Charles in Charge

It's been a busy sabbatical," says Charles Masson with a laugh. He's not kidding. Since he stopped devoting his full-time attention to La Grenouille, just over a year ago, Masson has been painting, running a catering business, and working with Robert...

"I'm sure she wishes we were able to work together. It would be easier for me to be conventional -- be a good boy." He sighs. "But it would not be productive. People interpret that as animosity, but it's not true. Sure there have been arguments, who doesn't? But I don't hate him; I love him, he's my brother. It's just very hard to be second fiddle; it's very awkward."

Many of La Grenouille's best customers, among them Brooke Astor, Pat Buckley, Oscar de la Renta and Bill Blass, have stayed faithful to Charles as a caterer and friend. "They have been very, very kind to me. When I left the restaurant, they called me -- high-profile people -- which made me feel it was an authentic friendship."

His friends will soon have another reason to voice support -- Masson is planning another restaurant, but apart from revealing it will be on the Upper East Side, he's doesn't want to jinx it by letting on too much. "It will be like home -- I want people to feel like they can just drop in. Elegance through simplicity." What he'd really like is to indulge his favorite cuisine -- Moroccan. But he doesn't think the time is right.

"No, no -- if you say the word 'Moroccan,' people freak out -- they will say Charles has gone off his rocker. It's better to say nothing."


"Flowers bring to any room -- even a prison cell -- life."

That's Charles Masson's credo, and following are his hints on getting started.

"DO buy flowers. It sounds stupid, I know, but it should be a ritual. Maybe not every day, but as often as you buy vegetables. Start with a few, and then see how much it grows on you."

"DON'T buy too many different kinds of flowers -- you lose the emphasis of the flower and get into the more stylized aspect. Just have fun with them. When making a bouquet, you crisscross the stems like a bird's nest. All you need is a glass, some water, and a sharp knife."
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