The Host with the Most at Home

For celebrity chef and connoisseur Alex Hitz, the secrets to a great party are practice, planning, and always flowers in abundance.
Alex Hitz sitting in living room chair
Alex relaxes in a corner of the living room.

When Covid shut down the country, Alex Hitz went in search of a project. The peripatetic celebrity chef and man-about-town is used to staying busy, so he needed an outlet for his creative energy. A down-to-the-studs renovation of an apartment in Atlanta fit the bill quite nicely. “I wanted the apartment to feel a bit like New York in the 1920s,” he says.

The marble foyer floor of concentric squares establishes the simple geometry Alex sought to instill in the rooms. “The apartment had all these weird angles, so I worked to square things up,” he says. “It’s got an art deco spirit.”

Foyer decorated with antiques and flowers
Alex designed the foyer’s marble floor and painted the walls Benjamin Moore’s Tangerine Melt. An 18th-century French commode greets visitors with an exuberant arrangement of tweedia, Asclepias Beatrix, Miss Piggy roses, snapdragons, Free Spirit roses, hellebores, and shamrock hydrangeas.

Born in Atlanta, Alex spent much of his childhood living in France after his mother married conductor Robert Shaw. His passion for food started there and drove the trajectory of his life. After attending culinary schools in New York and Paris, Alex trained under French chefs André Soltner at Lutéce and Michel Guérard at Les Prés d’Eugénie. Today, the celebrity chef divides his time between New York, Los Angeles, and Atlanta, and is known for hosting the best parties on both coasts, as well as in Europe. His cookbooks, My Beverly Hills Kitchen, The Art of the Host, and Occasions to Celebrate: Cooking and Entertaining with Style (released in October 2022), explore his Southern-infused French culinary approach.

In the hallway between the foyer and library, doors conceal storage for Alex’s collection of silver and china tableware.

When Alex opens the door of his Atlanta pied-à-terre to guests, his food is not the only thing that draws attention—flowers also play a starring role. Floral designer Kirk Whitfield, who has worked with Alex on his cookbooks, is finely attuned to his floral taste. “He loves oranges and pinks,” she says. “He prefers tight arrangements with abundant flowers—and always with lots of roses.”

A portrait of one of Alex’s Swiss ancestors hangs over an ebony-inlaid Georgian desk in the library. The emerald lacquer is Cat’s Eye by Benjamin Moore.

Another passion that Alex enjoys displaying is his love for art and antiques. “My mother collected modern art, so that’s where the Picasso, de Kooning, Giacometti, and Ben Shahn came from,” he says. “I also love English antique portraits.” The modern and classic pieces share space harmoniously, unified by Alex’s appreciation. A 17th-century portrait of “A Man of Letters” hangs on a wall with a photograph of Alex taken by Yul Brynner’s daughter, as well as a photograph of Frank Sinatra playing golf in Palm Springs in 1962. The collections seem to create a nuanced portrait of Alex the man, offering insight into his history, his taste, and his world view.

Floral designer Kirk Whitfield composed a trio of arrangements of tweedia, hellebores, freesia, ‘Miss Piggy’ and ‘Clarence’ roses, astilbes, and asclepias ‘Beatrix’ to adorn the formal living room without distracting from the view. Chairs from French upholstery shop Decour gather around a 10-foot-long linen sofa.

Floor-to-ceiling windows in the living room capture the high-rise views, while gilded chairs in damask upholstery set a formal tone. New plaster moldings lend a transportive quality and add a note of old-world opulence. A plump banquette sits with its back to the window with chairs placed around it for enjoying the view. “It’s very glamorous at night with the lights of Atlanta as a backdrop,” says Alex.

dining room table full of flowers
The dining room shares the same Schumacher striped wallpaper and elaborate crown molding as the living room. The centerpiece includes ‘Royal Palace’ hydrangeas, bouvardia, hellebores, astilbes, weigela, snapdragons, and freesia, along with ‘Free Spirit,’ ‘Miss Piggy,’ and ‘Shimmer’ roses.

In the library, a portrait of Alex himself, painted by Sacha Newly, hangs on the shelving. “There is never enough wall space for the things I love to see, so I just hang things over the books,” he says.

sitting room containting antiques and framed art on the wall
In the sitting room attached to the bedroom, Alex hung some of his favorite framed art, including a shot of himself from 2005 taken by Yul Brynner’s daughter Victoria, who is a close friend.

The apartment originally had three bedrooms, which Alex merged into one. The upholstered walls give the space a cocooned feeling. “Fabric designer Lisa Fine and I went to this secret fabric archive in England and found this print,” he says. “I told her she should do this in chocolate.’” The result is a chintz that’s more masculine than most and also channels English country house style through a modern lens. The adjoining sitting room continues the drapery fabric treatment, which ends at a wall painted Benjamin Moore Gingersnaps. And just like the entire residence, the space, with its many pictures and collections, speaks of travels, of family and friends, and of a joyful embrace of tradition.

shot of the bedroom
Alex loves an upholstered bedroom, so he swathed the space in a Lisa Fine fabric.
“There is never enough wall space to hang the things I love to see.”

—Alex Hitz

an arrangement of flowers on the bedside table
Kirk Whitfield used snapdragons, Free Spirit roses, ranunculus, grevillea, and Magical Dark Ruby classic hydrangeas in the floral arrangements to pop within the rich setting.

Alex Hitz’s Party Platform

Consummate host Alex Hitz shares his rules for ensuring that every gathering is a great occasion.

  • Set the table properly according to your menu. I know it sounds ridiculous, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen hosts serve a soup course without placing soup spoons on the table.
  • Turn the lights down. No one came over to bear witness to a root canal.
  • Sweat all the small stuff. Otherwise, why are you having company? If you’re going to entertain, be all-in. But do everything before your guests arrive so they don’t see the effort. Nothing ruins a party quicker than watching the host straining to get the job done.
  • Include candles and flowers. I even use candles at special holiday lunches even though Emily Post says no candles in the daytime. There’s so much else to offend our sensibilities nowadays that I think we can let that one go. Sorry, Emily.
  • Always smile. At parties, just about anything can go wrong, and it often does. As long as you keep smiling, it will be okay.
  • Plan menus that aren’t too trendy or too complicated. As Karl Lagerfeld once said, “The last step after trendy is tacky.”
  • Don’t try to please everyone. Be a considerate, generous host, but never forget that the more you try to please everyone by accommodating their special diets or eating habits, the more you will fail. Simple, delicious, hearty food combined with candlelight and plenty of wine will ensure success. Chicken pot pie and good French wine is always a winning pairing.

Adapted from The Art of the Host: Recipes and Rules for Flawless Entertaining by Alex Hitz, (Rizzoli 2019).

By Lydia Somerville  |  Photography by Jeff Herr