Since 1954, Relais & Châteaux has become the world’s leading association of fine restaurants and hoteliers. Properties must apply for the right to wear the Relais & Châteaux label and are often historic or heritage landmarks such as castles or manors, and are set in some of the most bucolic settings in the world.
It has developed a culinary Grand Chefs division to highlight the restaurants considered to be the most influential and prestigious across the globe, from The French Laundry in the Napa Valley to Eleven Madison Park in New York and Tetsuya’s in Sydney.
At the association’s annual Congress in Berlin in November, 500 restaurateurs and hoteliers voted to elect President Philippe Gombert, owner of the spectacular hotel, Chateau de la Treyne, in France’s Southwest, to lead for the next four years.
A former lawyer with the Paris bar, Philippe Gombert became a hotelier with Relais & Châteaux in 1992 before he was elected director of the French chapter (French Delegate) from 2001 to 2005 and nominated Secretary General by Jaume Tàpies in 2005.
In his acceptance speech, Gombert welcomed a new direction for Relais & Châteaux, with more members, 8 new destinations including Croatia, Latvia, Russia and Turkey, and an extended push into Asia Pacific.
“We want to develop our network all around the world, especially in Asia-Pacific. Asia is for Relais & Châteaux not only a destination market but mainly a source market,” he said.
Although Relais & Châteaux has returned the presidency to its French roots, it has also gestured for more activity in countries in which it has not enjoyed a big presence before.
In doing so, Relais & Châteaux has installed Jaisal Singh, owner of the luxury tented camps Sher Bagh and The Serai in India as one of its Vice Presidents, demonstrating the association’s interest in additional Asian growth.
The organisation has also welcomed 36 extraordinary hotels and Grands Chefs to its annual guide book and website, including a former hunting lodge of the Prussian Kings, Schloss Hotel Yantarny in Russia, a former 13th century Venetian medieval fortress in Croatia called Villa Meneghetti, a converted palace just steps from Marco Polo’s former home that celebrates the Silk Road called Lesic Dimitri Palace and Hotel Bastion Zadar.
There is also a castle in the Chantilly Estate, less than an hour from Paris, the Auberge Jeu de Paume, and the famous Goring Hotel in London, where Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton stayed while she prepared for her royal wedding.
In another first, a South Korean chef was inducted into the exclusive association for the first time, for creating Korean dishes inspired by nature, poetry and art at Si-Wha-Dam in Seoul.
Flowers, herbs and vegetables create a poetic garden on the plate, placed there as by a breath of air.
This harmony of colors pays homage to the paintings of Matisse, and a dessert might, for example, evoke antique blue and white ceramic tiles: an utterly unique experience where art meets fine dining.
Restaurants that earn the Relais & Châteaux designation must reflect a sense of the local, authentic flavors of their country – its culture and its terroir.
For more on Relais & Châteaux’ hotels, restaurants and story, see the 2014 press kit.