November 13 2011
Mark C O’Flaherty
“I tend not to eat a midday meal any more, so when I have a business lunch, I pretend to eat. When I was much younger I could eat everything without feeling sleepy. Now if I have a full lunch, I need a lot of espressos later on. But lunch is a fundamental component of doing business – it’s the building of a relationship between two people.
In Tokyo, where I worked for so long, you can have a very light lunch. Ten-Ichi has fantastic tempura. It’s in what used to be the main fashion street in Ginza; Gucci opened its first Japanese store there in 1964. You can eat all you want, and 30 minutes later it’s as if you haven’t eaten.
If we’re working on sales campaigns, we have a catering service and cafeteria on the ground floor of our office in Milan. The food is very good, particularly the pasta. During Fashion Week our partners are in town and can come in to have lunch and talk. I need to accommodate other people’s schedules during the shows – they aren’t here just to speak to Gucci; they’re speaking to Prada, Armani and everyone.
I go to the restaurant in the Park Hyatt Milan at lunchtime very often, specifically for business. It’s a nice, relaxing environment, five minutes’ walk from the office. But if you have to do something confidential, it’s not the place to go, because everyone is there. I used to go regularly to Da Giacomo for core business meetings. It’s very good, specialising in fish, but it can be very noisy. Once, I was there as part of a table of six and we could hardly hear one another. There’s a lack of private dining rooms in Milan. For one meeting I took everyone to the Bulgari Hotel, as it has private rooms where you can meet and eat, and I knew it’d be quiet.
Gucci began 90 years ago in Florence and we have 7,000 employees in Tuscany. There are masses of good restaurants there, but two of the best are Cibrèo, which is definitively Tuscan, and Fuor d’Acqua, which is known for fish. If you’re eating Tuscan food for dinner, you can’t have an early start the next day. The cuisine was created for people who work in the fields – if you haven’t been so active, it’s very heavy, and you have to drink full-bodied wine with it.
I find dinner easier to enjoy than lunch. I was with some business partners a few months ago and we had 10 or 12 courses at Fuor d’Acqua; they were getting on a plane to Hong Kong the next morning, and so could sleep all day. As much as I’m not a great eater, I enjoy wine very much. I remember a time I was working in Vicenza and a lot of days ended with bottles of beautiful Amarone while my colleagues and I talked about work.
Our design team is based in Rome. Frida Giannini, our creative director, knows every single restaurant there and she introduced me to my favourite, Antica Pesa. The owner, Francesco, is exceptional – he knows everything that’s happening in the room. The chef makes small hamburgers using sausage from the hills not far from the city and they’re absolutely great. It’s very inventive.
A restaurant’s design is very important to me. I used to go to Felix at the Peninsula hotel in Hong Kong because of the Starck interior, but actually I prefer the food at Spring Moon downstairs. It’s very traditionally Chinese and you can call in advance and have Peking duck.
In New York, I like the modernism – and minimalism – of The Four Seasons in Mies van der Rohe’s Seagram building. I think if Rothko had hung his paintings there, as commissioned, it would have made the room. I go to Michael’s in New York because it’s close to our office there and is a good destination for business meals, but a lot of people go to be seen.
I sometimes have breakfast meetings, particularly in the US, but I often have a breakfast beforehand with my own ritual – cornflakes, fresh fruit, milk and coffee. I don’t have breakfast meetings in Italy. It happens, but not with me.”