized, prominent delicatessen. There's an interesting chronology of Jewish (or deli) food in the U.S., dating from the introduction of Dr. Brown's Cel-Ray Tonic in New York in 1869 right through the founding of H&H Bagels in 1972.
Although not primarily a cookbook, this slim volume offers some excellent recipes for dishes like corned beef hash, beef flanken, cheesecake and noodle pudding with apples.
There's plenty of lore about quintessential deli foods like tongue, pastrami, brisket and corned beef, with tips on how to order them when you eat out. All in all, Parker's book makes for a good read and may inspire you to try your hand at making some Jewish deli food. (Daily News, January 12, 2005)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780471680567
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 12/28/2004
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 192
  • Product dimensions: 5.74 (w) x 8.74 (h) x 0.29 (d)

Meet the Author

MILTON PARKER was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1919. He cofounded the Carnegie Deli with Leo Steiner in 1978 and became sole owner in 1988.

ALLYN FREEMAN is a writer whose credits include television episodes of M*A*S*H and Hart to Hart. He holds an MBA from Columbia University Business School.

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Read an Excerpt

How to Feed Friends and Influence People

By Milton Parker

John Wiley & Sons

ISBN: 0-471-68056-7

Chapter One



The Carnegie Deli has become a successful commercial enterprise because it has operated on sound business principles. Today, it is an internationally recognized brand known to both New Yorkers and tourists as a must stop.

In 1937, the deli embarked on a 67-year journey to progress from a modest 92-seat restaurant to a national award-winning delicatessen. It has been featured prominently and often on the Food Channel cable network, television shows, and also in domestic and foreign magazines and newspapers. When the media want to wax nostalgic about delicatessen food, the Carnegie Deli always comes to mind.

Leo Steiner and Milton Parker, the partners responsible for the restaurant's success, had no million-dollar revenue stars in their eyes. Their initial goal was simple: to make a decent profit at the end of the day. Parker has said, "If we were left with more cash at the end of the week, we considered the deli a success."

Of the more than 300 New York-area delis in 1976, when the Carnegie changed hands, only 30 exist today because dining tastes changed over time. In addition, a delicatessen, if run correctly (like the Carnegie), is a 22 1/2-hours-a-day, hands-on operation. Few new restaurateurs have elected to make delicatessen work their life's profession.

Carnegie Deli: Business 101

What business guidelines has the deli employed over these many years? What are the keys to its commercial success? Why did it survive when so many other famous New York City delicatessens (e.g., The Madison Avenue Deli, Wolfs on West 57th Street) faded into obscurity?

At the outset, the Carnegie Deli-a multimillion-dollar operation-has no thick book that contains a Mission Statement or an elaborate, numbers-driven business plan. Current management never speaks of "company culture" or "core competency." The deli sticks to basic business principles.

It follows 10 straightforward business practices:

1. Keep it simple. The Carnegie Deli's product is delicatessen food and only deli food.

2. Do one thing better than anyone else. Customers have a choice where to eat deli in New York City, so the Carnegie consistently succeeds in serving a higher-quality, better-tasting, and larger-portion product than any other competitor. 3. Create a family atmosphere among the staff. Time and time again, the staff, many who have been working at the Carnegie for 15 years or more, use the phrase, "We're family here."

4. Promote from within. The deli grooms people to fill the slots when workers retire. The upper, supervisory levels of the staff (cooks, countermen, servers) started out at the lowest rank.

5. Have an open ear to staff and customer comments. At the deli or at the commissary, senior management are constantly asking customers and wholesale clients about quality. In addition, the staff know they can discuss matters with management in an open and free exchange.

6. Make it yourself. The Carnegie commissary cures, pickles, and smokes its own fresh meats and bakes its pastries daily. The deli also purchases only high-quality fresh bread, pickles, and so on, from leading suppliers.

7. Own the premises. The Carnegie owns the building on Seventh Avenue and the 22,000-square-foot commissary in New Jersey.

8. Management is always responsible. There's no finger-pointing. If something goes wrong or is mishandled, management is at fault.

9. Do not be greedy. The Carnegie Deli could license its name for similar products that could be made by other food companies. But the Carnegie insists that only products made in its own commissary will be sold at retail or wholesale. 10. Have fun working. The staff at the deli and at the commissary enjoys coming to work. They're happy to be part of the Carnegie Deli family.

