Michel Bernardaud’s dining boltholes
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“Hotels and restaurants make up one third of the Bernardaud client base, so needless to say, I spend a lot of time in them. Many are chefs – who tend to be interesting personalities – and over the years we’ve developed close relationships. They are focused on aesthetics and rely on our porcelain. Any chef could turn out to be the next Joël Robuchon, so I cultivate these connections – most often over a meal.
In Limoges, where we have our factory, I’ll often entertain Michelin-starred chefs at La Chapelle Saint Martin – a countryside mansion – or at Le Churchill, a traditional brasserie where a friend plays the piano.
In Paris, where I’m mainly based, I take clients – everyone from private individuals to luxury companies such as LVMH or Air France, which uses our plates for its first-class service – for lunch or dinner; I never meet for breakfast as it isn’t part of the French tradition. I love taking artists and creatives to favourites like the beautiful Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée; it’s formal, the food is delicious and the service is always impeccable. You’ll also find me at Yves Camdeborde’s restaurant Le Comptoir. If I’m in Nice, I’ll go to La Merenda, my favourite bistro in France, which serves excellent local cuisine. There’s no phone, no credit cards are taken – you have to be in the know. And my guests like to discover something new.
I travel 60 per cent of the year, looking for the latest restaurant trends and what’s hot in terms of street food. New York is one of my frequent stops and I’ll always see chefs, including Daniel Boulud and Eric Ripert of Le Bernardin. I particularly like the fish menu at Marea on Central Park South for client lunches. The tartares are delicious and there’s a fun buzz. As long as the food is good and authentic, I don’t care whether it’s fancy or not – I’ve often eaten pastrami at Katz’s Delicatessen or the 2nd Ave Deli. Los Angeles is another big market for us, and I always make time for a meal with Wolfgang Puck at his restaurant CUT in Beverly Hills.
I particularly love doing business in Tokyo, and having work meals over sushi, kaiseki, unagi or soba. Hôtel de Mikuni is a client, and I always make sure to visit Kiyomi Mikuni, the master of French-Japanese cuisine.
As a company, we focus on collaborations; a recent one was a costume jewellery collection with Iris Apfel. We met at Le Bon Marché in Paris and ate at Daniel in New York. I love bringing collaborators here because, as Daniel [Boulud] is an old friend, we don’t have to order; he just sends the best dishes – everything is delicious. Jeff Koons is another partner; we met at a charity dinner and struck up a friendship. He loves porcelain and we’ve been working together for eight years – on his Balloon Dogs, and soon, other projects.
We also work with the foundations of artists, including Alexander Calder and Marc Chagall. The Miró Foundation was impressed with these collaborations, so I travelled to Barcelona to meet with Joan Miró’s grandson, Joan Punyet Miró. We shared an incredible meal at Botafumeiro, one of my favourite fish restaurants in Europe – and they don’t even use our porcelain! I view this as another challenge…
I’m lucky – I get to do business with friends and I enjoy good food and wine, so it’s all a joy. Restaurants are my office and I can’t think of a better setting to get down to the business of fine porcelain.”