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23 Minutes With Richard Gere

Actor, humanitarian, locavore, nervous innkeeper.

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It looks like a movie set, the almost too perfectly restored eighteenth-century country inn with snow settling on wainscoting, fireplaces in every room, and Richard Gere puttering around in the kitchen. But this is real life, or at least Gere’s rather pristine version of it. He has three films currently in production, but his domestic existence is more like an exalted Newhart: He and his wife, Carey Lowell, have opened the Bedford Post Inn, up in Westchester, where they have a house. Not to worry, Gere won’t be cooking. “Richard can boil a wonderful egg,” Lowell offers. “Actually, he does great fried eggs, too.” But Gere has grander ambitions than just providing a good place to get handmade ravioli with sheep’s-milk ricotta, spinach, and rosemary crumbs. “I want this to be a place where the minds of people who could change the world would meet,” he says.

The inn, set on fourteen acres, had been home to Nino’s, a hangout for the local gentry, which closed. “We had no intention of having a restaurant and inn,” Gere says. “It was an old place on the riding trails. We would ride by it and watch it falling apart, and it started out with, ‘What if we took over this crumbling place?’ ”

“It was just a rotting old historical building, and we rescued it,” says Lowell. It’s not on their property. “We’re not insane. It’s close by.”

“Everyone was mourning the loss of this building,” Gere says. “We said we would do it, but only if the community wanted it. The historical society of Bedford threw a cocktail party to introduce us to the community.” Not that they’re exactly making the suburban scene. “We were not social before, and we are still not terribly social,” says Lowell.

“But we are pretty much at the inn every day now,” says Gere, who often wanders the grounds in his chinos. While the Bedford Post may be just 45 minutes north of the city, they have built it primarily for the horsey neighbors. “Everyone is welcome, but it’s really for locals,” he says. It’s more the fact that “there were really no good restaurants in the area.”

Gere remains quite hopeful that the inn will feed the mind as well as the stomach. They plan to start accepting guests in the spring, but there will be only eight rooms. “There are a lot of people in this area who have been enormously successful and have done tremendous good work. It’s my hope that they will come and discuss and network at a very high level about how to have a positive impact on the planet.” Think of it as Davos on the Metro-North for people like Martha Stewart (who happened by earlier on her steed and stopped in to discuss recipes with the chef). Lowell’s wish list consists of “the same kind of speakers who are on the lecture series at the 92nd Street Y. It runs the gamut from academic, spiritual, business, the arts, and not-for-profit.’’

“When we were throwing around names, Richard kept coming up with economists,’’ says Christopher Tunnah, Bedford Post’s general manager. “But Richard and Carey are both interested in people who can effect change on a social level, so we would be open to yoga gurus as well.’’ Meditation workshops started on the property this past week.

Many a celebrity has skinned his knees on the rocks of restaurant ownership. Even Robert De Niro is starting over again at his Greenwich Hotel, after the Times and other critics excoriated the Italian restaurant there. And despite their lofty goals, Gere and Lowell are realistic about going into the hospitality business in this economy. “We hope we don’t lose money,” says Gere. “But I don’t think a restaurant is the way to make money. And if we had known how difficult it would be, we probably wouldn’t have started.”

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