I’m old-fashioned, in that I think relationships matter and business cannot just be done over a BlackBerry or an iPhone. Today people think that if they’ve sent an email, they’re covered, but I think it’s important to establish a connection, and one of the best ways to do that is over a meal – it’s a more intimate situation. When I was getting to know Jack McCullough and Lazaro Hernandez [the designers of Proenza Schouler] and deciding whether to buy a stake in their business, we met over meal after meal. And David Neville and Marcus Wainwright [of Rag & Bone] and I have lunch all the time.
It goes in phases, but generally I eat about half my lunches out, breakfasts a little less and even fewer dinners. To me, a breakfast is the equivalent of a 45-minute meeting; lunch is an hour and 15 minutes and dinner is two hours. So different people suit different meals. My breakfasts tend to be with uptown people, as that’s where I live, in Trump Tower, whereas my office is downtown, and I don’t like to travel across the city, because it takes too much time. So if I need to meet someone uptown – a store buyer, or a lawyer – I do so over breakfast, usually at Jean-Georges, which is in my building. We can even get Jean-Georges room service. But if I am meeting a downtown person in the morning, it’s almost always at Pastis, which has the best breakfasts I think I’ve ever had. I don’t know what they put in their eggs.
I will try new places – such as Catch, near my office, which is a barometer for a certain kind of cool lifestyle – but, generally, I like to be comfortable, to know what I’m getting, because it allows me to make my guests comfortable too.
If I’m being honest, I think this also reflects something about my personality, and the way I do business: I am very consistent, I don’t have huge ups and downs, but I am someone, I think, you can count on every day to be there. I look for the same thing in restaurants, because I think it reinforces what people will get if they go into business with me.
I own a lot of racehorses, and when I’m in England I visit them in the countryside, and the horse people and I go to the local pub, where the owners know everyone and it’s very friendly. That’s what I’m looking for in New York, and I have it in a restaurant called Macelleria, which I can see from my office. I’ve been going there for nine years and now have my own corner booth – at lunch, if I don’t go, no one else sits there – and my own chair, and the chef cooked the dinner for my 50th. It’s not terribly fancy, but it’s very good northern Italian food. I think it has the best steak in New York. For me, it functions as an extension of my office, and also who I am. I may be in the style business, but you need substance, too.
Once a month I have a new-hire lunch there with all the latest people in my business; I order all the food in advance and it is served family style. When I bring guests there one on one, we don’t even get menus; I just ask them what they want and we discuss it with the waiter, and then he brings them their food.
Because of this desire for familiarity and comfort, I tend to gravitate to restaurants that have various branches, so I can go to the same places even in different countries. I like Nobu – and I can go uptown, downtown, in Italy, in LA. Same with Cipriani: I go here and in London. Jean-Georges also has a great pizza place, Co, near my office, and ABC Kitchen. In Paris, I stay at the Crillon, as my dad did, but I always go to the restaurant in the Hôtel Costes – and I sit on the side, not in the central garden.
Because of this, I rarely have a bad meal. The negative experiences are related to bad service. I was raised to believe respect and integrity are of utmost importance, and it rubbed off. Even, I guess, when it comes to dining.