Address book: Carlo Thelen’s picks


Carlo Thelen likes to escape to the Swiss mountains, without losing sight of socio-economic news. Photo: Nader Ghavami/Maison Moderne 

Carlo Thelen--who has been director general of the Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce since 2014, after succeeding Pierre Gramegna, current finance minister (DP)--talks about his favourite places to eat, go out and more.  

Having received his master’s degree in economics from the Catholic University of Louvain, he joined the Chamber of Commerce in 1996 as an economic advisor. Member of the board of directors since August 2003, before his appointment as managing director, he held the positions of director of economic affairs, director of international affairs and chief economist. He prepared and presented the Chamber of Commerce’s most important opinion each year, on the state budget. In his capacity as chief economist, Carlo Thelen runs an expert blog in which he takes an informed look at the major socioeconomic issues of our time. 

In addition to his economic expertise, he has extensive experience in economic and trade promotion since he has organised and participated in numerous state visits and economic missions abroad where he praises the strengths of the economy and Luxembourg companies. 

Marc Fassone: What is your favourite restaurant? 

Carlo Thelen: I have no particular preference. Everything depends on the occasion, professional or private, and the support. If I am there in a professional capacity, I prefer a suitable framework in which we can discuss with discretion. When it's for a private or family occasion, I prefer a relaxed atmosphere, a beautiful terrace. I'm not a fan of a single restaurant, I like to vary the pleasures.

What’s the essential dish for any good menu? 

I like good sauces. It still obviously depends on the food, meat, fish and dessert, but I think the sauce always makes the difference. The sauce is something very important that influences the taste, but also the presentation of a dish.

What’s your favourite cocktail, and how do you take it?

It’s not very original: I like gin-tonic, especially Hendrick’s. It’s very classic. There are a thousand different kinds of gins and this one is for me the most neutral. It is [one] that I could drink on any occasion, as an aperitif or as a digestif. 

In your opinion, what’s the best beer in Luxembourg?

They are all good, I could name several. As long as it is fresh and served in a flute.

What’s your favourite spirit, and how do you take it?

I adore Swiss framboise, especially the one produced by the family business Lipp-Kunz from Maienfeld in Switzerland. Again, it must be very fresh. As a good digestif, it can’t be beaten.  

Are you a tea or coffee person?

More coffee. I appreciate a double espresso after any good meal. With a bit of sugar. 

Let’s talk style. Made-to-measure, or ready-to-wear?

Ready-to-wear. In 20 years, I have hardly changed my size, 48-50 as standard. I can find almost anything I like in my size. And traditional things really appeal to me.

What’s your style? Chic or casual?

Rather chic for work, and for private or evenings rather relaxed. I am relatively traditional and classic, I often put on a suit and tie for important work meetings.

Tie or bowtie?

Tie. I noticed during the health crisis that this accessory was becoming less and less important. When you're in front of a screen, having a tie is less important, but I hope that after confinement, the lectures, seminars and face-to-face meetings will return, and with them the ties. I think it's important to put on ties. I still think a tie is chic. 

What is your essential accessory?

Shoes. I think you always have to be careful that the shoes go well with the outfit you wear, whether chic or casual. It's always something that I watch. Personally, I favour leather shoes when I wear more sporty suits, sports shoes on the weekends.

Are you more of a mechanical or connected watch person?

I like mechanical watches. And I confess a little preference for aviator watches. I have always been interested in aviation and I have certain models that reflect that interest. I acquired a watch designed in Luxembourg by the firm Aero-Design based in Weiswampach. It is a specific model that was made with a part of the Concorde, an iconic aircraft. The watch is called MachWatch. The company also produces furniture based on aircraft parts. I also bought a desk for my home whose table is produced from parts of a Mirage III fighter jet. It’s phenomenal.

Tell us about the last time you put on a tuxedo.

In the evening, I like to be in casual clothes. But when the opportunity arises, I don't mind putting on a tuxedo. The last time was 18 January 2020 for the Russian Ball and the previous time was in October 2019 for Belgium's state visit to the Philharmonie. These are great occasions and great memories. 

What’s your favourite weekend look? 

It’s often a casual look, jeans and sneakers.

What do you think is an unforgivable sartorial fault?

I am at the same time very tolerant and not an expert in clothing. Maybe there is this fashion of putting on very colorful socks with outfits. If people like it, I respect it. But I wouldn't do it myself. But I can't speak of an unforgivable fault because it's something that basically leaves me relatively indifferent.

What's the last piece you added to your wardrobe?

Usually my wife always takes care of my casual outfits, and I always take care of my suits. The last piece I added to my wardrobe does not fall into either of those two categories: it was a cycling outfit. At the time of the first lockdown, the weather was particularly good, and we took the opportunity to cycle.

What is your favourite destination to get away from it all?

The mountains. And especially the Swiss mountains. I particularly love the region of Arosa, a Swiss municipality in the canton of Graubünden, located in the region of Plessur.

And the place where you can't wait to return?

The North Sea and Switzerland.

And what do you read there? 

Socio-economic news. It may sound weird, but I never take a book, I prefer to bring documents relating to the socio-economic news that I devour. 

What's the last good book you've read that you would recommend?

These are two books that I have had in my library for a long time and have recently had time to read in more detail. The first traces the 100 years of the Arnold Kontz group created in 1917, and the second the 70 years of Losch Luxembourg, created in 1948. These are two stories of family businesses and it is always impressive. We can see how these companies have evolved over time, always with a lot of courage, many innovations, investments in the future and a vision.

And with what soundtrack?

I like AC/DC, ABBA, Dire Straits. Those kind of classics. But these are not things that I am going to download to listen to them. When it gets on the radio I'm happy, otherwise I mostly listen to the newspapers.

What is the object that you will never part with?

The smartphone. Unfortunately... The handy thing about these devices is being able to access a wealth of information. We don't need anything more. It’s a phenomenal invention. 

This article was originally published on Paperjam and has been translated and edited for Delano.