There are many business decisions-most profitable, others less so-that contributed to the Carnegie's success. Attempts to open branches in other cities have failed. The original commissary in downtown Manhattan (a leased arrangement that supplied only the deli) eventually became a Carnegie Deli-owned, 22,000-square-foot plant that now accommodates all of the wholesale and retail demands.

The growth of the Carnegie Deli is a Cinderella business story, starting out as a plain, nondescript, hole-in-thewall restaurant and emerging as the delicatessen of choice for presidents, celebrities, one sultan, and, most importantly and profitably, the world's delicatessen eating public.

The first Carnegie Deli opened in 1937 in a small interior space. It started without pretensions, just another deli in the West Fifties, an area made more famous by the 1931 construction of Rockefeller Center (not completed until 1940). The sprawling office, retail, and cultural complex changed forever the dowdy tenement look of the area.

There are many famous restaurants in the United States, but there is only one Carnegie Deli. This book narrates its marvelous tale.

1937: The Opening

The location: 854 Seventh Avenue near West 55th Street in Manhattan. In 1937, the building code for the area changed to permit retail establishments at street level in former residential buildings. Soon after, Seventh Avenue south of West 57th Street started to attract more retail stores.

The event: Izzie and Ida Orgel opened a 40-seat restaurant, which they named the Carnegie Deli because of its proximity to Carnegie Hall. In those days, it was typical for Manhattan retail establishments to name themselves after nearby landmarks. Today, Milton Parker jokes, saying, "They named a world famous concert hall after us."

The restaurant featured a small kitchen and a dining room counter for making sandwiches. The cuisine consisted of Eastern European/Jewish deli food: cured meat sandwiches, hot brisket or flanken, chicken in the pot, chopped liver, matzoh ball soup, and apple strudel or rice pudding for dessert. Sandwiches were 50 cents.

Seven blocks downtown on West 48th Street and one west on Broadway, another 40-seat restaurant opened in 1937. It was called the Stage Delicatessen because of its proximity to the Broadway theaters.

The original clientele at the Carnegie Deli consisted of local residents and musicians and performers at Carnegie Hall who dined before or after practice, or for dinner before a concert. Since many of the customers were European, it was a treat to have familiar deli cuisine near the great hall.

No one on March 11, 1937, regarded the opening of this delicatessen as a memorable date in the history of New York City. It was just another deli, one of hundreds in the five boroughs of New York.

1942 to 1976: Carnegie Max Hudes

In 1942, the Orgel family sold the Carnegie Deli to Max Hudes, who had operated a takeout-only delicatessen at Broadway and West 103rd Street. He wanted a sit-down delicatessen and was attracted by the Carnegie's midtown location.

In the 1950s, the major TV studios and sound stages were a few blocks downtown in Manhattan's West Fifties. Many show business performers, pals of Max's from his boyhood growing up in the Bronx, would come over from the Ed Sullivan, Sid Caesar, and Jackie Gleason shows.

To promote the deli, Hudes relied on radio advertising. Some old-timers can still remember the commercials on Long John Nebel's program, touting the great food. Some remember the matchbooks with the caricature of "Carnegie Max."

The Carnegie had to respond to the competition from the Stage Deli, which had moved uptown, to Seventh Avenue and West 54th Street, in 1942. The Stage was run by the legendary Max Asnas, who made his place the spot for showbiz and sports celebrities.

In the 1960s, the Carnegie catered the Sunday morning dress rehearsals of the British rock invasion. Max's son Herbert can remember taking coffee, bagels, and Danish to the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. The bands stayed at hotels in the area and would come into the Carnegie after their performances.

By 1976, Max Hudes and his two partners had aged. They had tried for two years to sell the delicatessen and the building but without success. They asked some restaurant brokers to help find new ownership. After 34 years operating the second incarnation of the Carnegie Deli, it was time for new ownership and new directions.

1976: The Deli House that Leo and Milton Built

In December 1976, the new owners' primary goal was to generate more business. The revenues had fallen off significantly during the two years that the Carnegie had been up for sale.

The plan was to offer the same deli fare as the then more famous Stage Deli, a block south on the same, west side of Seventh Avenue. But there were two notable exceptions: the Carnegie Deli would hand cure its three top-selling sandwich meats-pastrami, corned beef, and tongue-and not buy wholesale like the Stage; and the Carnegie would not compete with the Stage's famous show business-named sandwiches.

"We'll keep it simple," said Leo Steiner to Milton Parker.

"That's okay with me," replied Parker.

