What Tastemakers Want (And Will Give) This Holiday Season

Everyone's partner is apparently hard to shop for.

With less than a week left until Christmas, Observer reached out to a handful of tastemakers in nightlife, dining and interior design to help get a grasp on last-minute shopping. In no particular order, here are their go-to gifts, what’s on their wish lists, and—for those needing reassurance—confirmation that everyone’s partner is the most difficult person to buy for.


What is your go-to gift?

  • “White truffles.” – Wolfgang Puck
  • “Anything sourced from or handcrafted in Ethiopia: scarves, coffee, spices, you name it.” – Marcus Samuelsson
  • The U Candle.” – Miriam Silver
  • “I like giving authentic gifts that represent a piece of who I am and what I believe in. This year, we recently launched the Harmony Set with Schmidt Brothers, which is an amazing gift for everyone and anyone. I am Korean American, and this one-of-a-kind set that includes steak knives and chopsticks is the perfect harmony of both cultures, making this incredibly authentic representation of myself and our restaurants. I’ve also noticed that many Americans do not have the right set of chopsticks, so this is really the perfect option.” – Simon Kim
  • “Now that you can use inKind at over 1,100 restaurants around the country, it’s got to be an inKind gift card.” – Andrew Harris
  • “For someone special, a Venus et Fleur rose box. But when in doubt, a bottle of champagne is always a no-brainer.” – Melanie Calder
  • “Nothing beats a gift of donating in someone’s name to a cause close to your heart. Mine include ‘No Kid Hungry, ASPCA or the Oceans Conservancy.” – Sergio Mercado
  • “Some of my favorite things to include are something from Atrio (Jeremiah’s store), potpourri from Santa Maria Novella, a Rebecca Miles trinket dish, and Casa Dragones tequila. And, the perfect gift for just about anyone: Nate Home 6-piece Cotton Towel Set.” – Nate Berkus
  • “My current go-to gift is a beautiful throw from Lands Downunder! They are luxurious and cozy for anyone on my list.” – Anjali Pollack 
  • “Personalized stationery elevates anyone’s game. It allows you to showcase your personality and design sensibility and that you have manners! Plus, everyone loves handwritten notes. They feel much more special. I discovered the Crane Personalized Stationery set through a friend who worked for Crane. The brand had recently relaunched, and I loved the elevated heritage look. This is not your grandma’s stationery! It comes in a beautiful box perfect for gifting, which I also suggest keeping to protect the corners.” – Dan Mazzarini

What is the best gift you have ever received and why?

  • “A painting of a Butterfinger from Will Guidara, to remind me of how I started. It was selling candy.” – Kwame Onwuachi
  • One year, I was gifted the adoption and naming of an elephant in South Africa. It was one of the most touching gifts I’ve ever received.” – Sergio Mercado
  • “Over the years, I have received many wonderful gifts, but nothing can compare to the new skis I received when I was a young boy.” – Wolfgang Puck
  • “My sisters gave me a set of chef’s knives when I was about 18 years old. It meant the world to me because that was a lot of money for them to spend back then, and it was such a special encouragement and reminder that I was on the right path.” – Marcus Samuelsson
  • “Definitely, the enormous, fire-orange Le Creuset 13 ½ Qt Dutch Oven that my husband surprised me with one year. This incredible, stunningly beautiful pot has been the centerpiece of so many gorgeous meals shared with loved ones and friends—all gathered at the table—which is my favorite thing to experience in the world. I am so grateful for this pot!” – Renee Guilbault
  • “My parents gifted me my first suitcases from Rimowa a number of years ago, which was truly the best gift ever. It symbolized that I was both ready to explore the world and travel with style and grace. Rimowa remains one of my all-time favorite brands to this day.” – Simon Kim
  • “My husband bought me a handbag with the word ‘Fabulous’ embroidered on it. It’s gorgeous, and knowing that is what he thinks of me makes it all the more special.” – Melanie Calder
  • “The week-long party my husband threw for my 50th birthday. It was so thoughtful and was truly memorable.” – Nate Berkus
  • “Anything with a personal touch, letters, photos etc. One of my absolute favorites was a photobook my best friend, who lives in Australia, made of all our travels together over the years. We don’t get to see each other often as we live on opposite sides of the world, but when I miss her, I get it out, and I’m reminded of all the fun times we shared when we were younger.” – Holly Nixon
  • “A box of chocolates from my son when he was about ten years old. It was the first time he bought me something all on his own and was so proud to give it to me.” – Anjali Pollack
  • “It’s the gifts that came at meaningful times that are the most precious. My Father bought me a beautiful Cartier watch when I graduated from college. It was a proud moment for both of us.” – Gideon Mendelson
  • “A framed poster from a show I was in as a kid. My dad went to a local Borders Books to ask them if he could have it from their window and framed it himself. Very unexpected and sentimental.” – Dan Mazzarini

What’s on your wishlist this year?

  • “Powder snow at Deer Valley.” – Wolfgang Puck
  • “A pair of tickets to an Alvin Ailey dance performance this season. My wife and I went to the season’s opening and it was such an inspiring performance of excellence and perfection.” – Marcus Samuelsson
  • “I already bought them for myself because I couldn’t wait. Beautiful Staud boots.” – Miriam Silver
  • “I wouldn’t mind a membership to the new ZZ’s Members Club…but I don’t live in New York, so I’m not quite sure I can justify that one.” – Andrew Harris
  • “I travel a lot for work, so I would say something big on my wishlist is a new matching travel (luggage) set.” – Paola Velez
  • “I’m actually in the market for a good pair of slippers (specifically Teddy Dowling Double Blue Eyes Brooches). I usually go through a few pairs a season because I live in them.  As soon as I go through my door, slippers are on!” – Melanie Calder
  • “I have my eye on a vintage watch.” – Nate Berkus
  • “Theatre tickets! I live in Manhattan, and I haven’t seen a show in years.” – Sergio Mercado
  • “I need a new wallet and some new luggage for traveling!” – Gideon Mendelson
  • “My wishlist is coming true. We got plane tickets to visit my brother and family in Singapore for Christmas and spend a couple of weeks traveling around Thailand.” – Holly Nixon

Who is the hardest person to shop for? (Apparently, everyone’s partner.)

  • “My husband, Jeremiah. His eye moves quickly, and by the time I remember something he mentioned that he liked, he doesn’t want it anymore….a nightmare.” – Nate Berkus
  • “My husband! As someone who is culinary industry adjacent he absolutely knows when the quality or the gift isn’t the best (especially when it comes to pastries!). I think I’ve finally figured out what my husband wants and would love. But he’s going to have to wait a few more years for that Rolex!” – Paola Velez
  • “My husband. He is quite simple in what he likes, and it’s usually centered around his job and passion, which is photography, and in which case he has almost everything. And when he doesn’t, he will buy it for himself. He also much prefers to get others gifts rather than receive them.” – Holly Nixon
  • “My husband isn’t easy to shop for. The truth is neither of us is really into material things these days so we try and gift each other fun experiences rather than more stuff!” – Gideon Mendelson
  • “My partner Andy. While he’s the best, I have a hard time thinking of something he will use AND is sentimental. Best so far: a Rolex Datejust…a winner for sure.” – Dan Mazzarini
  • “I love buying gifts for everyone, but most people say I am the hardest to buy for.” – Hillary Kaplan
What Tastemakers Want (And Will Give) This Holiday Season