After a storied career as a chef, including stints working at Le Cirque, for the royal family of Greece, and on the world’s megayachts, Benjamin Vaschetti pivoted to deploying his career-long connections in a different way: founding his namesake Manhattan firm with his wife, Natalia, last year. Their luxury lifestyle concierge service, Maison Benjamin, handles property management, small-scale catering, travel booking, and even personal shopping for an elite group of globe-trotting VIPs in the Hamptons, Miami and New York City.
Vaschetti is an avowed air warrior, logging up to 250,000 miles a year pre-pandemic. For long-haul travel, Singapore Airlines is his No. 1 airline: “The entertainment on board is just state of the art compared to any other,” he says. On his weekly trips to Miami and frequent returns to Paris, he’s adjusted his in-flight outfit—just a double mask now after ditching the plastic gloves he wore at the outset—and his pre-flight routine, waiting in a quiet corner of the lounge and boarding as late as he can to stay away from terminal crowds.
Here are some other tips he’s picked up during his frequent globe-trots.
Why you should always bring the bubbly.
I'm from France, so champagne is a big part of my heart. You never know when you’ll have a special moment that calls for celebration, so I always take a bottle of Billecart-Salmon Champagne with me. I prefer the brut rosé. I believe whenever you go to a new destination, especially if you're on vacation, then there is always something to discover. It creates a moment wherever you might be—you’ll always remember popping the bottle on a safari trip to Kenya or at the top of Mount Fuji. One time, my friend and I put a whole case of six bottles in a suitcase, so we only had champagne in there. But even at altitude it never exploded.
I have a soft case from Veuve Clicquot—not my preferred champagne, but it’s the only that has made such a case. It folds up easily, and it keeps the bottle chilled as well as protecting it.
The best travel memories are ones you can recreate at home.
I always pack an “inspiration” book and suggest others should, too—a pocket-size notebook to quickly jot down new products or flavours, wine pairings. It’s like a little piece of gold to me. Whenever I go to a new restaurant, whether I’m in South America or Asia, I try to guess what’s in the recipe, and then reproduce it at home using different ingredients—then you’re always coming up with new dishes.
This one time, I went to Acapulco in Mexico, to this one little restaurant by the bay. Nothing to do with Michelin stars, but they served us a grilled fish that was marinated in something. I couldn't quite guess what it was, but I tried to come up with the same thing when I got home. Now we call it the “Acapulco marinade.” I came pretty close to what we were served there. Every time I make it, it transports me back to that destination. It’s something you can feel, you understand?
For the ultimate tropical paradise you’ll want to go island-hopping in Africa.
Nosy Be, off the north coast of Madagascar: Think of Costa Rica being an island, that’s how I can describe it. It’s the ultimate remote experience to relax, enjoy water sports, snorkel, and scuba dive to discover strange and wonderful creatures, and go island-hopping. I’d definitely recommend watching the sunset at the now extinct volcano Mont Passot, too. You can’t find more fresh and flavorful seafood anywhere else. The prawns and crabs are some of the best I’ve had in the world.
A short boat ride away is Nosy Iranja, made up of two paradise-on-earth islands that are joined by a narrow strip of white sand and surrounded by turquoise waters. The lush coconut palms and tropical flowers are an Instagrammer’s dream. The south of the island is an important breeding reserve for hawksbill turtles and attracts rare species of birds. The best time to go is from November to March, and you should stay at Home the Residence. I recommend it for its beachfront retreat with private pool surrounded by turquoise waters with the best spots for snorkeling and the ultimate proximity to nature with its tropical flowers and wonderful creatures.
The best street food in the world is about more than mere eating.
Street food is all about the whole family, everyone participates in making your lunch or dinner, whatever it might be. The best is in Bangkok or Mexico City. In Mexico, grandma can be making your tacos, or the dough for the tortillas, the daughter might be frying the things to put inside, and then the boy behind is doing your side of guacamole. You get to meet the whole family basically just by waiting to eat, whether it’s two o’clock in the morning or in the afternoon. For carnitas, go to La Reina de la Roma and for tacos al pastor to El Huequito. You sit on those wiggly plastic chairs, and you don't know if you're going to fall or not, but it’s nice.
Avoid this mistake when visiting France’s most famous wine region.
The main thing people do when they want to go to Champagne is take a one-day trip from Paris. It isn’t enough. If you go there, spend four to five days visiting as many wineries as possible. Gosset is the oldest wine house there, and I love the Grand blanc de blancs. Deutz is very good—Amour de Deutz rosé is my favorite cuvée—and the boutique Champagne domaine Savart produces only about 2,500 cases per year. Rent a car to get around, or just use a car service.
Stay at this hotel for the ultimate Spanish indulgence.
My favorite hotel is the Madrid Four Seasons. I’ve always loved it for the top-notch service, and its rooftop pool and terrace overlooking the city centre while eating some pinchos. How can I say? You’re right on the edge, and then you’re just above Madrid basically. While staying in this hotel, I like to indulge myself with a treatment at the spa. It’s one of the most amazing I have ever been to.
Where passionate cyclists should plan to do their very own Tour de France—or at least take in the view.
My favorite view is Mont Ventoux, the highest peak in Provence, at a little bit more than 6,000ft high. We call it the bald mountain. Near the top because of the high wind—the mistral in the south of France—there are no trees. It’s the first mountain which is the beginning of the Alps. I have climbed it many times by bike, and believe me, it’s pretty tough.
There are three ways, from three towns: one is from Malaucène, one from Bédoin, and another called Sault. The different routes to the summit have different profiles: The hardest one leaves from Bédoin, and the easiest is from Sault. I know some very good riders who do all three routes in the same day, which is, like, wow. Not everyone can do that. The base of the mountain is surrounded by lavender fields, with a lot of honey production. Or go to Avignon, on the famous bridge there, for the best view. Stay at hotel La Mirande, a beautiful mansion hotel right at the foot of the Pope’s Palace.