On Sharkey's Shelf: "Valentino: At the Emperor's Table"
Being a good host may come naturally to some, but in truth, it's also a lifelong study. As a frequent entertainer, I'm always pushing myself to do things bigger and better. It's all too easy to obsess over details and forget the golden rule of a good party: The host has to have fun, too.
You probably know Valentino Garavani for his stunning red-carpet gowns. His brand epitomizes luxury, style, and craftsmanship -- and so does Valentino himself. The man loves a party, and anyone lucky enough to snag an invite to one of his is in for a treat. I've witnessed the magic firsthand at his Chateau de Wideville, just outside Paris. When a stint in the bathroom line found me waiting between Roman Polanski and Princess Caroline of Monaco, I knew I was in for a memorable night.
I could wax poetic about the flowers. The table. The food! There were craggy towers of fresh bread, mozzarella flown in from Naples -- all honest and joyful and guilt-free in that very Italian way. The whole night was unabashedly decadent and divine, and while effort had clearly been made, there was nothing posed about it. The man simply lives his life that way -- and his spirit is infectious.
Reading this book brings me back to Valentino's table even when I'm not invited. And even as I admire his over-the-top style, I'm reminded that you don't have to have the trappings of an emperor to embrace his celebratory spirit. Instead of fine china and monogrammed goblets, it can be jelly jars filled with sunflowers from the garden, or a cake stand piled high with cherries. It's less about the approach and more about the philosophy behind it: seeking out beauty and creating an experience.
Valentino is an icon. But first (and even more beautifully), he's a man -- a welcoming Italian host who revels in food, flowers, people, and the thrill of bringing them together. There's nothing unrelatable about that -- and anyone who values a life well lived can find something here to love.