Sax in the City here: it’s been awhile since I thought about sharing little vignettes like I used to do. Love coming upon little street scenes that express the Metropolis so succinctly (always makes me think of Frank O’Hara)! Anyone who lives in the city knows there are endless opportunities each day to capture how life unfolds. Who else has shots to share? Tweet or Instgram them and put them in a comment so I can share them?
We at Roaming by Design have an exciting announcement to make during this incredibly energetic week in NYC. As the design world comes to the city for ICFF, we are launching our new social media consultancy, Adroyt. Our first event was last evening, when we were invited by our marketing communications friends at VP+C to join them for the grand opening of Arhaus Furniture’s first foothold in NYC last night. Arhaus adds this impressive presence to their roster of 37 other retail stores, in celebration of their remarkable 25 years in business and timed to coincide with ICFF’s design juggernaut arriving in town.. They deliver remarkable quality, value, and extraordinary variety, desporting themselves admirably with this new venture situated in the MePa district of the Big Apple.
We were met at the entrance of their dazzling 28,000 sq.ft. showroom by Michelle Shen and Josh Schoenfelder from VP+C, based in Manhattan. After passing muster (no TSA here!), we were ushered in to join nearly 600 guests, relishing the hors d’oeuvres and sipping wine or mintinis (!) as they wandered the lush displays. Anticipation was hanging in the air for the highpoint of the evening: a performance by Graham Nash and David Crosby.
We had a very interesting conversation with CIO (that’s Chief Information Officer for you non-corporate types) Ron Kerensky and his wife Kendra, about the place of social media in today’s marketing milieu. He also quoted CEO John P. Reed with reference to his conviction that “retail is theater” – presentation matters: the company employs a staff of circuit-riding designers to keep the showrooms fresh and engaging. The “theater” tag was born out dramatically at 7:30 when John Reed introduced the musical guests and Crosby Nash took the stage, to cheers and, yes, there were screams…
Tonight, winemaker Chris Millard of Napa Valley’s Newton Vineyard will be in New York to host an interactive workshop on sustainable winemaking. Also on hand will be Michael Wisner, the Snowmass, Colorado-based eco-friendly ceramicist who has joined with Newton for the winery’s third-annual Eco-Chic collaboration. Wisner will preview “The Element,” a set of clay coasters and a wine chiller created from clay he harvested in Newton’s Carneros vineyards, made exclusively for the vineyard’s Unfiltered Chardonnay, which will be available in late April. Millard will explain what distinguishes unfiltered winemaking from other methods, while Wisner will discuss his own take on sustainable artisanship.
Last Thursday evening, William and Susan Brinson invited a lucky gaggle of tweeps to their chic NYC apartment for a delectable repast. We had the pleasure of drinking the Chardonnay and I’d say it’s going to be a feather in the vineyard’s eco-chic cap. We sipped the wine as we nibbled on William’s spread of appetizers that included a sauterne and black truffle pate, speck ham, crusty French bread, pungent aged cheeses, and spiced cashews. For dinner, he and Susan served Jamie Oliver’s Pasta alla Norma. It was divine and the perfect end to our rousing tweetup at the Duravit showroom, which brought the always entertaining Philippe Starck to town to debut his shower toilet SensoWash. How do we know he’s ever the life of the party? Check out this interview, one I will personally never forget!
It was so great to see all the tweeps who rocked the #Starck4Duravit event with us. A shout out to @irwinfelddesign @nestnestnest @abcddesigns @StudioBrinson @sar_fraz @WilliamBrinson @novitapr @RobertaKLEEDAP @RachelWells @jenniferrector @apttherapy. And a hearty thanks to @NewtonVineyard for creating such a fantastic wine!
What’s chic and dynamic and fabulous all over? The three days Roaming by Design spent gallivanting around Manhattan as we made our way from our sophisticated digs at Cassa Hotel & Residences to the 10th annual Architectural Digest Home Design Show. There were furniture launches (our Blogger19 cohort Susan Serra being among the buzziest of all), tweetups (the magical Veronika Miller, @Modenus, and Troy Hanson, @troynyc, holding one that drew some topnotch Twiterrati to the Ligne Roset/Valcucine/Margaritelli/Rimadesio lounge), parties (the DIFFA Cocktails by Design being a highlight) and dinners (more tweep talent at one table than any on design junkie deserves)! Making our RBD headquarters at Cassa was a smooth move, as the amazing mid-town location meant we were at the center of everything. We had an extended-stay apartment in the sexy building designed by Enrique Norten. The luxe treatment and serene setting were just the balm for the manic schedule we maintained.
