Things I Learned at the Relais & Chateaux Dinner: An Olsen Eats

The other night I had the pleasure of attending the Relais & Chateaux Diner des Grands Chefs at Gotham Hall. Relais & Chateaux is an organization of very nice hotels which also have great restaurants. At this dinner, grand chefs from around the world — NYC had Michael White, Daniel Boulud, James Kent and the Del Posto boys — and they cooked a special menu in teams of three for each table. The food, therefore, was not mass catered but actually prepared.  There were many tables. I sat at table 26. Apart from the food, which was obviously extremely good, there were some other takeaways. 

The French Love A Good Projection

There are many columns in Gotham Hall. It used to be a bank. Relais & Chateaux is a French organization and someone had the idea to have a projection of an acquarium projected onto the space behind the columns which eventually drained to reveal the skyline. This was accompanied by music. I was somewhat scared there would be a 9-11 Never Forget logo at the end but there wasn’t. The point being though, probably an American would say, "Man, this is over the top. We can’t do this." With the French, that isn’t so. This enables them to be both great and horrible.

Black Tie Required Means That Above 14th Street

I generally imagine Black Tie Required to mean Maybe Black Tie Would Be Nice But You Know Whatever. This is how it is for events downtown where the rule of thumb is that level of formal dress and level of belonging are inversely proportional. But Gotham Hall is in Midtown and, man, was I wrong. Black Tie means Black Tie. I rolled up wearing a slightly more formal than usual work outfit: black Uniqlo slacks, a cream cotton blazer from Shipley and Halmos and a pink sweater, also Uniqlo. My outfit was met with stern paternal disapproval by tuxuedoed and begowned guests. The only thing that makes me feel alright about it: Thomas Keller, not cooking that night, was there and he was wearing jeans, a sweater and a blazer. 

There is an Olsen Sister That Eats

Her name is Elizabeth and I saw her do it. There’s also picture evidence.  

Relais & Chateaux Announces New Members, Ambassadors, and Events

Chef Michael White of Marea is accustomed to hosting VIPs in his restaurants, but yesterday’s lunch at the seafood palace was for family, specifically the extended family of the Relais & Chateaux luxury collection. Jaume Tàpies, the chairman of Relais & Chateaux since 2005, emphasized that “restaurants are integral to the hotel and travel experience,” creating a memorable part of the “Route du Bonheur,” or, the Road of Happiness, that is at the core of the organization. 

Founded in the mid-1950s by a group of hoteliers and restaurateurs, R&C encouraged travelers from Paris to get off the direct train to the coast, and take the parallel road instead, stopping to discover its properties along the way. Now, the organization extends to the farthest reaches of the globe, and includes both out-of-the-way spots and famed boutique properties.

We’ve reproduced the complete list for you below (Relais & Chateaux organized it by theme, to give readers insight into some of their thought process for selection). But that wasn’t Tàpies’ only news. After a successful run with Richard Gere at the helm, the author Paulo Coelho will take over as brand ambassador, inspired as he has been over the years by his travels around the world. “It took us two weeks to find him in order to ask him,” said Tàpies, “because it turned out he was hiding out at a Relais & Chateaux property to relax!” And in a stroke of good luck for American foodies, the Parisians at the helm of the organization have decided that this year’s Dîner des Grands Chefs, which last year brought together 60 of the top chefs in the world to cook at Versailles, will be held at Gotham Hall in New York this spring. For serious foodies, it’s the event of the year.


A longing for the Deep Blue Sea

Anne de Bretagne (France)

Bellevue Syrene 1820 (Italy)

La Peschiera (Italy)

Ocean House (USA

Wanakarn Beach Resort & Spa (Thailand)

Huka Lodge (New Zealand

Saffire (Australia)

Qualia, Great Barrier Reef (Australia)


A quest for fine cuisine

Kashiwaya Restaurant (Japan)

Le Moût Restaurant (Taiwan)

Del Posto Restaurant (USA)

Marea Restaurant (USA)

De Lindenhof (Nertherlands)

Chalet de la Forêt Restaurant (Belgium)

Restaurant Guy Lassausaie (France)

Restaurant Andrew Fairlie (Great Britain)

Maison Decoret (France)

Ramon Freixa Madrid Restaurant (Spain)

Villa Crespi (Italy)

Hotel Restaurant Spa Rosengarten (Austria)

Restaurant Europea (Canada)

Combal.Zero restaurant (Italy)


A search for solace in nature: wide open spaces and tranquility

La Bastide (France)

Hôtel Au Cœur du Village (France)

Castillo de Arteaga (Spain)

Ballyfin Demesne (Ireland)

Greywalls Hotel and Chez Roux (Great Britain)

Isle of Eriska Hotel, Spa and Island (Great Britain)

Het Roode Koper (Netherlands)

Schlosshotel Burg Schlitz (Germany)

Hastings House Country House Hotel (Canada)

Twin Farms (USA)

The Ranch at Rock Creek (USA)

Awasi (Chile)

Jinmai Brilliant Resort & Spa (China)

Bettei Senjuan (Japan)


A thirst for city life

Saint James Paris (France)

Hotel Le Place d’Armes (Luxembourg)

Beau-Rivage Hotel (Switzerland)

Neri Hotel & Restaurant (Spain)

The Yeatman (Portugal)

The Surrey Hotel & Spa (USA)

Algodon Mansion (Argentina)

JE Mansion (China)

Villa Samadhi (Malaysia)

The Surrey Hotel Named to Relais & Chateaux Group

Long a resource for discerning hotel consumers, the Relais & Chateaux group is a collection of just over 500 hotels around the world that share a common “art de vivre.” They’ve just announced the addition of their only New York City hotel, the first Manhattan property in almost 20 years: The Surrey hotel, on the Upper East Side.

The 1920s-inspired design by Lauren Rottet that brought the hotel back to life was built to serve its high-end clientele, with a lobby bar that was quickly embraced by the neighborhood at large. The hotel’s 189 elegantly appointed rooms and modernized suites are complemented by the restaurant, Cafe Boulud, and the Darphin-stocked spa. The hotel’s manager, Shan Kanagahingham, expressed his pride in the designation, and described it as “a ‘crescendo’ of the hotel’s 2009 re-opening following a $60 million renovation and redesign. This accolade certainly underscores The Surrey’s reputation as the gem of Manhattan’s Upper East Side.”

Crocs Rock: Relais & Chateaux Deliver Two New Cookbooks

“A collection of the world’s finest hotels and restaurants,” Relais & Chateaux’s swanky properties let you kill two birds with one stay: sleep surrounded in finery, and chomp through an unforgettable meal from a top-notch chef like Daniel Boulud or Jean-Georges Vongerichten. Now the association is offering a doggie bag, so to speak, in the form of not one, but two new cookbooks. 85 Inspirational Chefs and Chefs at Home mark the first occasion that each and every chef within Relais & Chateaux’s North American purview has worked together.

Chefs at Home takes you into the celebrated chefs’ homes (surprised?) and features dishes they like to cook when they’re not in a white apron and Crocs. While 85 Inspirational Chefs caters mostly to beginners, the book does include a few challenging recipes. (Did you really think duplicating a Jean-Georges meal was going to be a piece of cake?) The books can be purchased at the Relais and Chateaux Mansion in New York, or on their web site. Indulge in a proper Relais & Chateaux meal without having to drop a fortune on the hotel. Let’s just hope you’re a good cook.