Waldorf Astoria Chicago – With Howard Harris

Filmed in Chicago, Rome, Berlin and Shanghai, the cinematic, documentary-style series of Unforgettable Stories features cultural tastemakers and notable figures who have played a role in shaping Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts’ unique and inspirational environments.

The Unforgettable Stories documentaries are hosted on the Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts Facebook page and can be accessed through a custom built Facebook app unique to Unforgettable Stories at www.facebook.com/WaldorfAstoria.

We take a look at Waldorf Astoria Chicago, through the eyes of atelier Howard Harris, the artist behind the epic iron curtain sculpture in the Waldorf Astoria Chicago lobby.

Howard Harris, President and CEO of Rare Form Design Group, and Master of Metal & Glass talks about his Waldorf Astoria special feature wall – almost 20ft wide and 30ft tall.

Gina Deary comments on Chicago’s ‘amazing architectural history’ and about how they found a picture of a gate that was bound in Chicago, and felt that this was a great element to inject a little Chicago twist, giving the hotel a sense of place within the city.

Howard Harris discusses how the chandelier in the space in front of the wall piece is a wonderful complement – the chandelier is an art piece, the wall is an art piece, and both of these combine, juxtaposing elements of glass, metal and polished surfaces. Indeed, the transmittance of light in the fixture brings out sparkle in the wall piece, meaning that the sculptural wall is uniquely illuminated by that fixture with the two reflecting off of each other…

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Check it out here – Waldorf Astoria Chicago with Howard Harris

To find out more visit www.waldorfastoria.com

Conrad Tokyo – With Yosuke Suga

Conrad Hotels & Resorts has recently launched an exciting social media campaign with Conrad Connections, a digital documentary series in which globally renowned cultural curators and opinion leaders discuss what they find inspirational about their home cities.

These insightful vignettes, which you can view at www.facebook.com/ConradHotels, feature industry pioneers and taste-makers the hotels have connected with, in destinations from Tokyo to Miami.

Here Conrad Hotels go behind the scenes with renowned French cuisine chef, Yosuke Suga, as he lets us into his secret Tokyo and takes us on a journey through Tokyo’s vibrant sushi culture.

Watch as he explores the ancient practices and navigates his way around the famed Tsukiji Market, conveniently located right next door to Conrad Tokyo…. Before visiting the modern sushi master, Sukiyabashi Jiro, or ‘Jiro’, as he is known by many. You might recognise him from the cult film “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” – have you seen it?

We find out where Suga gets his inspiration as he films with Jiro, who began making sushi aged 12, and continues to do so in the heart of Tokyo, now aged 88. As Suga highlights, when Jiro makes sushi, ‘it becomes beautiful’…

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Check it out here: Conrad Tokyo – With Yosuke Suga

To find out more visit www.conradhotels.com

Grifco Chats with Dukes St James’s Head Chef Nigel Mendham

Grifco recently sat down to speak with culinary whiz Nigel Mendham, Executive Head Chef at DUKES ST JAMES LONDON’s Thirty Six restaurant. We asked Nigel to tell us about what inspires him in and out of the kitchen, the latest food trends we should be keeping an eye out for, and what every novice cook should be serving this season.

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Grifco: How would you impress at a dinner party on a budget and if budget was not an issue?

NM: If I was cooking a dinner party on a tight budget, I would start with creating a maple glazed pork belly garnished with some English onions for an appetizer. For a main course, you cannot go wrong with serving a delicious whole chicken. I would use all of the bird to make different dishes like a pie with the leg, turn the breasts into mini Kiev’s, crispy winglets and make a sauce from the carcass. I would serve something like Eton Mess for dessert, it’s one of my top puddings for spring and summer, when English berries are in season.

And for a dinner party with no budget? Hmm, well there is no option but to go all out and use foie gras, truffles, fillet of beef, amedei chocolate and belle époque champagne!

Grifco: Who have you recently been inspired by?

