There were a couple of speeches last night at the opening party of the annual meeting of Relais & Châteaux in Copenhagen, main venue VILLA COPENHAGEN. It was a large group, just over 500 total, and, pre-opening party, there were informal words from Michael Caines at a Pommery-sponsored cocktail for the UK and Ireland delegates. There was a speech later at the general hygge welcome cocktail: Relais President Laurent Gardinier spoke, above, and then he enticed Pommery owner Nathalie Vranken on to the stage. She’s a phenomenon, involved in so many bubbly and still beverages and she’s a magnificent marketeer.
But there are obviously many extraordinary people at this Relais gathering. Take Michael Caines, a much-revered English chef who has gone on, despite losing an arm, to head a growing culinary and hospitality empire. He’s a partner in AB Hotels, with Andrew Brownstone. He heads Michelin-starred LYMPSTONE MANOR in Devon, and his owned restaurants include The Cove Restaurant, the Harbourside Refuge in Porthleven, Mickeys Beach Bar and Restaurant in Exmouth, and Cafe Patisserie Glacerie.
Take Laurent Gardinier, owner of LES CRAYERES in Champagne. Cuisine must be local, he says – food, and sustainability, are his main rallying cries during his Relais presidency. Well, to be honest it is difficult to say that the opening party was local-Danish. There was Champagne, endless, plus M. Chapoutier and other wines and a surprisingly pleasant white Port and tonic, in individual cans. There was outstanding smoked salmon, and oscietra and sensational heart-alerting fatty ham. The aircraft-hanger of a hotel function room had been transformed, thanks to three-metre interactive screens, into a giant winter-wonderland chalet.
Bet one would never meet quite so many extraordinary people in a normal chalet. Colin Best and his lawyer wife flew from California to share details of their two hotels, one in France and one in Ireland which has a taxidermist delight, a peaacock from Ukraine called Margot. Paul Szkiler, owner of GLENAPP CASTLE in Ballantrae, also heads a mighty fast food and chicken farm in Sierra Leone… and so on. The next three days promise to be interesting.