With resumes that include the studios of Christian Liaigre and Philippe Starck, it's no wonder that Patrick Gilles and Dorothée Boissier are making a name for themselves in the restaurant world. Since joining forces in 2004 to create Parisian firm Gilles & Boissier, they have built an international portfolio of impressive restaurants with bold, dramatic designs, from the Michelin starred Troisgros in France and Buddakan for Stephen Starr, to multiple outlets of Hakkasan in Istanbul, Abu Dhabi, and Miami. Here, the duo discuss—sometimes in unison, sometimes singularly—what they learned from some of the industry's greats, why confidence is key, and the importance of being a customer.
What do you love about designing restaurants?
Designing restaurants is inventing a new story, fantasy each time.
What restaurants that you didn’t design do you love for their design?
Balthazar in New York's Soho: it’s better than the French brasserie. The Standard Grill in the Standard hotel in New York. And Harry's Bar in Venice.
Did you always know you wanted to be a designer?
DB: I wanted to be a ballet dancer, then a scientist, and finally an artist!
PG: Since I was very little, I was attracted by the arts, cinema, music. I drew [from a young age] and I could not imagine doing something else
Why did you two decide to partner up?
We met in Christian Liaigre's office and I knew from the beginning that we would do something together but we had to first get experience on our own, hence my decision to quit Christian's office [and go work for] Philippe Starck.
What did you learn from Liaigre? From Starck?
Patrick learned from Liagre office elegance, custom design details, and exquisite natural materials. I learned from Starck generosity, humor, and intelligence.
What's the secret to a great partnership?
A total confidence, a deep respect, and a light ego.
Tell us about your office.
Our office is located in the center of Paris in a beautiful old apartment in a Haussmann building. It a big space, full of molding, high ceilings, beautiful glass doors, old handles, and a 'Versailles' wooden floor. This classic base is mixed with black and white pictures, raw walnut furniture, and old portraits.
What's the most important thing to remember when designing a restaurant?
To be the customer and virtually evolve into the space—and feel!
Talk about one recent restaurant project that you loved.
Our next restaurant to open will be in Bal Harbor, Florida, in March and will be called Makoto. First, we love our relationship with Stephen Starr (we did Buddakan and Steak 954). Then, we were impressed by the personality of the architecture of the mall of Bal Harbor. And it is a Japanese restaurant. We wanted to have a mix of Kyoto, cherry blossom trees, lollipop, and the Japanese sea. The sea will be expressed by a [more than] 60-foot-long fresco done by Cyprien Chabert, a French painter, as a strong current.
You have many repeat clients like Starr. What's the key to a great client relationship?
Respect, confidence, and an easy communication.
And now hotel partners are next on your list?
With Ian Schrager, it was the beginning of a very exciting story. We had the chance to develop the restaurant with him and Alan Yau In the Gramercy Park Hotel. After that, he asked us to think of a new 3-Star hotel in downtown Miami. We developed with him the idea of a chic cabana. I think the concept was great but unfortunately the project was then cancelled. We also worked on a W hotel in Shanghai, 400 rooms, and then the crisis of 2008 arrived.
What's your dream project?
A small hotel on a beach or into the mountains—something that's very secluded.
When you are not at work, where can we find you?
With our children at home or alone together walking in the streets of New York.
What's next for you?
Our first architecture in Tunisia and Hakkasans in Dubai and in Mumbai.
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Source: Hospitality Design
(Pictured from top left: Patrick Gilles and Dorothée Boissier, photo by Patrick Swirc; Artcurial, Paris, photo by Anne Sinkovska; La Villa, Paris, photo by Eric Laignel; Mini Palais, Paris, photo by Romain Ricard for Elle Decoration; Hakkasan, Miami, photo by Eric Laignel)