Didier Souillat

Dishing With…”Pláticas y Platillos”

It’s not often that I get a chance to grab lunch and talk shop with an individual as well versed in gastronomy and as well-traveled as Didier Souillat—CEO of Time Out Market. And by well-traveled I mean he just arrived into town after spending three days in the South of France, previous to that was a day in London, and tomorrow he leaves for the Chicago opening of Time Out Market. But this is par for the course when you’ve worked with such distinguished brands as Hakkasan, Selfridges and Harrods, and your intention is now the global expansion of Time Out Market. I order a fantastic tuna and salmon bowl from Wabi Sabi by Shuji and Didier grabs a pastrami brisket from Chef Michael Beltran’s Leña while we dish at Time Out Market. Side note: I snatch bites from his plate when he’s not looking. Don’t tell a soul. 

You’ve been in this biz for so long, is this what you wanted to pursue as a kid? If not, what was the profession you imagined yourself doing as an adult?

My parents taught French in Morocco, Ireland, Venezuela and Hong Kong, so traveling and working across different countries has always been part of my life—and hospitality is a great way to do just that. So when I was 14, I decided that a hotel management school in Switzerland was the best vehicle to do exactly what I wanted, which was traveling and eating my way through this world.

In your line of business, you have access to so much fabulous gastronomy. What is your go-to comfort food?

For many years, I lived in Japan and during that time my go-to comfort food became, and still is, tonkotsu ramen, enjoyed with a cold Japanese beer.

What’s the one restaurant, or hotel, that was the most arduous to get off the ground but you are proud of being involved in (aside from Time Out Market)?

All roads lead to Time Out Market, but to get there you have to have worked through hospitality, real estate, brand building, construction, international development and more. The only brand that gave me that experience before Time Out Market was Hakkasan where I spent six years working on the global expansion of the restaurant brand.

Food halls are the craze right now in the U.S., what’s so special about yours?

Everything! Time Out Market is unlike anything else—it’s nothing less than the world’s first food and cultural market based on editorial curation. That means that our local Time Out journalists test and taste the best of the city and then we select the very, very best to join us. We want it to be a place where you get a true taste of the city in [a] beautifully designed space with a communal atmosphere and where everything is affordable. I like to call it the democratization of fine dining.

This is my “must include” question for every Dishing With: you get to throw a dinner party with celebrities (famous or infamous—dead or alive), which TWO chefs would make the meal, and which FOUR guests would sit at your dinner table?

Georges Blanc for the classic French execution with the most amazing product; and for the dessert, Pierre Hermé. If you feel full but happy at the end of the meal, at least you’ll know why. I would invite for dinner: Natalie Wood, Dmitri Shostakovich, Claude Monet and Gustave Flaubert—they all excelled in their art.

What’s the best part of the profession you are in?

I get to work with passionate people with a hunger for more.

What sucks the most about the profession you are in?

Having to be patient…sometimes.

What’s the most exotic food you’ve ever experienced?

Eating street food in Old Delhi is an experience (if you make it [through] unscathed).

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