NM: Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is one book I have loved every since I was a boy, which inspired me to create my new children’s Chocolate Afternoon Tea.

dukes_hotel_050413_0303-40_lowI worked with my talented team at Thirty Six to come up with a new afternoon kids tea based on my favourite childhood book. Think everything and anything out of Willy Wonka’s factory – from specialty fudges, chocolate bon bons, mini chocolate milkshakes to melt in the mouth chocolate filled cookies and brownies with a twist. I don’t want to give too much away, but this tea promises to win anyone with a sweet tooth’s heart.

dukes_hotel_050413_0109-18 low resGrifco: Wow, we cannot wait to try your afternoon Chocolate tea! Special themed afternoon teas in London are really popular at the moment. What other food trends are you seeing in the industry?

NM: Food trends in today’s gourmet industry are forever changing, but I very much believe that simple food done well will stand the test of time. This is one of my core values behind the excellent locally sourced British food we prepare and serve at Thirty Six.DUKES AUG 12 11043_low

Grifco: What is one ingredient you think everyone should be using in their kitchens?

NM: Again I would have to recommend sticking with simple food, which you can use for a variety of dishes to please every pallet in your household. At Thirty Six we swear by Caroll’s Heritage potatoes, which are sourced from up North in Northumberland, where I am originally from. Potatoes are the key ingredient behind so many dishes, whether you are creating a quick treat or a comforting feast. Every cook should have potatoes in their kitchen!

Grifco: When you aren’t cooking for guests at Thirty Six, what’s your favourite dish to make yourself?

NM: I like to make myself a good dry aged rib eye with béarnaise sauce and French fries. That dish is hard to beat after working a long day!

Stop by Nigel Mendham’s Thirty Six at Dukes St James London to taste Nigel’s delicious dishes for yourself.

Nigel’s Spring sample menus include:

din mainRestaurant Reservations:
T: +44 (0) 207 491 4840

Opening hours:
Daily Breakfast
Monday to Saturday – open from 7am and last food order at 10:30am
Sunday – open from 8am and last food order at 10:30am

Tuesday to Sunday – open at 12 noon, last food order at 2:30pm

Monday to Saturday – open at 6pm, last food order at 9:30pm

Address: 35-36 Saint James Place, London, Greater London SW1A 1NY


Grifco Chats Andaz Amsterdam And Design With Designer Marcel Wanders

Grifco recently had the pleasure to sit down with the world renowned Marcel Wanders, interior designer of the brand new Andaz Amsterdam, which will be opening later this month. We picked Marcel’s brain over coffee at Andaz Liverpool Street about his influences and inspirations designing Andaz Amsterdam while he was in town for London Design Festival.

Grifco: So Marcel, how did it feel to be designing in Amsterdam?

Marcel: It has been really exciting making an amazing hotel in my hometown. My neighbours are going to be there and will tell me if it’s not good, so it’s a challenge! It has been really wonderful for myself as a project. I love the culture and it’s great to be designing in Amsterdam.

Grifco: How do you think your sense of design is affiliated with the Andaz brand?

Marcel: For me, Andaz is a brand that combines a sophisticated lifestyle with high-level service. Andaz wants to be a local brand, so I wanted to make design references to Amsterdam, which an elegant and international clientele would appreciate.

Grifco: The New York Times has described you as the “Lady Gaga of the design world.” What does it feel like to be compared to her?

Marcel: I don’t think it’s that bad to be compared to Lady Gaga! She is different, talented, takes risks, and she’s not afraid to be passionate. Like her, I have important messages to convey. I am trying to do something so different within the world of design.

Grifco: One last questions Marcel, what can we expect from Andaz Amsterdam when we visit next month?

Marcel: Expect to be surprised-that’s all I’m going to tell you!

