The uniqueness of its surroundings and a different complementary activity offer are the keys to the success of La Cala Resort. One of the distinguishing elements at the Resort is the gastronomic offer that includes La Terraza Restaurant, international style, El Laurel Restaurant, more casual and modern, La Bodega, specialized in tapas and Andalusian snacks, Naranjo Lobby Bar and Limonada Pool Bar. Facilities both at the hotel and at the Club House fit the requirements to host corporative meetings, product presentations and other collective events. Professional service and gastronomic richness have made La Cala Resort a highly demanded gastronomic destination. Golf Circus has interviewed Francesc Hormigo, Bar & Restaurant Manager at La Cala Resort and Iván Álvarez, its Exclusive Chef.
Francesc Hormigo, Bar & Restaurant Manager at La Cala Resort
Let’s talk about your professional career.
I started when I was 19 in Germany and my eagerness to travel the world took me to a French restaurant in Frankfurt. There, by pure chance, I met the Manager of the Hotel School in Girona who brought me into the world of Michelin Stars. When I came back to Spain I started working in Raco de Can Fabes which has 3 Michelin Stars. I was extremely affected by the professionalism and quality of the work carried out there. After 2 years in Raco de Can Fabes I had the opportunity to work in England in a Relais Chateau in Nottingham with 1 Michelin Star. When I came back I worked in Drolma Restaurant (1 Michelin Star) and at the Majestic Hotel and I came back to Raco de Can Fabes as 2nd Maître D’ and I worked with the chef Santi Santamaria, a reference in Catalan and world gastronomy. Years later I started working in hotels. First, I worked in Nery as F&B Manager where we managed to be part of the Relais Chateaux guide and in OHLA 5 star Hotel with a 1 Michelin Star restaurant managed by the chef Xavier Franco. Before I came to La Cala Resort, my last job was opening a 5 star hotel in Barcelona, The Serras. There I had the opportunity of opening a hotel, a fantastic experience full of new challenges for me. Currently, I have been working at La Cala Resort for two years, the last one as Bar & Restaurant Manager of the Resort.
What are your responsibilities as Bar & Restaurant Manager?
I have to make sure that the services of the F&B department meet the quality standards of the hotel, that the service procedures are fulfilled and that all the members of the service team are the best; apart from communicating with the members of staff to solve any problems and teach working methods to give the best service. In my opinion, it is very important to make everyone feel part of a challenging project and that both, customers and members of staff are satisfied with La Cala Resort.
How do you see the position of Maître D’ nowadays?
After 20 years of service and after having seen different kinds of work I think the position of Maitre D’ is more valued by professionals nowadays. Luckily, thanks to great chefs in Spain in recent years, our job has had a very important media impact and Maître D’s have benefitted from that fact. It is true that in other countries like Britain our job is more valued; however in Spain we are in the lead of training so we can meet customer expectations when they visit places such as our Hotel where quality is the key to our success.
What skills does a good Maître D’ need?
Mainly, you need to be decisive, close to customers and have the knowledge to solve any type of situation. You also need to empathize with those around you and most of all, believe in the project and make others believe that good work is satisfying at the end of the day. You have to make your team members aware that customer satisfaction is our main objective.
In your opinion what do customers appreciate the most?
Customers look for kindness, a smile and to be treated as if they were special, to feel at home and feel recognized. And if they are regular customers, it is important to have a good memory so we can anticipate their likes, know their preferences, how they like to be treated; in conclusion, to be recognized. There is a saying that says that customers are hungrier to be recognized than to eat an entrecote steak (Domenech Biosca). I think this defines customers very well.
La Cala Resort takes a wide variety of sport players, golfers, cyclists, football players, runners, etc. How do you satisfy the gastronomic needs of each of these customers who play different sports?
We have recently included healthy dishes in our menu that are very popular as there is an increasing tendency to eat healthily. People want to eat healthily with first quality products and our chef Iván Alvarez is working along these lines.
What about the different nationalities at La Cala?
Flexibility and knowing the individual features of each customer are the keys. Depending on the nationality we can vary they way we relate to them; however, we do not classify them according to nationalities but according to the type of customer. We can gather a lot of information from a customer in the first 2 minutes of conversation, their questions, their gestures, etc. These are things that help us to know what kind of customer they are and satisfy their needs.
We have been told that event celebrations at La Cala are spectacular, why?
It is mostly because of the place where we are located. People are affected by different kinds of energy and the energy flowing at this Resort is very positive. The setting is very important but then we have to confirm these feelings. Flexibility is exquisite here and our main of objective with each event is that it remains in the memories of our customers. I always say that small details make a great Hotel.
I’m sure there must have been many anecdotes during your long career, can you tell us some?
Yes, many!! I remember one of the first weddings that took place here. It was a family from Texas and the bride came to the ceremony on a white horse. It was truly amazing! I remember another one where I acted as master of ceremony in Irish Gaelic and I had to introduce the bride and the groom as if they were friends of mine. I had to tell the bride what to do because she was too nervous, guests wanted us to be part of their videos and others who offered their houses for our holidays. Well, in short, typical things of a day where happiness exudes in each magic moment; and many others that will remain in the privacy of those involved.
Interview Iván Álvarez, Executive Chef at La Cala Resort
Tell us about your professional career up to now.