On Thursday evening, we had the pleasure of saying hello to Margaret Russell, the editor in chief of AD, at the DIFFA cocktail party, and ran into some of our favorite design elite, including Daniele Busca of Scavolini and Tamara Stephenson of NestNestNest. We then whisked away to dinner with some of our favorite friends from twitter. Carmen Natschke, The Decorating Diva, cornered the evening on photo ops, Sabrina Velandry out-ordered everyone, Cynthia Bogart, whose site The Daily Basics we love, was a surprise addition to an already amazing night! Getting to see Modenus’ UK contingent, Tim Bogan, was a blast; and we adored hanging out with Andie Day! Friday was all about the show, beginning with Modenus’ Mary’s & Mimosas Tweetup and continuing through a dizzying display of design where we bumped into the always vivacious Amy Dragoo of ABCD Designs, Cheryl Kees Clendenon, Sarah Lloyd, Marcy Feld, Catherine Avery, Chuck Wheelock and Talis Lin. Susan Serra’s Bornholm Kitchen debut drew a stellar crowd. The Scandinavian-inspired furnishings were given a fitting tagline “Warm Heart, Cool Designs,” and we salute Susan for producing such a finely-crafted collection.
Think Fabricate was also at the show with an artful line of furnishings, and our friends at Boca do Lobo brought some interesting pieces to the show once again this year. A newbie to us, perched perfectly within The Paris Apartment booth, was Munna. We couldn’t have been happier to see Aston Smith and Manhattan Center for Kitchen & Bath at the show, and Maybelline Te’s newest introductions for Snug Furniture were as exciting as ever—how she continues to push the envelope in design is beyond us!
Maybelline Te with her Woven Nest table
We were particularly fond of the MADE section of the show, where artisinal products of every stripe were showing, the array of materials included within the booths covering the spectrum. While making our way through the maze of products, we bumped into the talented duo Eric Slayton and Elena Lyakir—a pair to watch, as we are convinced their stars are on the rise. Among the offerings in MADE, Douglas Thayer’s designs in concrete & wood were standouts, as were the mod-Asian wares in Jia Moderne’s booth.
The Armory Show hit NYC last weekend and the art-haute crowd was milling around the Piers breathing in some pretty rarified air. Rich and I made our way around the Modern show seeing the work of some of the most iconic names in art history hanging on the provisional walls. New York-based Jonathan O’Hara Gallery had a booth filled with transfer drawings by Robert Rauschenberg, and I had just about given up on my game of “looking for Julian Opie” (haven’t been to an art show in years during which I wasn’t seeing his effulgent figures incessantly stepping or swaying) when we spotted a series of his works in London town’s The Alan Cristea Gallery booth (no prancing portraits this time, but an interesting series of fashionable figures).
One of my favorite galleries was in attendance, Cleveland, Ohio-based Contessa Gallery, bringing what I have come to regard as their normal high standards to the show. Chuck Close was front and center in their booth and they had a handful of excellent Andy’s (Warhol, that is). I especially liked the Pop-maestro’s graphite on hand-made paper piece depicting kicky Halston heels. A mere $450,000.00 would have allowed you to take the #FashionFriday statement home!
Contessa brought David Drebin to the fair. He’s been getting ample buzz of late and we’re betting he’s one to watch. So agrees ARTnews and the New York Daily News (just in case our word’s not enough!). Our pick from the nearly sold-out Drebin offerings? “Me & Me.” At $3,400.00, it was a steal next to the Close portrait ($120,000.00) and a 1951 oil-on-canvas Jean Dubuffet ($450,000.00). Our take on that: get him while you can! If the crew at Contessa is as right as it has been in the past (and who can argue with Close, Dubuffet and Warhol), his prices will rise with his fame. Rich will be reviewing a Vermont-based artist that caught his eye soon. In the meantime, happy Roaming art lovers everywhere!
