Hospitality is one of those terms that is loosely thrown around. Many claim they are experts, but very few have something to show for it. So, this begs the question; what is true hospitality?
Well, the term is defined as, “the friendly, generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers.” When it comes to Eatertainment, CEO, Sebastien Jean-Pierre Centner, has been providing an exceptional version of the term for 17+ years and has the celebrity clientele to show for it. Former President Bill Clinton, Brad Pitt, 50 Cent, and Gigi Hadid are just a few of the notable names that rely on Sebastien’s expert advice for everything that hospitality encompasses – from the venue selection to what they will be devouring for dessert.
How does he do it? We interviewed Sebastien on how he got his start in the industry, why he travels to St. Tropez yearly, and of course his impeccable style. Without further ado, let me introduce you all to Sebastien Centner, Toronto’s celebrity host.
What initially sparked your interest in the hospitality industry?
Well, I would say that it all started when my parents first moved to Toronto from Paris. They decided to put some money into a restaurant my uncle started and realized they weren’t getting a return on their investment. As my parents were both economic majors, they decided they would try their hand at the restaurant industry to understand where their money was going. The rest, they say, is history.
Throughout my youth I worked pretty much every job in the restaurant business, from busboy to Kitchen helper, to waiter, bartender, and manager.
On top of that, my mother had always been the ultimate hostess. She never really needed a good reason to throw a dinner party. She was an amazing cook and I was often in charge of helping her set the table and plan out the party. Not a huge surprise that I ended up in the event business.
After a small stint with Apple Inc., I decided to come home to Toronto and decided to fully immerse myself in the family business. In 2001, I resolved that it was time to create my own company and I founded Eatertainment Events & Catering.
It’s crazy to think that we hosted 20 events in our inaugural year – and today, 17 years later, we host over 900 events each year.
Tell us a little bit about your overseas division
JECKL is our international events company. We have hosted some large events for the likes of Red Bull and BMW and spans across Miami, Capetown, Istanbul, San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, and Vienna to name a few!
Were you born in Toronto?
I was born in Toronto, but we travel back to France annually. It was actually my mom’s verbal deal with my father when originally moving to Canada. About 30 years ago, my parents bought a house in St. Tropez and when we were young, we would spend 3 months of the year there. Now that we’ve all grown up, that time has shortened. However, we still make it a habit to visit for 3 weeks in the summer.
What are the three most memorable events you’ve planned?
There are so many!
The BMW M4 launch in Istanbul was definitely one that stands out. It was 2 years of planning, 5 months of events, taking over the Formula One track and planning insane experiences in a country that was on the brink of civil war. It was definitely the most challenging event I have ever done.
One of the most beautiful events I’ve planned was a wedding in Toronto. It was last year for a couple and took place in the brides’ backyard. They had a 1.5 Million dollar budget for approximately 120 people and it took us 4 weeks to build a tent and structure for the event. The family was some of the nicest people I’ve ever worked with and we’ve become very good friends ever since.
The Fashion Cares final gala with Dean and Dan Caten of DSquared² was also another memorable event for a completely different reason. I noticed Dean and Dan chatting with my parents for a good 20 minutes or so and I thought what could they possibly be chatting about? When they finally finished, I asked my parents what the conversation was about and they told me that the design duo were actually busboys in the 80’s for their restaurant! I found it hilarious that they still called my parents Mr. and Mrs. Centner!
What’s your favorite dish?
It’s definitely between a cheeseburger with ketchup and mayo, or foie gras on toast.
Describe your style.
I like dressy elements with a relaxed feel. It’s all about being elegant, but feeling casual.
What initially made you interested in style?
Many people may not know this, but mother owned a children’s clothing store when she lived in Paris. As a boy, I remember my brother and I often wearing blazers and dress shirts. I vividly remember visiting New York with my family at the age of 10 and going out for dinner all dressed up, while people commented on how elegant we looked.
I believe it made me aware that clothes and your personal style can attract people to you and ultimately affect how people perceive you. From that moment on, I knew it was worth putting an effort into creating a style that reflected my personality.
You feel your best when wearing?
A great pair of jeans, a fitted t-shirt, blazer, a great pair of shoes, and of course about a dozen bracelets on both wrists (I basically never take them off).
How do you approach getting dressed every day?
It really all depends on my schedule. If I’m meeting clients, I may dress up more with a shirt and tie. However, if I am planning on being at the office for most the day, then I like dressing in black skinny jeans and some Stan Smith runners.
My finishing piece is always one of my H Hermes belts – I know they are so cliché, but my mom bought me one when I was a teenager before they became trendy and over the years I have built up a collection. About 95% of days, I wear one – I have one for every outfit and it has become one of my signature style items.
What is your sartorial pet peeve and why?
I think the only real fashion faux-pas is trying too hard. I love getting dressed, but I never dwell on various options. I just start getting dressed and hope by the time I am finished I feel good about what I chose. In my opinion, looking like your style is effortless is the key.
Do you have a favourite brand or retailer?
These often change. Right now, I am really loving Zadig & Voltaire – maybe because it’s French and I admire the edginess of the brand, but also the elegance and great fabrics they use. I also like the local brand Miik Men, whom I get t-shirts and cotton jersey jackets from. They’re super comfortable and I can’t stop wearing them! As for shoes, Tod’s are one of my favourites. You also can’t go wrong with a Lanvin suit.
Who or where do you get your style inspiration?
Really, anyone who has their own style that’s similar to mine is what I gravitate towards. Tom Ford is hugely inspirational in everything he’s done and continues to do. Brendan Fallis a local Torontonian who is now a huge DJ out of NYC also has great style. Last, but not least, my wife Sheila has great style and is the only person who’s opinion on style I will actually listen to!