I have been working in the Hotel Industry professionally for more than 15 years, ten of these years leading national and international teams. My first years were devoted to learning and looking for interesting places where I could continue my training as a chef. During this period I met very good Executive Chefs like Cruz Mari, ex Executive Chef in Rekondo, Felix Altolaguirre, ex Executive Chef at the legendary Club 31 in Madrid and Remi Tulove, ex Executive Chef at the Ritz in Paris to name but a few. These people opened for me the doors of restaurants such as Arzak (3 Michelin Stars), Jockey Madrid (considered one of the best restaurants in Europe until 2000 and 1 Michelin Star), Urepel in Donosti with 1 Michelin Star and Larumbe in Madrid.
My enterprising spirit made me open a restaurant that became a gastronomic reference in Madrid and managed to be the finalist revelation restaurant after just one year since it opened.
With enthusiasm and eagerness to improve and take on new challenges I continued to develop new projects. After working in R&D for legendary restaurants in Madrid such as the restaurant at the Wellington Hotel, I travelled to Denmark to share working experiences in different restaurants with the best Danish Chefs, Bo Bech and Ramus Gronbech, who are talented genius.
I have been working in high quality standard five star hotels as Executive Chef and Kitchen consultant these last years. My work experience in hotels started in Cáceres and soon I became the company image and I opened the hotels in Granada, Seville and finally, Lisbon.
My previous job before I came to La Cala Resort was as a consultant and starting a new stage of the restaurant in the hotel Marqués de Caro in Valencia. I developed and established a working system based on organic and proximity products.
You have worked in hotel restaurants; do you have a different vision of a restaurant in a golf resort?
Yes, of course. At La Cala Resort we have managed to change this tendency in the last years. We have customers who come to play golf and others who stay at our hotel; we have an attractive offer both in product quality and effective service so that customers come to our restaurants after having played golf.
You have been Executive Chef at La Cala Resort since 2014, what are your duties in the restaurant business at the resort?
In my opinion, anything related to food is my responsibility. My main duty is knowing what is going on in each of the areas of this department. You can find me in the kitchen baking bread, arranging the buffet for the football players, leading the service at the hotel, helping out at the Club House, tasting wedding menus or attending an event. It is here that I compile all the information needed to carry out my executive duties, using this information to create working protocols in the different units and types of service. Some of my duties include finding synergies between the different cuisines and deciding if the changes in the menus are right since some things work better in one restaurant and not in others and knowing if the kitchen order is effective enough after having made these changes.
In the case of the hotel, we concluded that we needed several Roner1 units for each lot in order to make service flow. However, in the case of the Club House and after the last changes in the menu, we considered the need of cold units as vital for the kitchen in order to reduce customer waiting time and increase kitchen productivity in times of high demand. My duties also include creating a gastronomic and internal strategy to achieve the mentioned tasks successfully. I would define this as milestones that I have to become in order to achieve success. Other duties that I particularly find interesting is communicating my team my strategic vision so as to line together in a common objective and that the two flow together. I could number many other duties that are unknown to the general public.
What is the cuisine like here at La Cala Resort?
It is contemporary cuisine, we have international dishes, very interesting vegetarian dishes and we also have Finger Food to be eaten by the pool.
Tell us, what is the star dish at the restaurant?
We have wild fish such as White Sea bass with purée made of a flower root that looks like sunflowers and which is similar in shape and colour called Tupinambo. We serve it with chopped green olives, tomato cassé and lime. This gives you an idea of what is served at our hotel restaurant.
What differentiates La Cala Resort from similar gastronomic possibilities?
Our quality standards have continued growing in recent years and I can even say that so have our products; the food served at our restaurant is above average; apart from having fervently searched for new products that have been developed alongside with our updated gastronomic offer.
It is worth mentioning that we control the number of tastes offered as they are all homemade; both the cooked ingredients and the sauces in all our menus. Undoubtedly, the restaurant business is very important in a resort like La Cala, where there are several restaurants and bars.
What are they like?
La Cala Resort has a varied clientele. Apart from the different sports played at the resort, we have to consider the different nationalities and gastronomic culture of each of them.
How do you find a balance to satisfy each of your customers?
There is no secret in this. You must accept that you cannot please all of them and that you have to try to understand each customer so that they can enjoy the food next time; then you are on the right track. We do not want to show off as artists but give the best possible service; if this means changing a dish or an ingredient or a sauce, we will do so if we can. There are people who are used to eating spicy food, others who eat plain food, and we always find a way to do it. A few times I have come into the kitchen with a customer to show him/her how we cook a certain dish.
You must have many working anecdotes compiled during your long working career, can you tell us some?
When I was working in Denmark with the Chefs from Novo Nordisk in Hvifore, one of the most exclusive places in Europe, 7 chefs used to cook for 5 to 25 customers at the dinner service; and we used to cook different menus every day. Two chefs prepared one dish depending on the menu or even a dish per chef. On many occasions I was lucky to be able to prepare dishes with no price limit; this meant we could include any ingredients we wanted in the dish. When they first told me to give in the orders in advance, I thought they were joking as they usually did and I did not order anything unusual. On the day of the event I was very surprised to see that we had huge amounts of caviar, white truffle, Japanese spider crab alive or Halibut fished that same day by Eskimos who had cracked the ice in Island and that have been brought by helicopter. That is what Northern Europeans are like!
1. Roner: The Catalan chefs Joan Roca and Narcís Caner have played a leading role in this new trend with their Roner, a piece of cooking equipment that controls the low temperature vacuum cooking method used in professional kitchens.