Tim Gunn: On Coffee, Dressing for Dinner and His Favorite NYC Restaurants

July 26, 2013
by Kathleen Squires

The world of food and fashion recently collided when Nespresso named Tim Gunn as their new brand ambassador. The Project Runway host and style specialist says he “loves coffee and loves design,” so the partnership fits as well as a custom-made Italian suit. We sat down with Gunn to talk food and style over bites prepared by Iron Chef Marc Forgione…while sipping a few Nespresso coffee martinis, of course.

Zagat: In your role as Nespresso ambassador, have you had a chance to visit any of the big coffee producing countries around the world?
Tim Gunn: Not yet. What I love about the Nespresso brand is that they are sourcing beans from all over the world, but I think I’d love to go to South America, partially because I’ve never been there, and partially because it is such a rich source for coffee beans. 

Zagat: If you could get on a plane right now and enjoy a cup of coffee in a café anywhere in the world, where would you go?
TG: I’d have to say Paris. There’s something about the whole Parisian environment. Everything tastes better there….providing a French person isn’t yelling at you. 
Zagat: Do you feel that people dress appropriately for dining out these days?
TG: No! People have become entirely too casual in this nation.
Zagat: So, how should one dress when dining out at a four-star restaurant? 
TG: For men, at the very least they should wear a sport coat and a tie. Maybe a suit is too high of an expectation. I run into so many men who are quite proud to assert to me that they do not own a suit. And I’m constantly asking, “What about a wedding or a funeral?” And they would answer, “I wouldn’t wear a suit to a wedding or a funeral.” Well, forget about the disrespect that I believe you are showing either to the bridal couple or the deceased and to the deceased’s family, what about your own self-respect? I don’t understand it! As for women, they can certainly wear dress pants--it doesn’t have to be a dress or a skirt--and a lovely top. But for women I always say that you need to have a basic black dress. It should be that go-to item, just in case. 
Zagat: What if you’re just going to the neighborhood bistro? Should there be a dress code for that as well?
TG: Yes, no matter where you are dining I think just looking polished is important. I go to my local bistros wearing jeans and a dress shirt and a blazer. But they are not acid-washed or distressed jeans and everything fits. I always say the key to getting your style right has nothing to do with individual items; it has to do with three elements that need to be in harmony and balance. And the three elements are silhouette, proportion and fit. And when they are in harmony and balance you’ll look great no matter what you are wearing. You can have an extremely expensive wardrobe and if silhouette, proportion and fit are not in order, you are going to look sloppy.
Zagat: When I was a child, my mother would pick out nice clothing for my siblings and me to wear on the airplane when we traveled. Do you think there should be a dress code on an airplane?
TG: God bless your mother! Yes I absolutely think that people should be conscious of how they dress while traveling. I have literally seen people on airplanes wearing pajamas! Literally!  I’m incredulous over the whole thing. I like to say nothing shocks me anymore, but I’m still shockable, I really am.
Zagat: Which chefs do you find particularly stylish?
TG: I am a fan of Tom Colicchio’s style. He always looks polished and he’s a man who is fairly robust, yet his clothes fit him beautifully and he’s very well-tailored.
Zagat: What are some of your favorite New York City restaurants?
TG: I am a big fan of Porterhouse in Columbus Circle; I love Bobby Flay’s Bar Americain; and I love Gotham Bar and Grill down in the Village. Those are my go-to places. And I am lucky to have them. How lucky are we to live here? I don’t go out a lot, because I like nesting and being at home and cooking. But when New Yorkers do dine out, how lucky are we to have all of these incredible choices?