Jen Rubio’s favourite dining destinations

The co-founder of the luggage brand Away talks sustainability with supermodels in Paris and celebrates success over Old Fashioneds in San Francisco

Jen Rubio at The Battery, San Francisco
Jen Rubio at The Battery, San Francisco | Image: Cayce Clifford

“When we started Away, I was staying on my business partner Steph Korey’s sofa in New York and we spent far too much of our limited funds at The Elk, a cute little café nearby that has a very Pacific North West vibe. My home was in London at the time – so there was no point in renting a place – but I now live between SoHo in New York and San Francisco, where my fiancé, [Slack CEO] Stewart [Butterfield], is based. I actually attribute Away taking off so quickly to staying on Steph’s couch because we were able to bounce ideas all hours of the day. They may not teach sleeping on your business partner’s couch as being the recipe for success at Harvard Business School, but I’ve told this story there – so technically they do now.

We met our first investor Eurie Kim, a partner at Forerunner Ventures, at The Battery, a private members’ club in San Francisco. We took her through our business plan over tea in the living room, because it’s quiet and when you are nervous you don’t want interruptions. It went well and when Eurie had left, Steph and I celebrated with a couple of Old Fashioneds, my go-to drink.

Five years on, most of Away’s executive team have had an interview over breakfast at La Fayette, near our office in New York. It’s in SoHo and has a lively yet warm atmosphere that puts people at ease. I have the scrambled eggs, which are delicious and very buttery so probably not too good for you, with chèvre, leeks and truffle vinaigrette, and an espresso followed by iced coffee. It’s close to the office and they know us so the service is super-quick – if the conversation isn’t going so well you can be out in 45 minutes.

I recently had drinks with Claire Olshan, the founder of Dada Daily – a gluten-free vegan snack food company with surrealist-style branding – at La Mercerie, a restaurant in a big, beautiful furniture store, also in New York. Claire is one of the most artistic people I know and when I am in a creative rut, I always call her to brainstorm. She really believes in celebrating every day and we had the blinis Demidoff au caviar.

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In Paris, I head for the Amastan hotel, where we hosted a pop-up two years ago during Paris Fashion Week. The first time I walked in, I thought that if Away designed a hotel, this is probably what it would look like. I had a great lunch meeting there recently in the small restaurant area with the model Arizona Muse over the freshest salmon bowl. We talked about sustainability and how it plays into the Away business model.

The Nordic countries have become an important market and in Stockholm my home from home is Ett Hem –  just 12 rooms in an amazing arts and crafts building where everything is so well-thought-out. When the actress and producer Rashida Jones designed a collection for Away, Ett Hem had been an inspiration so we shot her there. At dinner all the guests sit at a large table in the kitchen and wholesome food is served with homemade bread and salad from their own vegetable garden.

Back home in San Francisco, I catch up with other company founders over giant gin and tonics at Bellota. I try a different one every time – the citrus one is really good. It’s not somewhere we do deals; we give each other advice or come up with ideas. Stewart and I have to be quite strict about discussing ideas and work, so we specifically set aside some time over the weekend. We walk to Spruce close to our home, make our work lists and give each other advice over beignets – so hot and fluffy with a delicious white-chocolate dipping sauce. We sit outside with our four-month-old cockapoo Busy, a new addition to our lives, and sip our coffee and chat in the sunshine.”

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