5 mn with… Ben Towill and Phil Winser

Profession: Partners of Silkstone

Who are you guys?

Ben Towill, 26: I started my career as a chef in the kitchen’s of Raymond Blanc (of Le Manoir Aux Quatre Saisons) at the age of 16, working daily side by side with him.  From there I went on to Rick Stein’s in Cornwall where I learnt everything possible about seafood, how to fish for it, prepare in and cook it! Gordon Ramsay’s empire was my next step, first in London then New York where I was picked to head up a team at his new restaurant and then personally accompany Gordon on his Nationwide TV tour for Gordon’s Kitchen Nightmares.  Once in New York I opened the popular restaurant – the Kingswood and a year later left to start Silkstone with Phil.

Phil Winser, 25:  I’m a Event Planner and Designer for Silkstone. I have trained in the hospitality industry since I was 14, with one of my first events being at the British Royal Palace I have experienced the highest echelon of service. Their attention to detail and unmistakable perfection inspired me to enter into the hospitality industry. I spent a considerable time with London’s finest event planners – Admiral Crichton Events and Catering – putting on huge production events all over the world.  I also worked at Party Ingredients where I learnt the highest level of planning, management and service through high profile events at locations such as the British Royal Palace.

How or why did you decide to work in the food industry?

Ben: I grew up in-between British Countryside and Coast, where I developed a real understanding of what it takes to produce and source ingredients that not only taste of the highest quality but are produced with integrity and passion.  My family have also been macrobiotic for years, which has been a great influence and inspiration in my cooking and approach to food.

Phil: Coming from a family who’s life (work and play) has been centered around looking into the worlds geography and ecology, I have always been passionate about building a sustainable future. I have also always loved food and in particular the fact that it brings together everyone and provides a great platform for great conversations and even better times.  I have always sourced my food locally (ideally growing it from home) so have realized and enjoyed the benefits of this using local or homegrown quality produce for cooking for a long time. Design is another major part of my life, having followed restaurant, hotel and bar design especially closely my whole life.

When was Silkstone born and what is the concept?

Silkstone officially started in October 2008, but we first thought of it together at school at the age of 16. Silkstone is committed to delivering creative, innovative and sustainable food, lifestyle and design concepts, focused on events, restaurants and developing brands through unique experiences. It is born from the notion that there are two essential ingredients to the service industry:  The stone represents the intensive labor, integrity and commitment, and the silk reflects the creativity, innovation and elegance in which this is presented.

Do you just do large events for private clients or companies or do you do small dinner parties too?

As a comprehensive event planning, design, production and company we look after every aspect to an event, including the catering but do also love being part of the intimate surroundings of a small dinner party too.

Ben, tell me a bit about Silkstone menus.

For our events and catering company we approach every event individually, continually looking for the most seasonal, fresh ingredients.  The journey of farm to plate and the integrity of the ingredients are key to us so we are consistently in touch with our suppliers to get an understanding on how their produce is that very week.  We listen to the clients ideas and try and expand it further, referencing it throughout the food, drink and cocktail offerings but always keeping it true to Silkstone offering balanced, light fresh, intensely flavorful bites. A typical Silkstone meal would be:

Start off party with a cocktail of elderflower, cucumber, and lemongrass vodka, along with a few light bites such as lobster ceviche with passion fruit curd and threads of crispy ginger.  

Then we would move on to the shared dishes passed around communal tables using seasonal ingredients. For example: crisp market vegetables with anchovy and chili dressing.   A salad of sugar snap peas, mint, balsamic caramelized spring onions, pea shoots and baby lettuces all sourced from the nearby Yuno’s farm. A beetroot and Swiss chard crumble that is a savory take on a classic with clothbound cheddar, oats and hazelnuts.  Also as whole grains are such an important part of our menus we would include bulgur wheat tabouleh with kale and blue foot mushrooms.

To finish, it would have to be a berry and pistachio Eton mess (meringue and fresh whipped cream) served in mason jars.

This industry is very challenging in a city like NY, there are so many great restaurants and chefs… what’s the key to success?

Personal service and attention to detail, hard-working happy staff and passionate owners. Simplicity and quality throughout – the food, the design, the service.

Where would you recommend to go food shopping in the city?

Great food shopping can be found all over the city but my one of the most easily accessible places for fresh and quality food can be found at Union square market first thing in the morning. Also the fish market in the Bronx is fantastic for the freshest, flavour-filled and cost-effective fish – but be prepared for a 2am start!  Finally the Essex street market always has some great local producers all year round.

