AT HOME WITH VITA is a monthly interview with artists, designers, and friends who inspire us.This month’s Q&A is with David Prior, founder of PRIOR, a travel club and editorial offering members exclusive customized trips and experiences around the globe. David began his career as the director of communications at Chez Panisse, where he worked closely with Alice Waters. He went on to become a contributing editor at Conde Nast Traveler and Vogue Living and produced numerous stories for T: The New York Times Style Magazine and WSJ to name a few. Now David and his team of editors and designers at PRIOR craft rare and indelible travel experiences, guides, and editorials with curiosity and storytelling at heart.
Describe your entertaining style/aesthetic — what pieces do you gravitate towards? What are your table-setting essentials?
David Prior: Thrown together. I usually pull together both what I find at the market in terms of food and also what I find on my travels or in stores that I particularly like. It is never very ‘designed’.
Did you find yourself “hosting” for yourself or for your family more as a result of the pandemic?
DP:I find myself wanting to host more because I have a new space for exactly that reason. I had a small space pre-pandemic and now a much larger one - I like the idea of bringing friends together. I think that is one lesson and benefit of the pandemic: we’re using all the skills we learned cooking and now sharing them and reconnecting with people. I am excited about that. I used to do it much more before living in New York and I do think you can still do it in smaller spaces, you just have to get a little creative.
Where was the most memorable table setting you’ve ever seen?
DP: A six hundred person dinner for farmers and artisans thrown in front of City Hall in San Francisco for Slow Food Nation in 2008. Brown paper on the tables, enamelware plates, cafe lights strung everywhere. Impossibly chic and incredibly simple. The best things are.
What are your go-to pantry recipes for last-minute meals?
DP: Roast chicken stuffed with lemon and 40 cloves of garlic (sounds like more than it is) and whatever vegetables or salad is in the market.
What are your favorite purveyors or resources for local produce/provisions?
DP: I graze Union Square Farmer’s Market. I used to live right by there and now even though I am quite far I make the trek because I think it is the strongest in the city.
What places are you most excited to visit now that Covid-19 restrictions are loosening?
DP: Like everyone else I am returning to the classics of the city. All the museums, the boisterous restaurants. And even if I was never a real Broadway person I don’t think I’ll take live performance for granted. I am thrilled that restaurants are still spilling onto the streets. I think New York evolves through pain unlike any city in the world and through all this a lot of good will come. Al fresco I think is the by-product.
Are there any causes or institutions that you are passionate about supporting during this ongoing crisis?
DP: ROAR (Restaurants Organizing, Advocating & Rebuilding)
Who has influenced your entertaining style?
DP: My old boss Alice Waters.
Can’t have a party without?
DP: Good olive oil, ice and someone with better taste in music than myself.
Go-to last minute center piece?
DP: I tend to let the food speak for itself and I so often have shared platters so that tends to be it.
Destination dinner party?
DP: There is a fort in India called Ahilya Fort on the Narmada River who I have thrown a couple of parties with. They lit the entire place in candles and served extraordinary thali platters and it is all special and romantic. India is perhaps my favorite place to throw a party and I am thinking about it constantly now. I can’t wait to go back and see my friends there and have dozens of dinners with them. No one throws a party like them. No one.
One or two words to describe your entertaining style?
DP: Light touch and a little loose
To decant or not decant?
Favorite piece to include on your table for summer?
DP: Beautiful water carafes
Tablecloths, placemats, or runners?
DP: A combination depending on the table
Who has kept you inspired this year?
DP: David Attenborough. This and every year.