Roaming by Design has been on the road a bit lately (uh, I guess that’s what we’re supposed to be doing when we promise roaming, huh?)! We’ve been around town (and across the pond, actually) gathering tweeps around us for some excellent partying. Recently, we had a highly successful tweetup at Moss Gallery in Soho during their #TheArthurShow, joined there by @abcddesigns @StudioBrinson @williambrinson @goodwithstyle @RMManhattanEd @sarahfrazier @concretedetail @RodRuizPhoto @MelissaCantor @DESIGNCOMMOTION and (yours truly) @SaxonHenry to name a few.
At the sexy rooftop lounge at the Gansevoort Park Avenue recently, we gathered a good group of tweeps around us to celebrate #PlungeWeekend. Keeping it cool that night were @Joeod3 @SusanWilber @concretedetail @GansevoortPark and @SaxonHenry. Where are we next? Well, Vegas, baby–we’ll be cozying up to @Paul_Anater and a long list of tweeps he’ll be gathering at the #Coverings2011 show (which includes the divine @jolocktov)! And at the #ADshow2011 in NYC late next week, there will be a large gathering of twitterati (a little birdie tells us @Modenus @AndieDay @SabrinaInc @troynyc @Tim_ModenusUK and @gwphoto38 will be there!). If you want a twitvite, leave a comment and we’ll make sure you are in the know! Happy Tweeting everyone!
Plunge at the Gansevoort Park Avenue
Julie Richey’s “La Corrente,” a marble, glass smalti and seashell dress sculpture, has won the Best 3-D Mosaic award, a distinction given to her by the 2011 Mosaic Arts International—an annual international juried exhibition of contemporary mosaic art. “La Corrente” means “The Current” and the piece exemplifies beauty amidst destruction, a theme that Julie was inspired to explore because she created the work of art during the Gulf of Mexico oil spill crisis. We’ve followed Julie’s esteemed career since she won the Orsoni prize and love how her depth of feeling comes through in her work. We thought we’d treat RBD readers to a sampling of how travel makes an impact on Richey’s creative expressions. She’s planning a Master Mosaic Tour in Italy this fall in case you’re so inspired you want to follow her to the ends of the earth (well, Italy qualifies as that for most of us who long to return again and again)! In her own words: I love to travel—anywhere—and I consider myself fortunate to have discovered a career that allows many interesting travel opportunities. I’ve been all over the US, to Mexico, Italy, the UK and Spain; and soon, I will travel to Australia—all for mosaic-related work.
Looking at my mosaics from the last few years, some are inspired by traveling and finding an image imbedded in my head from the trip. This would be “Night Shirt,” a wall-relief mosaic of a shirt depicting San Francisco Bay at night. I was inspired by a 3 a.m. visit to a park overlooking the city. I held that image in my mind until eventually it came out as a mosaic sculpture. Other works can be inspired by a friend’s vacation stories (as with “La Corrente”), or are formed as a response to an opportunity, be it a commission, a juried show or a public art commission. I’ve made mosaic landscapes of my New Mexico vacation photos and utilized clients’ photos from summers in Canada to make a glass kitchen backsplash for a new home.
For “L’Ambasciatrice,” I was inspired to create a sculptural dress depicting native Texas wildflowers and butterflies for a special event—an art auction benefiting the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, TX. I love Austin and will use almost any excuse to pop down from Dallas. In this case, I couldn’t finish the mosaic before the deadline, but just kept working on it (for nine months, off and on) until it was fully realized. Although “L’Ambasciatrice” never made it to the Wildflower auction, it did travel to shows in Mesa, AZ, Galveston and Dallas. I named it “The Ambassadress” because throughout its construction, I carried it everywhere for art demos, including one at an arboretum, the arts center where I taught mosaics, even a church where a pastor used my mosaics to reinforce his theme of “brokenness and reconstruction” for his sermons. That last one was a stretch, but in every case, this “little mosaic dress that could” allowed people to see a facet of mosaic-making up close. They were very curious about the methods, materials and structure, and the ambassadress did her job well. I’ve been fortunate to travel to Italy frequently—first as a college student for a Rome semester, then as a graduate scholar in Art History. Once I became fluent in Italian, there were return trips for sister-city cultural exchanges, tours with the Renaissance Polyphony chorus of my alma mater, and the invaluable learning experiences I had taking workshops at the Orsoni foundry in Venice. Winning the Orsoni Prize in 2009 was a dream come true. It was an honor just to earn the recognition—but they sweetened the deal by including a full trip to Venice, a week in their workshop, and a full stay at the beautiful Domus Orsoni bed and breakfast. Talk about reinforcing your career choice! For the dedicated mosaic artist, there’s almost no better place in the world to spend a week wallowing in luscious colors and absorbing the Venetian setting. After more than two weeks at Orsoni and a subsequent family visit, the members of the staff there are my friends, not just professional contacts. I feel at home in Italy. I could spend weeks in Rome and rarely need a map. Put me in New York City and I’m as lost as last year’s Easter egg.
