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The encounter was as joyous as it was unexpected. Seconds earlier I had been snapping photos of Geneva Airport’s commercial offer (see my next Blog), culminating in the shots below of the outstanding (and I do not use the term lightly) Caviar House & Prunier store, before making the short walk to the same company’s seafood bar, a traditional oasis of calm in a frenzied travel world.
As fate would have it, the Peter in question was none other than Peter Rebeiz, owner of Caviar House & Prunier, in my view the definitive example of the standards that airport food & beverage should not only reach for but sustain over many years.
Caviar House (as it was originally known) was, quite simply, a game-changing pioneer in the long and often torturous process of bringing quality food & beverage to airport travellers.
When the definitive history of airport dining is written – heck, that’s not a bad idea, I may even write it – the breakthrough influence of the original Caviar House Seafood Bar at London Heathrow Airport may well be viewed as the seminal moment that food quality and consumer satisfaction first got a real look in.
I’ve known Peter for 15 years and I enjoyed his good company, internationalist outlook and deep humanity this week every bit as much as I did on our first encounter.
I will never forget Peter’s kindness on the eve of our first-ever Airport Food & Beverage (FAB) Conference & Awards in Manchester in the freezing January of 2011. Three days out of a prolonged and harrowing encounter with chemotherapy and returning to work far too prematurely, I was treated like a son rather than a business acquaintance as I told him (pretty pitifully) how much I was struggling with life let alone getting through the event.
This time around, I met his real son, George, who was barely a teenager last time I saw him during an unforgettable culmination to the 2016 FAB when Peter hosted delegates to the opening night of the Montreux Jazz Festival.
George is a finely cut chip off the old block, welcoming me to the Caviar House & Prunier Seafood Bar with a genuine empathy that you can’t feign (and probably cannot learn) and an already deft professional touch that will serve him well in the years ahead.
I did all this over an impromptu lunch, which was needless to say of impeccable quality and washed down by an excellent Pascal Bouchard Classique Chablis 2020 which displayed all the classic flinty freshness which has made good Chablis one of the loves of my wine life.
I parted company with Peter, George and Emmanuel feeling blessed at my luck this day in bumping into them and reminded once again of why I love doing the job I have done for the past 35 years.