What does a city like NY bring to you?

Ben:  For me, NY is a great place because it is so full of opportunity and life which is not only very beneficial for a start-up company but really inspiring and positive.

Phil: The energy, I feel that anything is possible here and there is always something fun to do.

What is your idea of a perfect day in NY?

Ben: My perfect day would consist of getting up early on a Sunday, its amazingly peaceful as no one in the city is awake! Take the world with the Sunday newspapers (and girly magazines!), maybe heading out for bike ride over to Brooklyn for a wander around the flea market to sample some local delights then as the sun comes down heading back to the city for some rooftop cocktails.

Phil: When I have a bit of a headache – I love to walk around downtown New York, visiting the Russian baths, then heading  to Souen or Japanese for some healthy, light and delicious dinner and then maybe rounding off with a night at the movies – in the summer ideally an open air rooftop cinema. But Its quite fun getting the headaches as well – as they are usually from my great friends bar Apotheke in China Town!

What is your favorite place in the city?

Ben: Visiting Roberta’s in Bushwick for some locally sourced, family style food.  I love the open fire pit outside too!

Phil: The Russian baths on 10th Street is my favorite place and I love hosting a dinner party.

What’s next? Any project?

We have several very fun and quirky weddings in Hamptons coming up which will be great as well as a series of events with a luxury brand (but just in negotiations so can’t reveal the name as yet!)

Also Silkstone have recently been appointed exclusive partners with one of New York’s premiere event spaces – Stephen Weiss studios. A great venue that has had everyone from Def Jam to the Dalai Lama come play & talk. The event space has been developed by Donna Karan whose core principles on design and sustainable, healthy eating marry seamlessly with ours, providing the perfect platform for some great events in 2010!

Lastly, but definitely not least we are building out our restaurant in the lower east side which is due to open in June!  It will be serving modern seasonal British cuisine, which is healthy but still innovative and creatively presented.

Silkstone offices are located 17 Orchard Street, 2nd floor. Tel: 1.646.861.1545. For more info check their Website

5mn with… Pierre Frey

Profession: President of Pierre FREY US 

Tell us a bit about Pierre FREY, the company.

My grand father, Pierre Frey, founded the company in 1935. We create and manufacture fabrics and wallpapers in the purest French tradition. The company includes not only Pierre FREY designs but also collections from three other prestigious brands: Braquenie, Boussac and Fadini-Borghi.

We are very attuned to the modern world, which has led to the creation of stunning home accessories and furniture (sofas, carpets, lamps, cushions, perfumed candles…) to complement our fabrics.

This year, we are very proud to celebrate the 75th anniversary of our company that is still 100% family owned.

What about you Pierre?

I’m French, 33 years old and I am in charge of Pierre FREY America. Although my early years were spent living and studying in Paris, we traveled extensively with my family -frequently to the US… Summer camp in Maine & New Hampshire, was a ritual… I was raising the flag, playing lacrosse and sleeping in tents…

My work is dedicated to our family company, Pierre FREY, and I travel a lot around the country to find new clients/agents, change our distribution in some territory or try to explain our “savoir faire” to the industry. I feel so lucky to work in such an aesthetic industry and be always surrounded by beautiful products… 

How did you get into Interior Design?

I was born in it! From the first day of my life my father took me to every event; I was even part of the advertising campaign for the Pierre FREY kids’ collection. It made sense to me to continue my career in this industry, as it became my passion very early.

I started my early years at Pierre FREY, learning the process of weaving and printing in factories- they are real artisans… Then I spent a lot of time working with our clients, spending a few month working in a workshop where furniture and curtains are manufactured and finally I worked with interior designers for a better understanding of the general process and that was fascinating…

Who’s your favorite interior designers?

My taste is very eclectic; my home is a mix of 50’s furniture, traditional fabrics, ethnic objects and modern pictures. My favorite interior designers are Alberto Pinto in Paris for his Moroccan and French origins that create an amazing mix, Thierry Despont in New York for his American influences mixed with French origins and David Hicks for his colors and patterns inspired by England in the 60’s and 70’s.

If you had one tip to give to people for a cozy interior what would it be?

For modern environments, add a touch of textile to add warmth, like red velvet cushions for example.   Many sources of lighting really give an amazing atmosphere to a room as well compared to lights from the ceiling.

Are there any fall trends?

