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Summer 2007 | Volume 3


HEiNEKEN >> PagE 4


Talking F&B wiTh

alvaro diago >> PagE 2

alvaro Diago feels that few aspects of a hotel shape the guest experience like food and beverage. Our series of F&B interviews with the americas leadership team continues with a conversation with ihg’s area President for latin america.

Alvaro Diago believes art, glamour and a sense of theater are essential to a memorable food and beverage experience, and that’s what he seeks on his travels throughout the 18 countries where IHG hotels are located in Latin

Art America. Alvaro shared his F&B

philosophy, as well as his passion for pasta, in a recent interview.


Any foodservice experience in your background?

What does a great dining experience look like for you?

“Not F&B training by education or profession. My experience has been more in working with the exceptional food and beverage executives and culinary experts at our hotels—that has proved an enormous training ground for me. I’ve always felt F&B sets the tenor for how our properties are perceived.”

“A great dining experience appeals to people’s minds and hearts. At the Americas Food and Beverage Leadership Summit earlier this year, I told the attendees that the F&B director position is one of the most challenging in our industry, and that I believe one letter is missing in the title. It should be “F, B and A”—food, beverage and art. Innovation is crucial, and if the experience isn’t memorable, it’s mediocre. At its best, F&B creates unforgettable moments in which knowledgeable people provide mouthwatering food with discriminating service and a sense of glamour.”

“I was born in Cartagena, Colombia, and always thought I would be an engineer like my father. I was educated in American schools and in high school—in Mansfield, Ohio—I became interested in the hotel business. When I graduated I got a summer internship at a hotel school in Coral Gables, Florida. That launched my career, and I would do it all over again exactly the same way. I joined IHG 37 years ago right out of college as a trainee at the InterContinental Medellin in Colombia and worked my way up to the position of GM at InterContinental Hotels in Latin America, the U.S. and Europe.”


What’s your favorite food? “That depends on my mood and has to do with the environment and the people I’m with. But a favorite dish is one my wife prepares for me: fresh foie gras over a coulis of figs with drops of mango juice around the plate. The first time she fixed it I went crazy! I’m a meat eater—I would die for a crispy, juicy rack of lamb, very pink on the inside. I also love pasta, especially linguine vongole (with clams) sautéed in olive oil with a touch of garlic and white wine.”

How about your favorite beverage? “After a stressful day I enjoy a nice glass of Scotch with ice. If I’m dining, it depends on the food. I like white wine with great seafood, but my favorite wines are the reds—particularly Cabernet Sauvignon. My job provides a great opportunity to sample the culture, food and wines of the 18 countries in Latin America where we have hotels. The world has superb wines, and the wines in Chile and Argentina are particularly good, and quite varied. You can go into a series of restaurants that are almost next door to each other and will only find one or two of the same selections on their wine lists.”

Favorite restaurant? “I have many, in many different places, and mostly in our hotels. For example, the Alfredo restaurants in our InterContinental Hotels in Rio, San Jose, Costa Rica, and the Presidente in Mexico City have great pasta and an excellent wine list. The steakhouse at the InterContinental Buenos Aires offers a variety of Argentine meat and is a must when I visit there. Le Gourmet in the InterContinental Caracas is very popular and trendy.” “Close to home, here in Miami we have a nice selection of Latin American restaurants that feature home cooking. When I have to do business, there are also lots of cosmopolitan restaurant choices in the city. Generally, I look for great wines, great service and wonderful people who pay attention to details, like remembering your name if you go there often.”

The chef was a part of the table, of course, and it was a great treat for him—a chance to impress his colleagues. We had a wonderful trio starter, served on rectangular plates, with small pieces of lamb, veal and quail in different sauces. The entrée was a very juicy sea bass on a bed of mixed greens with sweet potatoes. Delicious!”

Do you ever order room service? “Very seldom, unless I’m arriving on a late flight and am forced to order something light to hold me over until breakfast. The room is not my favorite place to eat. Usually I dine in the hotel’s restaurant or out of the hotel, depending on the nature of the business I’m there for. I always critique the room service menu, though. At our InterContinental Hotels we offer room service 24 hours a day, and I want to be sure the hotel is offering the same quality and selection available in our fine dining restaurants.”

Mineral water or tap? “Mineral water, particularly since I travel a lot, and the water varies from country to country—I want to be sure to keep healthy. Since there are many brands in Latin America, I order whatever’s available.”

“I always seek exceptional F&B professionals and great chefs to be leaders in our hotel s. I al so want to see continuous innovation because it’s critical we are contemporary in every thing we do.”