Steiner hired his brother Sam to begin curing meats in the basement with a hand-pumped brine machine. This was a labor-intensive method for injecting a secret pickling solution (to tenderize the meat). The meats were left to cure and pickle for 7 to 10 days to produce the distinctive flavor. After pickling, the meats were boiled for up to three hours and then brought directly to the counter for steaming. Afterward, they were sliced hot onto bread and then served to the customers.

Milton Parker made a mental note that when business improved, he would change the old Carnegie Deli's blinking neon sign with its pale yellow background. It looked like an old style neon sign from the 1930s era of Times Square.

Years came and went, but the sign never changed. Today, it is a nostalgic reminder of the old days, one of the last blinking neon signs in Manhattan.

Over the next 28 years, the pale yellow backdrop and the scripted sign would welcome millions of diners. But on that December day in 1976, the owners had no knowledge of what the future of the Carnegie Deli would be.

They only knew it was time to go to work.

1979: You're the Tops!

On March 2, 1979, readers of the New York Times Friday Weekend section were at first surprised and then captivated by a six-column article spreading across page C16. It was a review written by Mimi Sheraton, the dean of New York City's influential newspaper and magazine food critics. The headline grabbed everyone's attention: "Where to Eat the Best Pastrami and Corned Beef in Town."

The article, almost as lengthy as but more gripping than a short story, captured readers' attention the way no other food critic's column had ever done before or would ever do again. The reason was evident: The food mentioned, the food being rated, the prizes being awarded were not to fancy restaurants serving haute or nouvelle cuisine. Sheraton had not graded the best foie gras, the tastiest risotto Milanese, or the most delicious white truffles. She had rated the most democratic of New York City restaurant favorites: delicatessen pastrami and corned beef.

New Yorkers prided themselves on their deli experiences and were often competitive when declaring their earliest deli meals:

"I was nine months old when I ate in a deli."

"Oh, yeah. I was conceived minutes after my parents left the deli."

"Big deal. I was born on the floor of a deli."

In discussions of cured meats in this town, everyone had an opinion, and everyone had a favorite deli. And who, New Yorkers wondered as they scanned the headline in the Times, had been named the town's pastrami and corned beef winners? Which of the 16 Metropolitan New York delis rated were the champs or the chumps?

Sheraton had eschewed the paper's four-star, best-place ranking for a more down-to-earth best rating called simply, "The Tops." Three delicatessens were cited in this top-of-the-line category.

The Pastrami King was located in Kew Gardens, Queens, which to Manhattanites could have been Podunk or Pawtucket it was so far away. The second deli was in Manhattan, Bernstein's-on-Essex Street. This was the legendary Lower East Side restaurant that served a combination of delicatessen and kosher Chinese food. Here, the waiters wore tasseled Chinese skullcaps or yarmulkes. But Essex Street was on the Lower East Side in a part of the city most people had forgotten about. And the odd mishmash of kosher and Chinese did not say "all deli all the time."

The third of the "Tops" turned out to be a revelation for deli-discriminating Manhattan tastes. It was the known, but unknown, Carnegie Deli on Seventh Avenue, located in the heart of upper midtown. It had always been referred to as the "other" deli, the one up the street from the Stage.

In the true meaning of the quintessential New York second, at 11 A.M. the Carnegie, a restaurant that had been revitalized by its new owners two years earlier with no notice taken by the deli-eating public, witnessed its first-ever line of people clamoring to get in. As the day continued, the line grew and grew and grew as New Yorkers, many clutching the Times article in their hands, awaited their turn to taste (and to judge, of course) the cured meats, but especially the pastrami.

On that Friday, March 2, 1979, the world of the Carnegie Deli changed in dramatic and astonishing ways its two owners could never have imagined. It was like a Times theater critic giving a rave review to a Broadway show. There was one substantial difference, though. Not everyone attended the theater, but everyone ate and loved deli.

An actress-turned-professor from Chicago who remembered the review said, "It was the classic theatrical tale of the unknown chorus girl stepping out of the back line to take over the star's role and receive a standing ovation."

Twenty-five years later, that initial magnificent review continues to inspire the Carnegie Deli. The lines that formed on that Friday in 1979 still form every day, and the cured meats remain the best tasting.

Bernstein's-on-Essex closed in 1988, and by 2004 the Pastrami King was only a memory in Queens. This left the Carnegie Deli as the last of the three fabulous "Tops."

Mimi Sheraton and the New York Times

Turn back the clock to 1979. The New York Times was one of the few serious local guides to dining spots in the city. Starting in 1957, when Craig Claiborne realized a lifelong ambition to become the Times restaurant critic, the newspaper treated dining and new restaurants with almost the same importance as the openings of Broadway shows. The city's middle and higher income classes, who dined out often and well, considered the newspaper's one- to four-star review as the definitive restaurant guide.