With this downturn of the economy, people entertain more at home and are definitely trying to keep their living space more welcoming. Minimalism is giving way to colors, textiles, comfortable furniture and multiple sources of lighting.

What does a city like NY bring to you?

I find inspiration in the creativity, people, and mixed origins of New York. 

What is your favorite place or thing to do in the city?

Hanging around Nolita, my neighborhood, discovering new restaurants, galleries, stores, bumping into random people…

What is your favorite interior design shop in NY?

I have many but if I had to go over my favorite stores in one day, I would go to De Vera, John Derian, Todd Merill and Paul Rubenstein- all in Nolita and Soho.

What’s your favorite Hotel?

Crosby Street Hotel that just opened and is owned by the Firmsdale group, another family owned company. One of the owners, Kit Kemp, is the interior designer and is terribly talented. She mixes colors and objects like nobody else and used Pierre Frey in much of the hotel. It is very cozy and you really feel at home the second you enter. The service is outstanding, the bar is not as loud as they all are in New York and they serve original drinks.

And Restaurant?

I just discovered Hotel Griffou, which recently opened. The decor draws on the space’s 19th-century golden days; with a dash of French salon style thrown in and the service and food are fabulous. I am also a regular at Omen and at the Standard Grill.

What’s next? Any projects?

Our dream would be to open our own Pierre FREY boutique hotel, but that might be a little early. You’d be able to purchase everything, from the restaurant’s plates to the curtains, the furniture etc… For now, we’re busy celebrating our 75th anniversary and we also launched a new tool, an online store where lots of our products (candles, lamps, throws, cushions…) can be purchased from around the world.

Pierre FREY is located 979 Third Avenue  bet 58th and 59th street. Tel: 1 212 421 0534
Click here to visit their website

5 mn with… Yann Vasnier

Profession: Perfumer

Who are you Yann?

I’m 33 years old and I come from Brittany, France. I’m a perfumer for Givaudan in New York. I started my career 13 years ago at Quest International in Paris as a trainee perfumer, under the mentoring of Francoise Caron and studied at the same time at ISIPCA, the perfumery school at the University in Versailles.

Why and when did you decide to make perfumes?  

I grew up in a family that is passionate about gardening and spends a lot of time taking care of roses, trees, and many other flowers. My oldest brother studied botany and after graduation became a landscape architect. We’d all follow him throughout France and Europe to visit the most famous gardens. Since age 13, I’d spend all my money on fragrances, buying all the new scents and starting my collection of Chanel. I was obsessed, and still am, by Chanel. The brand, the person, the crafts and Karl! When in St Malo and Dinard I’d visit the Divine perfumeries, especially Yvon Mouchel, because he was the only one who had all the niche fragrances of the day: Camille Goutal, Serge Lutens…We became friends and I created six fragrances, the first one in 2002, called l’Homme de Coeur.

Could you take us through the perfume creation process?

Everything originates from the inspiration we receive from the client, it can be a story, images, music, colors, anything that will help us create the fragrance that represents their brand. After we speak about the inspiration, I go to my computer and create the first trials combining and mixing different types of ingredients. These then go through the lab and are compounded and put into alcohol. Next I smell the first perfume samples with a person we call an evaluator- the evaluator specializes in specific brands and is very focused on the client and their taste- they help the perfumer fine tune the first offering to the client. After we make our first proposal to the client there is a lot of back and forth and we work to improve the fragrance with each new iteration.  It is a very intense and competitive process. We are in competition both inside and outside the company. In the final stage, the final fragrances from all the houses are compared against each other and usually there is a consumer testing that decides the winner.

How do you find the perfect scent to suit one person?

I love making fragrances for friends; it’s such a breath of fresh air to be liberated from the commercial considerations. I usually ask what fragrances they wear or have worn in the past to discover a pattern in their taste and then we talk about their favorite foods, colors, places music etc. Once I have the picture in my mind all that’s left is to get amazing ingredients and distill this image into the perfect scent.

 If you could do a perfume for someone, who would it be?

Hmmm…anyone with an interesting story to tell, the Obamas, Catherine Deneuve, Rania Of Jordan, Peter Beard, the Schnabels, Kanye West, Karl Lagerfeld…

What does a city like NY brings to you?

Lots of energy and so many opportunities to meet exceptional people. Working in NYC is so different than working in Paris.

What is your favorite place in the city?