When you stay at an IHG property, what are your expectations regarding F&B? “Our GMs know that I’m very demanding…that reflects how I feel about our guests, who expect nothing but the best in the F&B experience at our hotels. As a result, I always seek exceptional F&B professionals and great chefs to be leaders in our hotels. Our regular InterContinental brand customers are international travelers, but they expect our menus to be locally focused and to reflect regional specialties. I also want to see continuous innovation because it’s critical we are contemporary in everything we do—the way we present the food, how dishes are combined, staying abreast of trends in china and glassware—I hate using the same old round plates in the main restaurant, for example. Hotels must continue to change and adapt to the customer’s desires—that’s what I want to see.”

Any F&B “pet peeves?” “Food and beverage should be theatrical—a big show—wherever you do it. Every single thing should be well thought out, with nothing missing, and every element—the décor, the food, the uniforms— should strive to create a theme. So, I hate to walk into a place where there is no theme.” “Our job is to create experiences that get all the senses going, and that depends in large part on the people; everything needs to connect. We can have a fabulous restaurant concept but if we don’t have the right leadership, the right people to carry it out, we’ll fail.”

Do you cook at home, and if so, what’s your specialty? When you dine at an IHG hotel, what do you usually order? “Something local. Ordering a local dish gives me a good idea of what the restaurant is doing overall. Often I will ask for a number of different plates with small portions of various offerings, to see how the food is being presented as well as how it tastes.”

“My wife is a great cook, so I tend to be involved only when there is lots of guest participation, such as when we have friends and family over and I barbecue on the grill. Or when I make paella—then there’s the opportunity to talk about all the things I’m putting into the dish as I prepare it.”

“Our executive chef at the InterContinental Sao Paulo has been named one of the best chefs in Brazil, and on my next trip there I plan to try the famous dish that made him a winner. That’s the sort of thing I expect when I dine in one of our hotels.”

Any recent standout meals at an IHG property? “On a recent visit to the InterContinental Hotel in Buenos Aires, I invited the Executive Committee to have lunch with me in the Mediterráneo Restaurant.


In 1933, the first shipment of Heineken beer arrived on U.S. shores from the Netherlands. The event marked



of a love affair between Americans




green-bottled “Heinies.”

Stands Tall

as ‘ World’s Most International Brewer’

Three days after Prohibition ended in 1933, the first shipment of Heineken beer arrived on U.S. shores from the Netherlands. The event marked the beginning of a love affair between Americans and their green-bottled “Heinies,” and Heineken has remained one of the most successful imported beer brands in the United States. Distribution in the U.S. is handled by Heineken USA, a subsidiary of Heineken International, the fourth largest brewing company in the world. The Heineken USA portfolio of brands includes, in addition to Heineken Lager, Amstel Light (one of the largest-selling imported light beers in the U.S.), nonalcoholic Buckler and Heineken Premium Light, which became available nationally in 2006 and blazed the path for luxury light beers, selling 7.4 million cases in just nine months. Heineken USA’s sales have grown, in part because of increased consumer demand for imports, and Heineken today ranks as the country’s No. 2 imported beer. The company recently announced plans for a 10-year extension of an existing import agreement with FEMSA Cerveza, the leading beverage company in Latin America, through which Heineken USA will continue as the exclusive importer, marketer and seller of the FEMSA beer brands—Dos Equis, Tecate, Tecate Light, Sol, Bohemia and Carta Blanca—in the U.S. The new agreement joins the two most complementary imported beer brand portfolios in the United States for the long term. 4

“The relationship with FEMSA gives us a better regional and demographic balance for our overall portfolio,” says Shawn Schiffer, Vice President of National Accounts, Heineken USA. “Our brands have traditionally been very strong in the Northeast, but the FEMSA agreement has enabled us to achieve double-digit growth on the West Coast. Similarly, the FEMSA brands have now grown outside their Southwestern U.S. stronghold and expanded well into the eastern part of the country.”

A Legacy of Quality The parent company of Heineken USA holds a worldwide portfolio of beer brands—the two largest are Heineken and Amstel—and sells more than 170 international premium, regional and local beers. Its offerings include lagers, specialty beers, light beers and low-alcohol beers. The company owns more than 115 breweries in 65+ countries and employs nearly 58,000 people worldwide. Heineken was founded in 1864, when Gerard Adriaan Heineken bought a small brewery in the heart of Amsterdam. Since then, four generations of the Heineken family have worked to expand the Heineken brand and company throughout the world. Along the way, the Heineken name has become synonymous with innovation, quality and high standards in brewing.