You can feel the sweep of sea grasses floating past…
Now most of my days in Italy revolve around mosaics. Where are the truly great sites? How can I get there without spending a fortune and driving my fellow travelers crazy? Who wants to go with me to an obscure Tuscan seaside town to eat spaghetti alle vongole and explore Niki de Saint Phalle’s Tarot Garden mosaics? Two years ago we were on a January choir tour of Italy, and we took a day trip to Palestrina, the birthplace of one of our favorite composers. As soon as we’d finished singing Mass, I bolted up the steep steps of the village to the archeological museum where I knew the famous Nile Mosaic was housed. The hike was crazily vertical, and I was gasping for breath when I arrived at the site but the mosaic was so worth the pilgrimage. Sometimes the desire to wallow in mosaics brings serendipitous moments. In June 2009 I was leading a small mosaic tour of Rome and had made an appointment to visit Dr. Paolo di Buono, director of the Vatican Micromosaic Studios. He suggested a Wednesday morning. Travelers familiar with the Vatican know that the Pope holds his public audience each Wednesday morning. We expected the Vatican grounds to be quite chaotic, but instead they were quiet and deserted. The audience was set up outside in Piazza San Pietro where Jumbotrons flanked both sides of the colonnade and hundreds of chairs were lined up for special visitors. After we toured the studio with Dr. Di Buono, he offered to take us into Saint Peter’s Basilica through the side door. When we passed the guard and entered, I realized we had come though Bernini’s famous “skeleton door,” the monument to Alexander VII, at the back of the basilica. I’ve been in St. Peter’s countless times, and have even attended Easter Vigil Mass there with thousands of pilgrims. This time was different: it was almost deserted.
As delicate as a lacy slip, sea shells ornament “La Corrente”
One worker on a miniature Zamboni-style machine drove up and down the nave, polishing the marble floors. Five guys in rappelling gear were perched on the Baldacchino, the high altar canopy, cleaning it with Swiffer dusters. Dr. Di Buono brought us to the entrance of the basilica to see the mosaic works his studio had restored, including an altar painting designed by Raphael that was actually a mosaic. Looking past the Swiss guards in profile through the open doors, we could see thousands of people outside in the piazza, awaiting the Pope. Inside, it was just the four of us, the Zamboni driver and the Swiffer duster men. We exited as we had come in, via the Bernini door, and as we turned in our security badges and got our passports back, I glanced over to the basilica. Not 30 feet away was the iconic white Popemobile, awaiting Benedict XVI. The guards hurried us along so that the Pope could come out, get into his little car, and start toward his audience. We exited Vatican City, wove our way through the colonnade and popped out into the piazza. There he was, larger than life, on the Jumbotron. In the two minutes it had taken us to get to the piazza, he’d climbed into his car and beaten us to the starting gate! We’d like to thank Julie for gracing our blog on this Twitter #MosaicMonday, and wish her happy Roaming as she inspires artisans far afield and close at home! Photos of “Night Shirt” and “La Corrente” by Stacey Bratton.
One of my favorite trips of 2010 was a jaunt to Italy in late September/early October. During my tour of the beautiful country I had two amazing days at Castel Monastero near Sienna where I caught up with the renowned chef and television bad boy Gordon Ramsay, who heads up the cookery program at the resort and is the visionary behind the restaurants there. I was impressed with the refreshing honesty the Hell’s Kitchen host brought to the interview and enjoyed getting a glimpse behind the scenes of the rocking-and-rolling life of this intrepid adventurer.
RBD: Has anything surprised you about your career?
GR: Yeah, all the crap I get! Behind all the shouting, aggression and swearing is a passionate individual who is very focused on getting it right. I think I’m the luckiest chef in the world and I love food so much that I never stop; I literally never stop. I went out last night in Sienna and I tasted rabbit prepared in a way that I thought was inspirational, and I will use that. I suppose I’m like a magpie: I love traveling all over the world and picking up these shiny little bits of magic that are put out in restaurants—not just food but service as well.
