Brad Perkins’ Food Diaries

The Co-Founder and Chairman of Perkins Eastman has built a global practice one deal—and one meal—at a time.
Brad Perkins visits Graham's Port 1890 Lodge in Porto, Portugal
Brad Perkins went to Porto, Portugal, in 2018 to meet with a client, Diogo Gaspar Ferreira. One memorable afternoon during his stay included a tour and tasting at Graham's Port 1890 Lodge. Courtesy Brad Perkins

Everyone’s mind is on food as we head into the holidays, but for Brad Perkins, it’s a yearlong pursuit—a new commission can hinge on the perfect repast. In this Narrative article, he describes 40 food memories that built Perkins Eastman. His diaries are tied to some of our biggest projects. Here’s a selection from his account: 

One of the more enjoyable aspects of working nationally and internationally since starting Perkins Eastman has been my opportunity to experience the incredible variety of great food across the United States and in countries around the world. Often, sampling so many exotic foods is within the context of dining with co-workers, friends, clients, government officials, and others. Moreover, sharing meals with clients and staff at home and abroad has proven to be an important ingredient in the building of a successful practice.

Brazilian Seafood Feast
Praia do Forte master plan, Brazil

Praia do Forte master plan, Brazil

Perkins Eastman’s first international client was a Brazilian family that hired us to master-plan a major destination beach resort in Bahia, Brazil. Our client would bring us together at his house on the property, which was adjacent to a small fishing village. Each morning as the fishermen would set out to sea, our client would tell them what he wanted. One day, the catch included 30 small lobsters. Lunch that day—plus the Caipirinha cocktails—was followed by a long afternoon siesta.

Giant hams are stacked at Eataly in Turin, Italy.

With giant hams stacked behind them, Andy Rifkin, left, and Jules Demchick took us on a tour of Eataly in Turin, Italy, before this concept came to New York. Courtesy Brad Perkins

My friend and longtime client Jules Demchick invited me to come with him, restaurateur Jeffrey Chodorow, and several others for a weekend trip to check out a new specialty market and restaurant complex in Turin called Eataly. They were considering becoming the American partners for Eataly in New York. We flew to Turin, toured the store, and sampled food at several of the excellent restaurants scattered throughout the complex.


Pulled-Pork BBQ in Arkansas
University of Arkansas Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging

The University of Arkansas Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging.
Copyright Dero Sanford/Courtesy Perkins Eastman

Perkins Eastman Principal David Hoglund and I flew to Little Rock to interview for a new building at the University of Arkansas Medical Center. We were up against five major healthcare firms and back then doubted we had a chance. We arrived early, so our local associates gave us a tour and asked where we would like to eat lunch. I said I wanted to eat BBQ wherever Bill Clinton went, so they took us to a shack where we had good pulled pork BBQ. We went into the interview relaxed. One of the doctors asked why two guys from New York would be willing to come work on a project in Little Rock. I replied, “For the BBQ.” They laughed and said, “What do you know about Arkansas BBQ and where would you go to get it?” I named the shack. We got the project and worked with this client for years.


Shanghai vs. Nanjing Soup Dumplings
John Hopkins Center, Nanjing UniversityNanjing, China

John Hopkins Center at Nanjing University in Nanjing, China.
Copyright Tim Griffith/Courtesy Perkins Eastman

During our first trip to Nanjing to see my grandfather’s seven buildings at Nanjing University, later the site of our first completed building in China [above], Shuping arranged for my wife Phyllis to go behind the scenes into one of the restaurant kitchens. She wanted to learn the subtle differences between Nanjing and Shanghai soup dumplings. (I love soup dumplings!)

Brad Perkins' Food Diaries

Courtesy Brad Perkins


My Daughter’s Introduction to Hunan Cuisine
Maxdo University Master Plan, China

Brad Perkins was working on the master plan for Maxdo University when he brought his daughter to China as a graduation gift.

I took my daughter Rebecca to China as a graduation gift. On one of our last nights in Shanghai, we were to attend a dinner hosted by our client K.K. Chung. He asked Rebecca what type of food she would like. She knew he was from Hunan and replied, “Hunan.” He arranged for an elaborate banquet featuring classic Hunan dishes. Halfway through the meal, the waiter appeared with a bag that clearly had a restless occupant. He opened it to show Rebecca a very large, live snake. She looked at it and calmly commented, “That is a very nice snake.” Shortly thereafter, a platter of fried snake appeared on the table. It does sort of taste like chicken.

Sushi in Tsukiji
Ginza East senior living tower by Half Century More in Tokyo

Ginza East senior living tower by Half Century More in Tokyo, Japan. Copyright Milroy & McAleer/Courtesy Perkins Eastman

On a trip to Tokyo to work on some of the senior living projects for Half Century More, Phyllis wanted to see the giant tuna auction that takes place at dawn each day at the massive Tsukiji fish market. After seeing millions of dollars of tuna auctioned off in a matter of minutes, we had a delicious sushi and sashimi breakfast [below].

Brad Perkins' Food Diaries 1

Courtesy Brad Perkins

The Perfect Mango
Antara Dehradun senior living community in Uttarakhand, Dehradun, India

Antara Dehradun senior living community in Uttarakhand, Dehradun, India.
Courtesy Perkins Eastman

After returning from a work session on Antara senior living in Dehradun, Tara Singh (our client) called my room in the hotel, which was across from her family home, to see how the site visit had gone. I said the trip had been successful and the only disappointment was that the hotel did not have fresh mango at breakfast. I was just joking, but Indians take great pride in their mangoes. Thirty minutes later, there was a knock on my door, and one of the Singh staff presented me with a crystal bowl filled with perfectly ripe and delicious mango.