In 1886, Dr. H. Elion, a student of the famous French chemist Louis Pasteur, developed the “Heineken A-yeast” strain in the Heineken laboratory, which is still used today to give Heineken its characteristic flavor. The twentieth century saw a significant ramp-up in exporting and worldwide expansion. In 1968, Heineken merged with its biggest competitor, Amstel. The popularity of the company’s beers also is growing steadily in emerging beer markets such as Russia, China and Latin America. “Our key focus is on being the finest supplier of premium quality beer products and services in the beverage industry, driving the growth of our brands and creating value for our customers,” says Schiffer. “In order to accomplish that, Heineken USA is committed to being a good corporate citizen, to encouraging the responsible consumption of our products and to building a truly performance-based culture.” 5















Defining & Owning an Upscale Niche is Proving

A Winning Formula

for InterContinental Harbor Court Baltimore

The former fine-dining restaurant Hampton’s is now used exclusively for private functions. If you’re not the biggest guy on the block, find your strengths and leverage them to the hilt. That strategy is paying off for General Manager Steven Parker and F&B Director Edwin Mendez at the InterContinental Harbor Court Baltimore. Since IHG began managing the former independent boutique hotel in spring 2006, the hotel’s executive team has taken a completely fresh approach to its F&B outlets and function space, with gratifying results. Blessed with a prime location, the property is in the heart of the renowned Baltimore Inner Harbor, situated along the picturesque waterfront and within walking distance of the downtown business district, historic neighborhoods and popular attractions such as the National Aquarium and Camden Yards. 6

The hotel became well known in the community during its independent days, and its boutique cachet continues to make it popular with celebrity guests. But most of the other hotels in the area have a significantly greater number of sleeping rooms and much more function space. The 195-room InterContinental Hotel’s ballroom, for example, can accommodate only about 200 people. “We decided to become the leader in hosting smaller, more upscale events,” says Edwin, who has been with IHG since 2002 and was a part of the takeover team that came onboard in January 2006. “We have a beautiful property in the best location within the best area of town. No other hotel can compare to our décor and service.”

New Role for the Restaurant One somewhat risky and controversial change was to convert the more famous of the hotel’s two restaurants, Hampton’s, for use exclusively for private events, to help meet the demand for function space. “This restaurant had been famous for 20 years, earning positive Zagat ratings and drawing a small but steady base of regulars,” Edwin says. “Some people were initially upset with our decision to close it, but we’re finding the name—which we kept—is a draw for people booking weddings, bar mitzvahs and other high-end social events. Demand for this space is definitely picking up.” Pre-existing dining bookings were moved to the hotel’s second restaurant, Brighton’s. This dining room now serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, Friday and Saturday tea and brunch on Sundays. To stimulate lunch business, Edwin’s team has recently implemented a modified menu that offers entrees ranging from $12 to $20; antipasto, salad and dessert may be added for only $10 extra—a good deal and a speedy option for busy downtown businesspeople.

Brighton’s restaurant features afternoon tea on Fridays and Saturdays.

Upscale Flair The hotel’s well-known bar/lounge, Explorers, usually offers mellow jazz five nights a week, but is currently undergoing a month-long renovation and will reopen in early August. The outlet attracts a somewhat older, professional crowd seeking sophisticated and sedate late-night ambience. Other key steps in the beverage area have included integrating the World Class Beverage Program and paring back the impressive but unwieldy wine list. With a nod to the property’s upscale clientele, however, the prices still range from $38 to $1,500 a bottle, and the hotel offers more wines and champagnes by the glass— 20+ brands—than any other Baltimore establishment. Explorers lounge boasts one of the most extensive collections of single malt Scotch and cognac in the city.

Listening and Learning Though business is strengthening on all fronts, the conversion has proved a challenging transition, Edwin says. “The F&B team was without significant leadership during the year prior to the conversion,” he notes. “So we have been rebuilding, implementing InterContinental brand standards and getting everyone grounded in the philosophy of the company. “We’ve stayed focused on guest service and at the same time taken care to be sure we are listening to and treating our staff members right. The team who was here before the conversion knows the market and our repeat guests better than anyone, and we rely strongly on their perceptions and guidance. We believe we are headed in the right direction and are ontrack to stabilize our F&B operations by year-end.”

A boutique ambience sets the hotel apart from the competition in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. 7

beverage briefs Scotch Made Simple:

(Almost) Everything You Need to Know

Many whiskies are “chill-filtered” prior to bottling; the whisky is cooled to nearfreezing and passed through a fine filter to remove solid material produced during distillation or from the wood cask and to prevent the whisky from turning cloudy when water or ice is added. Properly aged and filtered whisky is then mixed with other single malts (sometimes of different ages) from the same distillery and bottled at between 40% and 60% alcohol.