I love the 18th floor at the standard, the Boom Boom Room, love the room, the view, the fun crowd. I love my apartment in Chelsea, perfect in winter with the fireplace, great in summer with the terrace! I love walking around Chelsea, west village, the Hudson, Soho, Nolita- so inspiring!

 What’s next? Any project?

Always a ton of projects to work on, big ones, small ones.

5 mn with… Nina Freudenberger

Profession: Interior Designer

Who are you? 

I was born in Munich, Germany, and moved to the US with my parents when I was quite young.  I went to RISD (Rhode Island School of Design) for architecture, and after college, I was offered a great position at an interior design company in NYC. Three years ago I opened Haus Interior, an interior design company. In late June of this year, I opened my first retail boutique, featuring interior décor products in Nolita.

How did you fall into Interior Design?

While I had a wonderful time studying architecture, the position I was offered was in the interior-decorating field. I love everything about it, specifically the fast pace and working so closely with my sophisticated clients.

When did you decide to create your own company?

The “business” side to any design field always fascinated me and I wanted to really dive into that side of the interior-decorating world. I also found that I was interested in not only working on high-end design projects but also mixing hi/lo design, and with this concept I opened Haus Interior on my own.

You opened Haus Interior last June, what is the concept?

I think that interior design/décor has become much more accessible now then in the past. My clients are sophisticated and know a lot about design, mostly through the introduction of so many design blogs and publications. I think although there are some affordable home décor store, there is still a gap in the market, and as a firm believer that beautiful design does not need to be expensive, I opened Haus Interior to prove just that.

Who’s your favorite designer or interior designer?

I love David Hicks – his incredible ability to layer patterned materials is so fascinating to me.

If you had one for a cozy interior what would it be?

I think that layering patterns and prints is one really simple way to make things feel much more comfortable. Don’t be afraid to experiment, every home should represent yourself and your style and doesn’t need to look like it’s on the cover of Architectural Digest.

Are there any fall trends?

 I think that people are really looking towards pieces that have a timeless quality but with a level of quality. Whether it’d be the 100% woven cotton throw or eco-linen towels, I think that people are interested buying something they will keep in their home for a while.

What does a city like NY brings to you?

 The city brings an incredible energy of constant forward motion, progress and innovation. Even something as simple/common as taking note of the fashion style on the streets can be inspiring.


What is your favorite interior design store in NY?

 I love John Derian, Abingdon 12 and Flair in Soho.

What is your favorite place in the city?

My store, of course! But I love so many places, its hard to name them all  – eating lunch at the Modern or walking around Tribeca, going to the farmers market in the West Village or shopping at the flea market in Chelsea – these are just a few!

What’s next?

Hopefully opening another store, whether it be in the states or abroad!

Haus Interior is located 250 Elizabeth Street in NY. Tel: 1 212 741 0455
Visit their website for more information.


I wish I was a man…

FSCBARBER14… just to go get pampered at FSC Barber in West Village. This traditional-looking barbershop should make any women a tiny bit jealous… For one, every stylist and ‘Master Barber’ -love this title ;-)- is stylish and good looking.  And the  décor makes you feel like you’re on a movie set: vintage barber chairs, salvaged antique oak floors, product lines in retro packaging. Barber Shop productsCoziness, comfort and relaxation- send your man there ASAP!

FSC Barber: 5Horatio Street. Tel: 1 212 929 39 17.
Click here for their website

A little piece of Heaven below the skyscrapers

Financier-singleLet’s be honest, Midtown isn’t exactly the most exciting part of the city, is it? Working there and eating the same tasteless meal day after day is kind of depressing… that is until you find paradise: Financier.

This delicious Patisserie was named after the famous French cookie (rich almond cake, baked in the shape of a gold bar)

and also because their first shop was located in the Financial District. It’ll ravish all the foodies and anyone dying for a heart-warming delicacy. Financiers, madeleines, macaroons, éclairs au chocolat…  you won’t resist!

Cranberry and Pumpk#19F6C0BFinancier midtown: 1211 Sixth Avenue @ 48th St. Tel: 212 381 4418. For more information on their locations, menu or catering check their Website

Spruce’s flowers

florist-detNY butterfly loves to flutter above Spruce’s Flowers in Chelsea. Lavender, little trees of potted thyme, roses… it’s like a trip to Provence 😉

The staff is charming and the prices fit any budget. Great spot to find a gift, whether it’s for a big occasion or just to make a sweet gesture.

Spruce: 222 Eight avenue. (bet 21st and 22nd st). tel: 1212 414 0588 . Visit the website for more info