Armani, beyond fashion

The stylist’s group also includes 25 venues, the top 4 of which have started a world tour

28-11-2015
Giorgio Armani in a photo from mid November amongs

Giorgio Armani in a photo from mid November amongst the super chefs from his four gourmet restaurants. Left to right: Alessandro Salvatico of Armani in Dubai, Fabio Bano of the restaurant in New York, Francesco Mazzi, who runs the restaurant in Tokyo. Finally, with the goatee, Filippo Gozzoli, chef in Milan. Credits SGP

There’s no doubt: as soon as you mention Armani everyone will think about the fashion world that king Giorgio, born in 1934, has been enlightening for half a century. His entry on Wikipedia lists every step, decision and success he’s had but ignores one side of his empire and this shouldn’t surprise us. Indeed, associating the fifth richest man in Italy according to Forbes (and number 174 in the world) to the restaurant industry is not immediate. Still the group counts on a surprising number of 25 (twenty-five!) establishments, what with cafés, restaurants and hotels, of which three alone are in via Manzoni in Milan, and the rest is between Tokyo, New York and Dubai.

The problem is that those working there need to put aside any ambition of standing out as protagonists. There are no individuals here, just the Armani style. It is the very opposite to the Masterchef protagonist-attitude, as if a football team wouldn’t tell the name of its coach because people change but flags don’t. The only exception was in 2000, but this had to be the case with Nobu, too big a star not to include his name in Armani Nobu.

The four starters, one per each of the four chefs from the four gourmet restaurants opened around the world by the group founded and guided by Giorgio Armani

The four starters, one per each of the four chefs from the four gourmet restaurants opened around the world by the group founded and guided by Giorgio Armani

Given this, an invitation for two dinner events in mid November, on the 11th and 12th of November, at Armani Ristorante in Milan, with the presence of king Giorgio on the second night who wanted people to get to know the cooking of his four gourmet restaurants and only later its respective chefs, created lots of clamour. He did this following his style, first whispered, then clearer at the end but always in a very quiet and elegant fashion.

For instance, I participated on the 11th and found on my table a menu without the names of the people who were to take care of each course. Just those of the towns. And up until the coffee was served, it was not at all certain that the chefs would come out, something that later happened surprising everyone who’re more used to the Armani world. Throughout the evening, you only knew, for instance, that the Pumpkin risotto was “from” Dubai, the Scallop raviolo from Tokyo, the Wagyu fillet with morels from New York and the Chocolate semi-sphere from Milan.

Scallop raviolo with ricotta, black olives and tomatoes by Francesco Mazzi, chef at Armani in Tokyo

Scallop raviolo with ricotta, black olives and tomatoes by Francesco Mazzi, chef at Armani in Tokyo

Then came the surprise parade, receiving the praise and answering the questions that elsewhere no one would ask if not to the pastry chef’s second. For instance: You are…? Where were you born? Where did you work before Armani? And so in the end the picture was complete. Filippo Gozzoli, ex Park Hyatt in Milan, for instance, guides the Milanese staff, Alessandro Salvatico, who was already with us in October at Identità Expo, is at the helm in Dubai while Fabio Bano, ex San Domenico and Gramercy Tavern in New York, is always in Manhattan but at Armani. Finally, there’s Tokyo, handed to Francesco Mazzi, previously at Pinchiorri’s.

And on the second night not only did Giorgio Armani sit with some of his guests, but he also prepared the set for a photo with all four of his chefs, with plenty of info for the following day too. I appreciated all of this very much because it shows intelligence and pragmatism. The double event in Milan is not a one off and so long. It was the first of a tour that will touch each of the four Armani destinations.

Wagyu fillet with finanziera-style morels and white polenta presented in Milan by Fabio Bano, chef at restaurant Armani in New York

Wagyu fillet with finanziera-style morels and white polenta presented in Milan by Fabio Bano, chef at restaurant Armani in New York

The top managers called this A world journey: four chefs from four corners. The next stop will be in late March in Japan when cherry trees will be in blossom. In Dubai in the autumn and in New York in the spring of 2017. Armani must have certainly realised the communicative power of the whole fine dining movement, echoes that in order to be effective need names, stories and faces too. And he didn’t let too much time pass between thoughts and action, just a few hours. After all, if you’re certain your idea is good, why waste time?


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