Westchester’s New Restaurateur
An exclusive interview with the award-winning actor, human rights advocate, and, oh yes, Westchester resident.
Photo by Michael O'Neill
Richard Gere needs no introduction. We all know him as the sexy (“The Sexiest Man Alive,” according to People magazine, 1999) award-winning actor and philanthropist who, when not seen on screen (American Gigolo, Pretty Woman, Internal Affairs, Primal Fear, Chicago…), can be heard advocating for human rights in Tibet. The 59-year-old practicing Buddhist, we know, is an active supporter of the Dalai Lama. How many times have you seen the two photographed together? We might even know that he loves to ride horses. But a restaurateur?
A few years ago, Gere and his wife, actress Carey Lowell, and Pound Ridge resident and developer Russell Hernandez, decided to restore a two-century-plus-old dilapidated building in Bedford Village and turn it into an eco-friendly neighborhood restaurant, café, and inn. A year ago, the Bedford Post’s café, dubbed The Barn, opened to serve seasonal local farm-to-table meals. A few months ago, the restaurant, called The Farmhouse, opened in the same building. (In “Eater,” Westchester Magazine’s dining blog, restaurant reviewer Julia Sexton wrote, “As anyone who has dined at The Barn might expect, the food at The Farmhouse is excellent.”) But why? Why open a restaurant? And why here? We asked Gere and his wife that and more.
The Farmhouse is the high-end American eatery at Richard Gere’s Bedford Post, which also includes a café (The Barn), yoga studio, and eight-suite luxury inn.
Westchester Magazine: What made you want to open a restaurant?
Richard Gere: It was momentary insanity—which we regret every moment. Actually, Carey and I would drive by this well-known building, one of the few buildings that was not burned down by the British during the Revolutionary War. It has a long, long history, and we had watched this building deteriorate over the years. It was in such bad shape; it looked like it would crumble. And it would hurt to see it crumble. Sometimes, we would go horseback riding and, when we’d see the building, play this game, ‘What if?’ ‘What if we took this on?’ ‘What if we could eat here and then ride out?’ ‘What if?’
Carey Lowell: I would say, ‘What if we don’t?’
WM: What was the building used for?
RG: The building housed a restaurant, twenty-something years ago, called Nino’s. Everyone loved Nino’s. The food wasn’t great, but it had a great sense of community.
CL: And a great bar. Then it folded and became something else, and then it was just vacant.
RG: We mentioned our idea to a friend of ours, Russell Hernandez, a father of a kid who went to the same preschool as our child [the couple has a nine-year-old son], and a few days later, he came back and said, ‘It’s actually buyable.’ Carey and I spoke about it. She was more skeptical. I should have listened to her.
WM: Well, I guess you didn’t.
RG: Still, if we were going to do this, we had to make sure the community wanted it. We weren’t doing this to make money. We wanted to have a great restaurant, a place you can ride your horse to, where a community of people who have used their wealth to be of service to the planet could eat and be together.
WM: Did the community want the restaurant?
RG: They did. They started giving us stuff, like the wood from another barn, which we used for lumber. We had twenty dumpsters to just get garbage and refuse out. The place was a dump for car parts, refrigerators, garbage, whatever. All the licenses lapsed—liquor
license, restaurant license.
WM: What did you have in mind for the restaurant?
RG: We had a clear idea of what this should feel like—sophisticated, relaxed, not stiff, like Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California. I filmed in Berkeley and ate at Chez Panisse every night; Alice Waters is a friend of ours.
The 55-seat dining area at The Farmhouse was decorated by Carey Lowell.
WM: Did Alice Waters give you advice?
CL: Yeah, she said, essentially, ‘Good luck, guys.’
WM: What about Chez Panisse did you like so much?
RG: There were lawyers, priests, rabbis, professors—an incredible mix of people dining there. They still believe there that we can perfect this planet. Boston and Berkeley are the only places where people think it is still possible. But here, there are a lot of people in the community with great wealth and talent who still believe this way. It’s the Berkeley feeling that I like, where people have a meal while talking of changing the world. There are visions for this place.
CL: My husband is a dreamer.
RG: It’s not all bad.
CL: I’m more pragmatic. When he begins to dream, my pragmatic side kicks in.
RG: I’m totally impractical.
WM: Yes, restaurants are a lot of work. It must have been difficult to build this.
RG: I think of it a little like childbirth. Not that I’ve ever experienced childbirth. Both restaurants are open now. They’re both great. You forget the pain.
WM: How often are you at the restaurant?
CL: At least once a week, sometimes twice a week.
RG: We’re probably there at least one meal a day.
WM: What do you like to eat at your restaurant?
CL: “I’ve been eating a lot more sweet-
potato fries. That’s what Brian Lewis [The Barn and Farmhouse chef] makes best. I also love the chicken paillard and yellowtail hamachi; it’s really, really good.
RG: The things we don’t like are no longer on the menu.
CL: It’s very selfish. It’s all about what we want to eat.
WM: Are you foodies?
RG: Foodies? Foodies. Is that a rock group? Or is that the Fugees?
WM: I know that you like your privacy, that you don’t want the spotlight on when you’re in Westchester. But the restaurant changes that, no?
RG: It’s interesting. There are so many people that we interact with regularly just living here—the wine merchant, the tree guy, the guy who fixes chairs. They’ve all been in the restaurant. We see them in a different context. Now I feel we’re very much more a part of the community.
WM: Why did you end up in Westchester?
CL: I came here for love.
RG: I had a wonderful lawyer in my mid- thirties who lived out here and I’d come to see him. And I loved it out here. And I thought, Why don’t I live here? So I found this place, and I’ve been here ever since.
WM: What’s your life like in Westchester?
CL: Very dull. We’re parents. We have school obligations.
RG: Our lives are like everyone else’s—normal.
WM: Carey, are you still acting?
RG: No, she is taking care of me.
WM: You’ve been married for six years and have been together for fourteen years. You have a son together. It sounds like a good marriage.
RG: When you have a wife who is so extraordinary, it’s easy. Carey is smarter, funnier, nicer, better than I am. I married up.
CL: Stop it. Isn’t he nice?
WM: Opening and running restaurants are notorious for being very stressful. Are you still friends with your business partner?
RG: We have remained good friends and Carey and I are still married. It’s a miracle.
To read more about the food at the restaurant and for a full review of The Barn, log on to westchestermagazine.com.