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emember Solano’s Restaurant at Opus One in Flinders Street East? In the 70s, it was where the movers and shakers met to talk business and if you didn’t dress up, you didn’t get in. The man who started the gourmet restaurant, Jorge Solano, was well-known as the dynamic general manager of the Townsville International Hotel, or the ‘Sugar Shaker’ as we locals call it. Going out on his own to set up Solano’s Restaurant, Jorge’s belief that Townsville needed a first-class restaurant was rewarded with a loyal following. “Coming from the Townsville International, where we had a very good restaurant, I knew I could expand from there to create something Townsville would be proud to call our own,” Jorge says. “The aim was to create a restaurant that offered all those little luxuries.

Matt Muhl & Jorge Solano

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Townsville in the 1970s was still very rural, but we started seeing an increase in visitors from Melbourne, Sydney and overseas, back when the Townsville Airport was international. “The influx of new businessmen demanded better services and attitudes in the hospitality and catering space and locals hosting people from the big capital cities down south were keen to impress.” Pink-carpeted, with deep-red curtains, Solano’s Restaurant offered a full silver service menu. The staff wore long black frocks with white gloves, while the maitre d’ donned a tux. The chef was imported from Germany and was trained in France by a grand chef. “We won a North Queensland licensee board award as the Best Designed Restaurant,” Jorge recalls. “My fondest memory is guests arriving dressed in ties and coats and cocktail gowns. People wanted to show that Townsville was as good as,

or better than, the big cities. It made me feel very proud as the host.” In his life after the restaurant, Jorge became involved in the staffing of the Four Seasons Flotel on the Great Barrier Reef before going to manage the Four Seasons’ Darwin hotel. “In the early 80s I got an offer to manage the first Sheraton in Costa Rica, where I’m from,” Jorge says. “I then moved to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina USA, still working for Sheraton. While I was there, a German consortium who had bought the Tamarindo Diria Beach Resort in Costa Rica approached me and offered me the position of General Manager. “I took up the challenge and later went on to become Vice President, of the Tamarindo Diria Beach Resort, where I stayed for over a decade.” However, determined that his children should finish their schooling in Australia, Jorge decided to return Down Under. He retired in 2004 but,

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DUO Magazine April 2017  

Every month, DUO captures the unique spirit of our region and grabs the attention of our community. We’ve been doing it for a decade, making...