When I was growing up in Milwaukee, family dinners were about who could eat fastest. It wasn’t until I lived in London during college that I realised you could sit down for a meal and have an actual conversation – and it’s an art form. That said, whomever I’m sitting across from today, my style is casual, to put it mildly. We develop resorts, so it goes with the product – but it’s also just who I am.
I try to bring a common-sense approach to business, and part of that means enabling people to feel relaxed rather than on edge, so they can stay focused. While the restaurants I choose are not always relaxed places, my table keeps it laidback – whether I’m with financiers, potential Discovery members, our executive team or meeting with club owners about Casamigos, the tequila company I founded with George Clooney and Rande Gerber.
I have many lunch meetings in LA, near Discovery’s Beverly Hills office. One of my favourite spots is the Italian E Baldi, where plans for our new project in Barbuda were finalised with our partner John Paul DeJoria. It’s conveniently close for meeting bankers, buyers or partners for the full “power lunch”, from the meatballs with pomodoro to the Dover sole. It’s noisy, with lots of muscling going on.
Also convenient, but more formal, is the art deco Polo Lounge at The Beverly Hills Hotel, where I have almost all of my breakfast meetings. They do the classics, such as great pancakes. I’ve taken lots of people over the years, but I have regular breakfasts there with Ron Burkle, who’s a partner: our first business decision of the day is whose favourite booth to sit in.
Meetings with my two older sons, who are involved with our business, are as likely to be across the deck of a boat as around a table, but, with its all-American cuisine, Craig’s in LA is a favourite for dinners, and a lot of friends frequent it too. I like clean, healthy food, but the honey-truffle fried chicken that Craig named after me is one of my cheats.
I travel 250-plus days of the year. I was impressed by Mark’s, the private club in London where we worked out the Casamigos sale with Diageo last year. It was George, Rande and me, and Cindy [Crawford], Rande’s wife, with all the top Diageo people, but I can’t remember what we ate. We were focused on the subject on the table – and drinking tequila. Casamigos took off so fast, from the early days of our “working lunches” at a taco stand by the ocean in Cabo. Our only business plan then was that my places would buy it, Rande’s would sell it and George would drink it.
Our resorts are embracing sustainability, so growing produce – at Silo Ridge we’re planning a dairy farm – and respecting local landscapes is key. Blue Hill, outside New York, is unbelievable for that: the freshness, the effort that goes into the menus and its care of the environment. The actor Ed Norton, with whom I invested in an environmentally sensitive waste treatment company, Baswood, is a big fan, and we’ve had many productive meals there.
Europe offers huge inspiration, especially when it comes to food. The Amalfi Coast’s beach clubs and restaurants, such as Lo Scoglio, near Positano, and La Conca del Sogno, serve only what’s exceptionally fresh, local, homemade and homegrown. But Le Club 55 in St Tropez is maybe my top spot in the world on that front – the quality of everything from the grilled fish to the salads is incredible. When I’m travelling in these places with friends, lunches are always part business research. But there’s fun too. On our last trip, we played credit-card roulette at every meal to decide who got the check. Let’s just say I’m lucky.