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Bill Clinton: foreign (and domestic) restaurant kingmaker

October 26, 2010 |  5:49 pm

The New York Times ran a lengthy article Monday on what it dubbed as former President Clinton's role as "foreign restaurant annointer in chief." Apparently once Clinton, who is now vegan for health reasons, eats at a restaurant, particularly one that is overseas, it receives crowds and attention in perpetuity.

As an example, the article cites a restaurant in Berlin, called Gugelhof, that hosted Clinton and then-Chancellor Gerhard Shroder in 2000. Gugelhoff still regularly receives guests from all over the world who cite the fact that Clinton ate at the restaurant (he had sauerkraut, beef, pork and potatoes) as the reason for their visit.

Another restaurant called Bukhara in New Delhi now serves a nightly special called the Bill Clinton Platter (mixed meats, lentils and oven-baked bread) because so many people routinely ask to have "what the president had" when they sit down at a table. Clinton ate at Bukhara in 2000 as well, and the restaurant says it has never publicized the fact that he ate there, that people just seem to know.

The rest of the article tries to explain why his presence at a restaurant matters so much to people and concludes that he is simply thought of as a guy with great connections and good taste in food, although a spokesman for Clinton says that the former president doesn't really give that much thought to where he eats. People just tell him where to go.

The Bill Clinton effect seems to work in the United States as well. The article doesn't talk about this, but in my hometown of Tucson, there is a small Mexican restaurant in South Tucson called Mi Nidito. Clinton ate there in 1999 and that place, which was popular to begin with, has been extra packed ever since.

-- Jessica Gelt

Photo: President Clinton joins former California Gov. Gray Davis, right, at a Mexican restaurant on Olvera Street in Los Angeles in 2003.

Credit: Alex Koester / For The Times