At the Emperor's Table
With the holidays right around the corner, many people are turning their attention to the subject of entertaining. How do you plan an exceptional meal? What does it take to be a great host? There could be no better educator on this topic than Mr. Valentino, whose events—whether an intimate lunch at his home Gstaad, or a party for hundreds at the Chateau Wideville—are legendary for their considered detail, their memorable grace, and more than anything, their warmth and bonhomie.
Valentino: At the Emperor’s Table, published this month by Assouline, could be considered a guidebook. It’s full of recipes, like the one for the simple kamut pasta with tomato sauce that Mr. Valentino likes to service at his residence in Holland Park, in London, where a little pop of red from the sauce, and perhaps the accompanying wine, serves to highlight his collection of blue-and-white china. (More ambitious chefs might attempt the multicolor beets with foam, a favorite of Mr. Valentino’s when he entertains at home in New York.) But you could also think of At the Emperor’s Table as a kind of manifesto, a call for readers far and wide to “live beautifully,” in the Valentino way.
Of course, it’s taken Mr. Valentino a lifetime—and a lifetime’s worth of passion—to amass the collection of crystal and porcelain lovingly photographed by Oberto Gil for the book. But you don’t need a Meissen swan tureen to adopt Mr. Valentino’s “live beautiful” approach, which really just comes down to giving every meal, even one taken alone, it’s proper due.
“Even if I dine alone I like to have a nice table or maybe just a tray with nice china, and well-presented food,” Mr. Valentino says. “I do not just open a fridge and take a plastic box with food inside!”
Indeed not. And even a homespun dish, like the Italian seafood stew, Cacciucco, that Mr. Valentino cites as a favorite, is one he never serves the same way. The accompanying menu and place settings are adapted every time, depending on the place the dish will be served. “It’s translated in variation of the more important china and glasses and objects for the cities,” he notes of the Cacciucco. “[The settings are] very mountain and relaxed, with a sort of naivety in Gstaad; very simple and mostly in the blue color in the boat.”
"Valentino: At the Emperor's Table" is available now on www.assouline.com
Photos by Oberto Gili