RBD: Is there anything you are particularly excited about right now?
GR: I recently came back from Vietnam where I was filming for my new show called Gordon Ramsay’s Great Escape—it’s almost like Tony Bourdain meets Planet Earth. I thought about the gloabal domination of supermarkets because here I was in Vietnam living with the locals, and buying fresh vegetables and meat twice a day—in the morning for lunch and in the afternoon for dinner, spending 75 cents to a dollar per person per day. I cooked with no dairy—no cream and no butter—and everything was fantastically fresh. The experience was a huge eye opener. Sometimes when you’re traveling at this pace, you don’t take anything for granted but you forget what it’s like right when you’re at the very beginning of your career. I had a limited budget. It was a fascinating time because I was stripped of everything—from my exemplary knives to my chef’s jacket—and I was just there in tee shirts and shorts in 100 degrees, living locally, which I recommend to every chef in the world.
I always get asked about striving for the highest level of perfection and I say to other chefs, “Come out of your comfort zones. Become vulnerable. With the base of knowledge and excitement you’ve got about food, the level of creativity multiplies ten-fold the minute you become vulnerable because you act on instincts.” There’s a huge soul-searching dilemma going on when you haven’t got the most amazing chopping board, you haven’t got fresh ingredients arriving on your doorstep delivered by artisan producers, you haven’t got the most amazing baked bread twice a day, and nobody is making ravioli and tortellini for you: get out of your comfort zone and become self-sufficient!
After Vietnam, I went straight to Cambodia and that was seriously mind-blowing. It had nothing to do with Michelin Stars, Zagat, the Good Food Guide or food critics, and yet some of what was served in these villages was better than you could get in Cambodian and Vietnamese restaurants anywhere in the world—it was exquisite, I mean really exquisite.
RBD: Speaking of Michelin Stars: you have what is becoming an embarrassment of riches, no?
GR: I’m very lucky to have an amazing team. I suppose the criticism we come under is that I can’t be everywhere at once. Well, I’ve never portrayed that I cook in all of these restaurants. There are two restaurants bearing my name: Gordan Ramsay at Claridges, which means an awful lot to me, and Restaurant Gordon Ramsay in Chelsea. Next year we celebrate ten years at Claridges and we have so much talent behind it: from Angela Harnett to Mark Sargeant to Marcus Waring to Mark Askew to Claire Smith to Jake Hamilton—these are thoroughbreds who’ve been with me for ten years. When they leave the nest, it’s a natural level of progression where it becomes a rite of succession. It’s almost like in government in that you’re roosting the nest with food, and you’ve got peers and prodigies that are coming back to stamp out their own sort of uniqueness. What’s wrong with them going further afield? This level of succession has always been my forte: always, always.
RBD: Do you think it’s your passion that allows you to foster people to this level? I ask because I would think some chefs would be a little more selfish than you’ve been in supporting people to go out on their own?
GR: I’m an over-generous guy and so when you’re in the fold it’s anything and everything. I’ve always believed in sharing and the level of manners that my mum taught me from an early age. It makes no sense to compare chefs for their styles: I love Joel Robuchon; love what he’s done for formulaic menus, but I’ve got a different style of setting up a business and my menus are different. Clearly Robuchon has the same menu in Paris as in Tokyo as in New York as in London. What I want to do is to support the chefs that are driving my restaurants behind the scenes, backing me up for years. At some point, they’ve got to go out and take the next step on their own. I enjoy financially backing them—personally but quietly—and unfortunately that always gets misconstrued in the press because it’s said that another chef leaves Ramsay, but we know what goes on “hand on heart” behind the scenes. I know how important it is for these guys to strike out and become individual, and I’ve never been anything less than caring as a father figure to push them to the extreme. And I’m not done yet. That’s what I constantly tell myself. It’s not that I want to spend 16 hours a day behind a stove; I’ve done that! I’ve served my apprenticeship and I have the fascination of that next new discovery.
I have a series of new restaurants opening—the new Savoy Grill, which we’re all incredibly excited about; the Bread Street Kitchen in St. Paul’s Cathedral; and the restaurant in Borough Market opening up in September 2011 ahead of the Olympics.