How to Drink It While the method of consumption is a matter of personal taste, there are a few popular ways to drink single malt Scotch: • Straight up, or “neat”—For the most devoted purists. • Over ice —Though purists feel this can dull the fine taste and wonderful aromas. WARNING: The following may offend fine Scotch connoisseurs. We admit this primer

might be considered a rather pedestrian account of what aficionados consider a complex and refined subject. However, it’s designed for the novice who needs to sound worldly at his or her next social gathering. If you happen to fall into the expert camp, just use this article to re-test your basic knowledge.

Very Brief History No one knows who invented whisky, but it’s traditionally thought that it came to Scotland from Ireland, introduced by monks who brought distillation along with Christianity in the fourth and fifth centuries. The word “whisky” comes from uisge, a shortened form of uisge beatha—“water of life” in Scots Gaelic. Scotch whisky must be distilled in Scotland to be called Scotch and is always spelled without the “e.”

Types The two types of Scotch whisky are grain, which can be made from malted or unmalted barley and other grains, and malt, which is made from malted barley alone. Blended Scotch is made from combinations of up to 50 different kinds of grain and malt whiskies. This whisky is popular because it is milder, less challenging to the palate and less expensive; well-known brands include Dewar’s, Cutty Sark and Ballantine’s. Single malt Scotch has strong, smoky flavors acquired through extensive aging and is far more expensive.

• W  ith a splash of water —Some experts say water spoils the taste; others believe adding a touch of pure, soft spring water—ideally the same water used in making the specific whisky—enhances the spirit’s distinctive flavor and aroma. Tap water, which contains chlorine, should always be avoided. • With  a splash of club soda —Some feel the carbonation in soda interferes with appreciation of the whisky’s subtler flavors. • W  ith other mixers such as ginger ale, or even Coca-Cola —And the purists ask, “Why drink whisky at all if you’re masking the taste?”

Exploring the History and Wines of the Maipo Valley

Regions Single malts are often identified according to the region of Scotland in which they were distilled. There are four, each with its own peculiar flavors: the Highlands is the largest by far, and its Northern Highlands sub-region produces Glenmorangie, the most popular single malt in Scotland; the few distilleries of the Lowland are known for single malts that are lighter and mellower than other Scotch whiskies; the small Speyside (adjacent to the River Spey) region is home to more than half the distilleries in Scotland, including “top class” whiskies The Glenlivet and The Glenrothes; Islay (pronounced “eye-la”), a small island off the western coast, produces the heaviest and most challenging single malts, including the well-known Laphroaig (pronounced “La-frayg”) brand.

Age Age refers to how long the spirit was aged in barrels—the process does not continue once it’s been bottled—and the older the smoother. By law, Scotch whisky must be aged for a minimum of three years, but any really good Scotch has been aged at least 10 years. Even better (and more expensive) are those aged 12, 15 or 21 years.

How It’s Made The barley is “malted,” or steeped in water to the point of germination, releasing enzymes that break down starches in the grain. The dried malt (and in the case of grain whisky, other grains) is ground into a course grist and steeped with hot water in a process called “mashing,” which allows the enzymes to convert the barley starch into sugar, or “wort.” The wort is cooled, yeast is added and the concoction is allowed to ferment, producing a product called “wash.” The wash is twice distilled, with different types of stills used for malt and grain whisky. The distilled spirit is placed into used oak casks (previously used for sherry or bourbon) for maturation.

3 Ravina Drive Suite 100 Atlanta, GA 30346

When Catholic missionaries first arrived in Chile in the 16th century, the padres immediately set about planting their own grapevines in order to make wine with which to celebrate the sacrament at mass. Their efforts gave rise to the country’s winemaking industry, and the first professional vineyards in the region were recorded in 1554. Chile’s wine country today is located primarily in the Central Valley, within which the most well-known area is the Maipo Valley. The relatively small region is the most celebrated appellation in Chile, and home to some of the oldest vineyards in South America, producing wines of great finesse and complexity. Located just a few hours south of Santiago, the area is bounded by the Andes Mountains to the east, the Coastal Range to the west and the Maipo River to the North. The warm, dry climate, ocean breezes and sandy soils are ideal for producing Cabernet Sauvignon, though Chardonnay, Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc also can be found here. Chilean wineries initially gained international recognition for producing inexpensive, drinkable reds, but the vineyards today—including such familiar names as Concha y Toro and Undurraga—are turning out quality wines that hold their own against top California and French competitors. And though the quality has improved substantially, the prices have not. Wine tours in Chile are a recent development that provide an accessible, delightful way to explore Chile’s rich history against a backdrop of some of the country’s most breathtaking landscapes.

Spirited 2007 - Volume 3  

Bringing Heineken to the US, Talking F&B With Alvaro Diago, InterContinental Harbor Court Baltimore - Spotlight Property, Scotch Made Simple...

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