In 1976, Brooklyn-born Mimi Sheraton assumed the stewardship of the Times food and restaurant column. She was the daughter of a commission merchant in a wholesale produce market and of a mother who was an excellent cook.

From the outset, as Sheraton demonstrated an openness to taste all types of foods, she attracted readers to her Friday Weekend column. She expanded the scope of her restaurant reporting, going beyond reviewing only fancy European dining spots. She always visited a restaurant incognito, and at least three times to ensure that a hit or miss was not based on one good or one bad dining experience.

Most of her reviews-using the same four-star system-rated multinational cuisines or smaller restaurants. For Sheraton, the how and why of preparation remained vital, whether she was eating the food of a French chef with a Cordon Bleu degree or of a cook from Sicily, serving up his island's peasant fare.

Her egalitarian approach resulted in reviews of many cuisines in every section of Manhattan, and in the four outer boroughs-an innovative attitude at the time. If a Moldavian bistro opened in Forest Hills, Queens, or a Tasmanian eating place opened in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Sheraton would dine there many times to rate it. In the past, she had reviewed New York's Chinese restaurants that served kosher food and the kitschy Sammy's Roumanian Steakhouse on the Lower East Side.


Excerpted from How to Feed Friends and Influence People by Milton Parker Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents




Carnegie Deli: Business 101.

A Chronology of Jewish or Deli Food in the USA.

1937: The Opening.

1942 to 1976: Carnegie Max Hudes.

1976: The Deli House That Leo and Milton Built.

1979: You’re the Tops!

1983: Broadway Danny Rose.

1983: Deli Williamsburg Bridge.

1986: One Order, Cash to Go.

1986: Statue of Chopped Liver-Ty.

1987: Yes, Virginia, There Is a Carnegie Deli.



Take Over the Carnegie.

The Arnold’s Bread Commercial.

“Plain and Simply Wonderful”.

Have a Nice Sandwich.


Exit Leo.

The Deli Food Quiz.

Appetizers, Side Dishes, and Sauces.

Chopped Liver.

Kasha Varnishkas.

Barley Soup.

Matzoh Ball Soup.

Kreplach with Meat.




Wayne Lammers, Waiter: “The Deli Music Man”.



Leo Meets Milton.

Pressing the Partnership.

Parker Pens His Own Name.

Handling the Deli Crowd.

The Smart Moves.

Other Carnegie Delis in the Country.

Still Going Strong.

Summing Up a Career.

Deli Slang.

1981: Pastrami Sandwich to the Rescue.

1988: Big Tex Meets Big Sandwich.

1988: Pastrami at Ten Paces.

1989 to 1994: Going Hollywood.

1991: Simon Says.

1999: Omaha Steaks.

2000: Hold That Line.

2001: Murder above the Deli.

2003: Light in the Darkness.

1988 to 2004: Promotions and Awards.

The Bagel.

Annie Smith, Waitress: “Attack of the Decaf Gotchas”.

Bagels, Lox, and Cream Cheese.



Come to the Carnegie.

Enter Steiner and Parker.

Celebrity Serving.

The Life of the Waiter.

Rasmee Ruenanukool, Waitress: “Lady of Smiles”.

Muriel Caraballo, Waitress: “CBS NFL Warm-Up”.

Meats of the Deli World.

Beef Flanken.

Corned Beef or Pastrami Hash.

Chicken Consommé and Chicken in the Pot.

Chicken Paprikash Casserole.

Stuffed Cabbage.

Brisket of Beef.

2004: Pickle-Eating Contest.



Bring in the Civilian.

Sandy as the Managing Director.

The Sandy System.

Media Appearances and Articles.

Mr. Personality.

He Loves the Job.



2004: The Levines’ Vacations.



Back in the United States.

Come to the Carnegie.

Jeff Can Get It for You Wholesale.

The Satisfied Executive.

Desserts of the Deli World.


Rugelach Cookies.

Noodle Pudding with Apples.

Cheese Blintzes.

Apple Strudel.

Walter Bell, Counterman: “Constructing the Big Sandwich”.

Fernando Perez, Cook: “Cooking the Carnegie Way”.




Carnegie Deli Time.

Genuine Brooklyn Egg Cream Recipe.

Susan Palmaccio, Waitress: “When She’s Smiling”.

The Delicatessen Quiz.



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