Michelin three-star chef Alain Passard is so particular about the vegetables he serves at his restaurant L'Arpege that he grows his own on a farm 90 minutes outside of Paris, and has them delivered by train each morning.
Delivery by hot-air balloon would have made more sense when Passard prepared a special dinner party in the sky — literally — with guests dangling above the stunning Cathedrale d'Amiens.
Passard is just one of the big-name toques to cook aboard Dinner in the Sky — the movable restaurant famous for "elevating" the dining experience courtesy of a giant crane and sophisticated German engineering.
Though David Ghysels, the Belgian creator of this lofty dining concept, would not reveal the cost of the private party featuring Passard, he says the same type of event — a star chef cooking above a famous U.S. landmark like the Grand Canyon or Niagara Falls — would cost anywhere between $50,000 and $100,000.
"People of means want to live extraordinary things," says Ghysels. "They want to be able to tell their friends that they have done something incredible, unique." Though Ghysels says he founded Dinner in the Sky to provide a dramatic venue to showcase some of the dynamic young talent in European kitchens these days, he admits that, among the very wealthy, it certainly plays into a need and desire "to play out their lives in a very public way."
Experts on extravagance
Ghysels has orchestrated over 500 aerial events and any one of his Dinners in the Sky would make our list of the world's 11 most extravagant and lavish dining experiences. To complete the list, we tapped luxury experts such as concierges and travel consultants, and culled luxury blogs and newspaper headlines to come up with a list of dining experiences deemed exclusive by virtue of their exorbitant price or their limited access.
Predictably, capitals of excess Las Vegas and New York both make the list. In two cases in particular, it's not about the normal experience offered — but the extras diners can chose to make their meals that much more special.
The eight-course tasting menu ($205) at Michelin three-star spot Daniel won't break the bank compared to other high-end Manhattan eateries, but it doesn't take much to catapult the check into the stratosphere. Care for some Champagne and caviar in the lounge before dinner? Fifty grams of Boulud's private-label Caspian Sea Golden Ossetra caviar goes for $860.
No less delicious is the famous $5,000 Fleur Burger at chef Hubert Keller's Burger Bar in the Mandalay Bay resort in Las Vegas. This burger contains Kobe beef, truffles and foie gras, but the real cost comes with the concoction's accompaniment: a bottle of 1995 Chateau Petrus from Bordeaux.
It's one of the most highly coveted wines among collectors--and also happens to be very tasty when uncorked alongside a top-notch burger.
Why? Because they can
Doug Turner, the founder of millionairesconcierge.com, says among the very wealthy, often it's "the getting there" that's just as important as the destination. The helicopter trips he arranges for sunset dinners at Little Palm Island in the Florida keys — $7,800 for two, and that doesn't include the dinner itself — is a good example.
But if that's too much trouble, resort chef Louis Pous will make a house call. For $10,000 (for up to 10 people) plus travel costs, the chef and his staff of two will fly anywhere in the country to prepare a private meal.
If an exclusive location is a must, try a romantic picnic on Macaroni Beach on Mustique Island. The main way to gain access to Mustique is to rent one of the grandiose villas on the island — even Mick Jagger's — for anywhere between $5,000 and $55,000 a week.
For those with a little extra cash after all this, not to mention a sweet tooth to satisfy, the $1,000 Sultan's Golden Cake at the Ciragan Palace Kempinski Hotel in Istanbul takes the cake. Ingredients include vanilla bean from French Polynesia, fruits soaked in top-shelf Jamaican rum, and, in lieu of frosting, a glaze of 24-karat edible gold.
That's baking with bling.