THE OTHER ICONS
Colin Cowie is king when it comes to the world of weddings and events. For those vitally important gatherings where one is as obsessed with the aesthetic and appetizers as they are with the bride and groom, Cowie is the man called upon to create perfection. A regular contributor to NBC’s Today Show, Cowie creates a kind of magic in the room at any event, and manages to perfect every element from the back to the front of the house – a concept we can get on board with. We sat down with this tastemaker for a chat before wedding season, giving you plenty of time to take his comments and tips into account when planning yours. Whether you’re designing your dream wedding, or just feeling long overdue for a real birthday party – look no further.
What would be your ideal food day?
Soft poached eggs and crispy pork sausage with whole wheat toast. No butter, no potatoes.
Wedding food can often get a bad rap; what are the keys to doing it successfully?
Rule of thumb – keep it simple. Use the best ingredients you can afford and do as little to them as possible. Good tasty food is far better than complicated cuisine.
Do you see events as curated experiences? Do you consider yourself the curator of each event you take on?
Great style comes from ruthless editing. Everything I do is very well edited and curated to help me tell a story to the guests.
How do you go about customizing the aesthetic for different events? Or do you generally have the same taste and style for each?
Every event is a different set of circumstances. I use the DNA of the couple as the base foundation. The venue will also dictate much of the style and our décor will help tell the story of the big picture.
What event elements are synonymous with restaurant elements?
There is quite a difference. In most restaurants you have a well oiled machine that serves a particular menu in a particular way and style. With most catered events, it’s a new venue – which could be a tent or a barn – with a new set of circumstances every time.
What event elements are most important to you?
I rely on the senses to guide my design process – what you taste, smell, feel, touch and hear are the tools that I constantly manipulate and enhance to tell a story.
The ultimate party-planning faux pas…
My worst is when the party lags and you are kept waiting. I like things to move. Cocktail hour should last forty-five minutes; by the time you move guests from one space to another, it’s an hour. Dinner should be served in an hour and a half. Then, dance the night away.
The first step towards a successful event…
Dreaming and coming up with the big picture. Once you have a vision, you can cut the cost according to the cloth or use your vision to guide you every step of the way. FYI – it costs nothing to dream!
What one person would you love to organize an event for, that you haven’t yet worked with?
The Presidential inauguration would be up there…
Do you take the story behind the people hosting (whether it be a couple planning a wedding, a woman’s birthday party etc.) into account when designing and organizing an event? How does that story affect the experience of the party?
When I design, it has little to do with me and everything to do with the client. My parties all start with the DNA of the client. I like to understand who they are, what they like and don’t like and then design from the ground up guided by this personal information – which creates an event that is tailored to the host.
Why is it important to see events as experiences?
There is much more to an event than having food, music, flowers and lights. These are basic tools. How we use them and constantly manipulate them allows us to tell a story with a carefully thought out beginning, middle and end.
What do you always put out when hosting your own dinner party?
I am very big on ice. I have different shaped ice cubes, spheres and sticks for different types of cocktails. Music is also very important; I have music playing from the time the first guest arrives to the time the last guest departs.
What do you always bring when attending one?
A fabulous smile, a couple of good stories and a curious mind.
If you could throw a dinner party with any five people, living or dead, who would be there? What would the theme of the night be?
James Bond, Nelson Mandela, Princess Diana, Marilyn Monroe and Lady Gaga!
Cocktails and an intimate dinner cooked by me in my home – something I do regularly but with a different guest list!
*Colin Cowie, photographed in his NYC Office by Danielle Kosann