The 122 room Andaz Amsterdam is located on the site of the former Public Library on Amsterdam’s Prinsengracht and is within close walking distance from the city’s major attractions. It has been designed to offer an inspiring local experience for international visitors and act as a key venue for those who live in the city and want to showcase their heritage and hospitality. Andaz Amsterdam is now accepting reservations for stays from 23 November 2012 onwards.


Grifco Chats Wedding & Honeymoon Trends with Bridal Guru, Peta Hunt

Grifco recently caught up with the lovely Peta Hunt, Editor At Large of You & Your Wedding, at THIRTY SIX By Nigel Mendham during the Grifco Supper Club. We asked Peta all about the latest honeymoon and bridal trends, her favourite holiday destinations, and travel essentials she will not board a plane without!

Grifco: So tell us Peta, what do you think the top 2012 bridal trends are?

PH: Big but light airy dresses with full skirts, or simple slinky dresses. Straps and sleeves are finally back – hurrah! Designers are going for less embellishment – we are over full on bling for brides. Tulle and lace are also trending at the moment in the bridal world.

Grifco: Where do you think the hottest wedding and honeymoon destinations are in 2012?

PH: UK weddings are working well all year round, so you can have a three day wedding festival partying with family and friends. As for honeymoons, so many of our couples have already done Thailand and Europe and are now looking for something a bit different. Our top honeymoon destination tip is South America. Who would not love to explore the rain forest, while staying at a 5 star floating hotel? Couples can hit the beaches of Brazil or be amazed by Argentina, where you can ski for the weekend and then party the night away in Buenos Aires.

Grifco: In your opinion Peta, who is this year’s it bridal designer and why?

PH: That is a tricky one, as I love too many just to name one! At the top of my list – and in no particular order – is: David Fielden, Monique L’Huillier, Oscar De La Renta, Elie Saab, Packham, Delphine Manivert, Claire Pettibone, Charlotte Casadejus, Alice Temperley… Hang on, I’m listing my address book here! Honestly, most brides that I get to see are truly beautiful no matter the designer. I just love that beaming with happiness look.

We all loved William and Kate’s wedding last year, but for me, I’d rather have been a guest at Kate Moss’s wedding. It was traditional but so very modern. She really seemed to enjoy being with all her family, bridesmaids, and mates. But please don’t think that you have to get Galliano to make your dress! High street favourites such as Coast, Phase 8, and Monsoon have fantastic dresses under £500. So you really can have your dress and wedding cake too!

Grifco: In the last year, where was your favourite place that you visited and why?

PH: Ahh, why are you making me pick just one? This is so hard, so I am going to ignore you and say I loved Raffles in Seychelles, it is a new well-designed resort bedded into the hillside. You stay in private villas, which have huge doors that fold back so you can jump straight into your private pool if you can’t face the buggy ride down the mountain to the main resort. Your private butler will bring you whatever you need. As for the spa, I had the best massage listening to the sea. I was so relaxed I rode a bike for the first time in 10 years! The staff encourage you to try something different, so you don’t just lay on the most fantastic beaches the entire time. I tried cooking classes and pilates, again, both a first for me! I took a boat trip out and watched the sun go down, which was really special. The sun looked bigger and all the more colourful here.

I also fell in love with the Hotel Grand Du Cap Ferrat, France. Who would have known that a glistering white hotel would be so calming and charming by isolating you from the outside world? This hotel sits on the edge of the sea and oozes with luxury. You even get a chair to put your handbag on when dining – now that is posh! I sunbathed and relaxed in a private cabana and had a swimming lesson from a man that taught every A-list celeb to swim in a huge infinity pool. When I wanted to eat – they do have the best macaroons, ever! – I dined under a canopy of pine trees with the smell of jasmine wafting on a warm breeze. It was hard to believe that Grey London was just two hours away!

Grifco: Peta, what is your all-time favourite holiday destination and why?

