Lunch with the FT celebrates 18 years
by Chris Roush
Matthew Engel of the Financial Times writes about its popular “Lunch with” series, which interviews business men and women, as well as others, during a meal.
Engel writes, “Obviously if the paper wishes to interview the world’s movers and shakers, it has to do so largely on their terms. If the serving US secretary of defence says he will share coffee at the Pentagon, it is difficult to argue (especially as it was Donald Rumsfeld). And, naturally, cost-control is a corporate objective.
“But there is a purpose in building the series round lunch, and the editor, Lionel Barber, wants to maintain that tradition. ‘Lunch,’ he says, ‘should be done with panache but not indulgence.’ He defines that as ‘excellent food but not vintage wine.’
“A kind of nadir was reached when the self-promoting head of Ryanair insisted on using his office as a venue and treating our then aerospace correspondent, Pilita Clark, like one of his passengers: ‘ ‘Here,’ says Michael O’Leary, shoving something the size of a small grapefruit wrapped in red and white cardboard over the table. ‘Lunch.’ ‘ Yet it made for a revealing encounter. And in 2010 Alec Russell flew out to meet Morgan Tsvangirai, the Zimbabwean prime minister. The menu read as follows: ‘Coke: US$1; Sprite: US$1; Return flight to Harare: £950.’ Interview: priceless.
“Sometimes the free lunches can be the most spectacular. Conductor Sir Simon Rattle cooked shoulder of lamb; American TV host Jay Leno barbecued steaks in his garage (or hangar – it held his 130-strong collection of classic cars). Best of all, the grand dame of American cookery Julia Child, then 85, allowed Victoria Griffith to cook for her – ‘Steak and couscous,’ said Child charmingly, ‘the perfect combination.’”
Read more here.