FRE­QUENT FLYER

Food and drink trends come and go, but Flo­rian ‘Flo’ San­der strives to be ahead of the curve. The en­trepreneur shares with Jes­sica Chan his in­sights on the hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try and his favourite eats in Asia.

Epicure - - CONTENTS -

Flo­rian San­ders, founder and man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of ithink Con­sult­ing Group

“With­out trav­el­ling, I won’t be able to do what I love,” chuck­les Flo­rian San­der, founder and man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of ithink Con­sult­ing Group. Of­ten fly­ing be­tween Sin­ga­pore, Hong Kong and Bangkok (which he nick­names his “Asia’s Ber­muda Tri­an­gle”), San­der man­ages one of the re­gion’s lead­ing bou­tique con­sult­ing firms. He and his team of spe­cial­ist con­sul­tants helped to launch Em­ploy­ees Only Hong Kong. There’s also The Bal­ve­nie Bangkok, the dis­tillery’s first lounge in South­east Asia, and play­lab, a mod­ern kids en­ter­tain­ment cen­tre de­signed specif­i­cally for ho­tels and re­sorts. Next on his list? Trans­form­ing the shop­houses along Keong Saik Road into a 61-room bou­tique ho­tel and a mul­ti­tude of F&B con­cepts. “While I am (tech­ni­cally) only hired for the de­sign and con­sul­ta­tion, I would stay with the project from start to end to en­sure all the com­po­nents come together per­fectly. I want to see to its suc­cess,” re­veals the en­trepreneur.

What in­spired you to cre­ate such holis­tic con­cepts? Pre­vi­ously at Gold­man Sachs, I shuf­fled in and out of ho­tels con­stantly. I didn’t par­tic­u­larly re­mem­ber them, ex­cept for one – the Grand Hy­att Tokyo. Sit­ting at Maduro (their jazz lounge), I watched at least 10 stun­ning wed­dings run­ning par­al­lel in a day. I had a stroke of epiphany. A ho­tel must not only be a respite for busy trav­ellers, but also have holis­tic and sus­tain­able prod­ucts; the ho­tel has reached a whole new level of imag­i­na­tion.

There’s of­ten a dis­con­nect be­tween brand po­si­tion and what the var­i­ous de­part­ments are do­ing. While rooms are wor­thy of the five-star rank­ing, are their lob­bies, spas or af­ter­noon teas five-star prod­ucts? On top of the lav­ish ac­com­mo­da­tions, Grand Hy­att Tokyo has got equally ex­trav­a­gant res­tau­rants, bars and events run­ning through­out the prop­erty. The ho­tel has shown that mul­ti­ple con­cepts coex­ist with great re­sults (with the right team, of course). Share with us a mem­o­rable moment from your ca­reer.

It was 3.30pm at the COMO Metropoli­tan Bangkok. I was work­ing (head of the open­ing F&B team) and a Euro­pean man walked in look­ing com­pletely on edge. He asked for a cof­fee. The restau­rant was closed so I got him his cuppa and joined him. He shared that he was about to pro­pose, but he was so ner­vous about it. I told him, “You need a drink.” I poured us a cou­ple of whiskies and calmed him down. Lit­tle did I know, he was the owner of Tenuta di Risec­coli, an Ital­ian vine­yard. The pro­posal ob­vi­ously went well be­cause he dropped off a bot­tle say­ing thanks (and wed­ding pho­tos later). We kept in touch and I’d al­ways or­der a bot­tle of his pre­mium range, Saecu­lum, when avail­able.

As a fre­quent visi­tor to Bangkok, where are some of your go-to res­tau­rants?

Def­i­nitely Is­saya Si­amese Club. My friends Fred­eric Meyer and chef Pongtawat Chalermkit­tichai have re­stored a two-storey Thai house in the mid­dle of nowhere (you have to pass a junk­yard to get there) into a mod­ern yet rus­tic space. Both in­door and out­door sit­tings are per­fect for en­joy­ing chef’s pro­gres­sive Thai fine din­ing cui­sine. And Fred­eric used to be a DJ pro­moter so ex­pect an amaz­ingly cu­rated playlist.

There’s also Pep­pina off Soi 33. This Ital­ian pizza joint has it all; great food, craft beers and a de­cently priced wine list.

Tell us about the amaz­ing meal you had dur­ing your honey­moon.

It’s this quaint iza­kaya in Tokyo called Joumon. What I love most is this row of seats fac­ing the streets that’s framed by a gi­ant win­dow. I got to in­dulge in my Euro­pean habit of peo­ple watch­ing while en­joy­ing one of the most di­vine yak­i­tori in town. All the in­gre­di­ents are laid out. You can see the at­ten­tion to de­tail, from the qual­ity of pro­duce and control of fire to the ser­vice. Each morsel, no mat­ter what I or­dered, was as ad­dic­tive as the last. Of course, there were tons of sake and beer go­ing around.

Your des­ti­na­tion of choice for a va­ca­tion?

The Le­gian Bali. I had the hon­our of meet­ing the late Jaya Ibrahim, the de­signer and ar­chi­tect of the re­sort. I find it to be one of his defining projects. It’s time­lessly ele­gant. When I’m sit­ting at the bar and star­ring into the sun­set, it’s like I’m in a movie.

What’s a good book for those long, red-eye flights?

For an in­tel­lec­tual de­bate about life, Jor­dan B. Peter­son’s 12 Rules For Life is a good start. He is a Cana­dian clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist who has been ruf­fling feath­ers with his con­tro­ver­sial views. He is a bril­liant com­mu­ni­ca­tor, mak­ing his book an en­gag­ing read. An­other is The Star Di­aries by Stainslaw Fern – my ab­so­lute favourite. It falls un­der the sci­ence fic­tion genre but the over­ar­ch­ing topic of hu­man na­ture and satire on tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vance is re­lat­able to many. You would go on th­ese crazy ad­ven­tures with the clumsy pro­tag­o­nist but that’s just the sur­face; it does delve deep into var­i­ous philoso­phies.

Light bites from Is­saya Si­amese Club Maduro, Grand Hy­att Tokyo. View of the Tokyo Tower from Grand Hy­att Tokyo

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