RBD: Your energy is quite remarkable. To what do you attribute your verve?
GR: It’s a vibe for me: I’m more nervous when I stand still.
RBD: How has being a Scotsman made an impact on your sensibilities as a chef?
GR: Scotland, as you know, is not renowned for its phenomenal food! Great produce but sadly enough we don’t keep any of it for ourselves—we send it all abroad, which doesn’t make sense! I remember my early days in Paris when I was working for Guy Savoy and I’d see these amazing Scottish Langostines come through the door. The French were so arrogant they would be ripping the Scottish flag off the side of the box because they couldn’t quite believe all this produce was coming out of Scotland. I get it, because here was our country with a reputation for deep-fried Mars Bars and deep-fried pizza: it didn’t make sense. But think about it: hand-dived scallops from the west coast of Scotland were being shipped out to Paris. It was frustrating. Then when the venison arrived, it was like another stake in the ground. With fingers up to the French, I’d say, “Here we go—that’s three, four, five amazing kilos of produce that you haven’t got in your country.” So, yeah; I love that battle!
RBD: Do you think the drama of your career prepared you well for television?
GR: That’s a very good question. When you’re cooking at this stake and it’s under this level of pressure, you push the boundaries and, no disrespect, but there’s never going to be a time when you politely say, “Please be so kind as to pass me the bass!” When the shit hits the fan, it’s going to hit the fan or I’d be flipping burgers or dressing Caesar Salads while high-fiving everybody and running a chain of TGI’s! I’m not. I decided to go to the very, very top so I demand the best. In terms of the genre unfolding, there’s no script. If I give you seven identical ingredients, myself seven and Chloe seven, we’d come up with three different dishes: that’s the exciting thing about food. So chefs are notorious self-motivated insecure little fuckers: we’re always looking to please; looking for that big hug because we’re constantly striving to be the best! But when we are the best, we never realize we’re the best so we continue to be incredibly insecure!
RBD: People are always surprised at how nice you are in person compared to your television personae; is that something you set out to do or is it a natural process of the show?
GR: I’ve been in Marco White’s kitchen and Guy Savoy’s kitchen and Daniel Boulud’s kitchen, and I’ve seen the shit hit the fan. I have seen them rip somebody’s head off and absolutely cane someone and then 30 seconds later, I’ve seen them glide through the dining room to shake hands with their amazing customers—like a swan with such character, and amazing elegance and grace. Then they walk back through that door and if there’s something wrong with a dish—the ribeye is overcooked or the scallops are like rubber—then they blow off. I’ve learned from the best!
So if anyone tells you any different when they get to a certain age and condemn that level of ambitiousness by 35- or 40-year-old chefs, you must remember it’s how they made their names. God bless him, Daniel Boulud—one of the most amazing chefs in the world—I would not like to ever get on the wrong side of him. But very few chefs have that brutal honesty, whether they do it in front of the customer or in front of the camera. With me there’s no agenda. My biggest problem is the brutal honesty because if there’s something wrong there and then, I’m not going to wait to see if the cameras have stopped rolling before I let go: I let go. The unfortunate thing when you get into your 60’s and 70’s, these chefs then start to feel guilty about how mean they’ve been so they start philosophizing. I’m 43 years of age; I’m not going to start thinking, “You know what: we really shouldn’t get upset at sending an overcooked pigeon to the head inspector of Michelin! We should just relax and open a bottle of Bordeaux!” Uh, no! That doesn’t quite work out, now does it?
RBD: It feels to me like one of your greatest talents is nurturing people; does that come out of your nature, maybe your upbringing?
GR: From the early days when I was playing soccer, I was always the captain of the team so today’s role I play is a coach because I’m not done with cooking. I’m certainly not bored with it but I just need that level of stimulant to keep me excited about it and nothing gets me more excited than raw ingredients still, even though I look for the experience that will hit all of those notes on the back of the experience—exposure, what I’ve done for food, how many kings and queens I’ve cooked for and the amazing dinners I’ve prepared during my life. Last year was a seminal year cooking for Nelson Mandela twice in one year—once for his 90th birthday. That said, I never started cooking to become rich and famous in the first place. God forbid, if it all stops tomorrow, you’re still going to see me in my restaurant.
RBD: You’re fascinating to interview!