PH: Hotel Cap Rocat because I never expected to fly to Mallorca, which is only an hour and a bit away via London City Airport, and to be so charmed by staying in an old fort, which has a drawbridge, bunkers and ten foot thick walls! This is 5-star lux but for those who don’t want a fuss. The food is perfect, there are only 24 rooms, the staff is amazingly friendly and the most divine breakfast is brought to your room in a hamper so it’s just like getting a gift each morning. If I were a rock star, this is where I would stay!

Grifco: Do you have any travel essentials that you can’t travel without?

PH: Here’s my essentials list: iPad (so I can read my book and catch up on tv!), moisturisers, and BB creams by the bucket load! I also bring antihistamine tablets with me because every flying biting insect is attracted to me.

Grifco: Last question Peta, what is one bit of advice you would tell a bride before she starts planning her wedding?

PH: Stick to your budget and make sure it’s your day and not everyone else’s. If you have to cover the chairs in fabric you are staying at the wrong hotel! No one ever says after a wedding, “lovely wedding, nice chair back covers!”

Grifco Speaks To Dr. Jill Nash, Travel Journalist & Author

Grifco recently sat down with the very talented Dr. Jill Nash, director and author of the popular travel guidebooks, Luxury Backpackers, to discuss her take on the future of the travel industry. We also picked Jill’s brain on travel trends, her favourite recently visited destinations, and travel essentials she cannot live without!

Grifco: So tell us Jill, what do you think the top 2012 travel trends are?

JN: I think travelling on a budget still remains a key priority for many. People are very cautious about spending, but will still want a break away. So with this in mind, trends towards big saving deals through packages or price comparison websites will remain popular for 2012. Equally, DIY bookings, and independent travel still remain strong for those who want to make up their own itinerary.

People are far more educated about travelling now, and will research their destination and accommodation before booking, so travel opinion website such as trip advisor will continue to help guide peoples choices. There is so much information on the internet too, which does make it sometimes confusing, tiresome, and laborious ,so many are choosing ‘travel specialists’ to act as booking agents and advisors, or sticking to places they know, trust or are familiar with.

Luxury travel is still going strong too- especially in the ‘honeymoons’ sector. With couples still getting married and taking that ‘Honeymoon of a lifetime’, they are looking for different experiences away from the beach – such as city breaks to train travel. In terms of destinations, mainland Spain and the islands will remain popular for couples and families, as will other ‘close to home’ options like Croatia, Italy, Malta and France.

Grifco: Where do you think the hottest destinations will be in 2012?

JN: I think the USA is a particularly interesting destination to watch for 2012. With city breaks to New York and Las Vegas remaining popular for couples and groups, and regions such as Colorado and Texas for those wanting more authentic American ‘off the beaten track’ adventures. Road trips on the West Coast and wine regions of California are also gravitating in popularity.

Grifco: In the last year, where was your favourite place that you visited and why?

JN: I’m surprised by my answer here – but Malta & Gozo. These two islands are completely undersold and do not get enough positive media coverage. They offer great climate, are easily accessible from the UK, perfect for young families, culture vultures, nature enthusiasts and foodies. I was particularly impressed with the level of quality home-made cuisine and local wines. The beaches were outstanding too, as were the many small boutique accommodation options. It is also a good choice for those watching their wallets.

Grifco: What is your all-time favourite holiday destination and why?

JN: The Philippines. For its outstanding natural beauty, unparalleled scuba diving, and pristine beaches. My favourite hotel has to be super luxurious Amanpulo in the Palawan Province.

Grifco: Do you have any travel essentials that you can’t travel without?

My dive computer (which also doubles as a watch), my rather large backpack, my batik sarong (which works as a beach dress, cover-up and something to sit on) and my Platinum AMEX card (in case of emergencies!).

Luxury Backpackers guidebooks feature multiple varieties of stylish adventures around the world to inspire every type of traveller. The latest guidebook, Family Adventures in Style is now available.

For more information on Luxury Backpackers, visit their Website, Facebook Group, YouTube channel, or follow them on Twitter.