GR: I suppose I keep it real; unfortunately, the bigger you become in this industry, the more you get baby-sat because they see me as too fucking dangerous! I’ll admit I’m a naughty boy so I just watch as they crap themselves when they are afraid I’ll say something detrimental! I’m not that stupid! Also, you’ve made an effort to be here so if I can’t talk to you in an open and honest way, then I’d rather not do the interview!
RBD: Do you have a favorite dish? If so, why and who cooked it?
GR: There’s never been one dish on my agenda—there are thousands because I think there’s no such thing as the greatest soccer player in the world; there’s no such thing as the greatest chef in the world because it depends upon that particular time and temperament, and I never liked things to be set in stone—I like to keep on moving the goal post. One of the most sought-after dishes I’ve ever had in my entire life was when I sat with this family of eight on the river in Vietnam on this houseboat. It was braised pork belly done with fenugreek and star anise, and it was this amazing broth I just couldn’t, couldn’t stop eating. It was done with noodles, braised pork, their equivalent to sea spinach picked from the side of the river—it was mind blowing!
I’ve come across nothing along those lines in the last four months. In six-month’s time you ask me that and it will be something completely different. But, if I wanted to take something to bed, it would be my mum’s bread and butter pudding. When we grew up, she made it with plain bread, but as we became a little more successful, she changed to baguettes. Now she makes it with croissants—Mum’s gone up in life! She changes her recipe every decade! How cool is that? She went from bread to baguettes and now in the 21st-century she finally makes it with croissants. She volunteers for the WI, the Women’s Institute, which is an organization against domestic violence. Now when she makes it, she glazes it. We had no glaze in the first phase, then she went to brown sugar, now she has an apricot glaze! Isn’t it great that she makes it with croissants and an apricot glaze for these houses of single parents?
RBD: She’s been inspired by her boy?
GR: Oh yes! It’s traveling down; food is going back down!
RBD: Is she proud of you?
GR: Yeah! Well, she never, uh, overindulges. She comes to Claridges once every 18 months or so with her neighbors but it’s tough to get her out on the town because she’s obsessed with bingo! It’s nice in that she looked after me for twenty years of my life so now I look after her—I mean, I try! We bought her a house, I try to send her on holidays or on cruises, but she’s not easy to manage! She passed her driving test five years ago on the eleventh time! I said, “Mother, it would be a lot easier if I just get a driver for you!” She said no, so god bless her that she passed it! I got her a mini for Christmas, but I think it’s so terrific that she’s real and completely unspoiled.
RBD: Tell our readers what you feel makes Castel Monastero so special.
GR: I suppose no matter what happens after me, after you, this place is still going to remain the same—it’s unchanged, it’s steeped in history and it’s something that’s being brought back and put on the map but it’s still part of the local village. What I love is that it’s not a hotel, it’s a retreat; this is a gem, ever involved as part of the community where they make those who live here as important as the visitors. They hold onto that ritual; they hold onto that service on Sunday. The village is part of them. That’s not fake or any sort of put-on; that’s real. I don’t know if you heard the church bells this morning? God bless them I was sleeping above those bells! No need for an alarm clock or for any of my three daughters to ring me this morning at 8 o’clock! I’m teasing, of course; that’s what’s so beautiful here. The personality of place is being nurtured and preserved. (For Ramsay’s three choices for rock-star chefs of the future, see my piece in Delta Sky magazine this month.)
When traveling, I’m often fascinated by how a sense of place pervades nearly every aspect of life in the best cities in the world. I call New York home and have come to see Paris as the city in which I’d most like to live if I weren’t fortunate enough to reside in my favorite town. I just returned from the French capital where I spent 2 1/2 weeks tasting all that the City of Light had to offer, including the ultra chic sensibilities the French have in spades.
New York is gritty and a bit worn around the edges compared to Paris’ polished, refined exterior (if you’ve ever taken the Metro in Paris and compared it to the Subway in NYC, you know what I mean, as the Parisian underground is as buttoned-up as its beautiful Neoclassic facades!). On my way to France and when I was returning to the states, I had the opportunity to check out the designs of the American Airlines Admirals Club Lounges at JFK and Charles de Gaulle. I loved the black and white photography in the JFK lounge, the iconic buildings and panoramas that help to define our city such a pleasure to study; and in Paris, I felt as if I were being swept along in a luxe ocean liner back in the day when traveling by ship was glamorous and de rigueur.