An Interview with Charles Keusters, Director of Food & Beverage, Casa De Campo, Dominican Republic

interviewCharles Keusters arrived at Casa de Campo December 2014 following a four-year run with Meliá Hotels International. His assignments included management positions with Paradisus Palma Real; Paradisus Punta Cana; INNSIDE Madrid Hotels; and ME Madrid. Charles earned his Hospitality Administration/Management Diploma from Les Roches Marbella. In addition, he earned his bachelor’s degree in Economics from Haverford College.

Casa de Campo Brief

Casa de Campo set the benchmark for luxury travel in the Dominican Republic back in the 1970’s and continues to elevate the standard.

This elite “sporting life” property is situated on the southeast coast of the Dominican Republic, in the town of La Romana.

Luxury accommodations include 185 guest rooms, suites with private terraces, and over 50 villa homes some with private pools. Casa de Campos’s 7,000-acre property offers an abundance of recreational and relaxing activities, including: three award winning and truly spectacular golf courses “Teeth of the Dog”, “Dye Fore” and “The Links”, designed by award-winning designer Pete Dye; La Terraza Tennis Center; a 245 acre shooting center; polo and equestrian center; and variety of water sports. For relaxation and enjoying the sun, the spa and private beaches are a must. Six of the full-service restaurants provide International cuisine and wines all with breathtaking views. Casa de Campo has its own airport, heliport and marina; guests are welcome to arrive by air or by sea.

Liz Palmer

 What Food and Beverage concepts have you implemented since your arrival?

Charles Keusters

 My main objective is to give Casa de Campo villa owners and guests an experience they cannot find anywhere else – to make it a culinary destination.

The owners and guests have access to anything they want here. I like the culinary culture and always looking for new ideas – for my future plans, I’m looking to set up a riverboat where the chef will cook on the boat for guests. I’m also incorporating health and wellness into the menus and working with the chef to incorporate more indigenous vegetables and fruits into the menus along with local fresh fish, which is at our doorstep.

Liz Palmer

As Director of Food & Beverage of Casa De Campo, how do you manage your day and can your outline a typical workday for us?

Charles Keusters

It’s rarely the same every day for me.

I oversee private functions, all the restaurants, and catering for private yachts and planes.

Breakfast is usually at 7:30 am at Logo. Here I have breakfast and review my day. Then I do a-walk-around the property to see if everything is in order. 8:30 am there is usually a briefing with the General Manager. 9:00 am I have an executive committee meeting which includes the operations team where I review pricing and budging. After this meeting I walk around and oversee the various events around the property. Throughout the afternoon and evening I great guests and listen and respect their comments and suggestions.

Liz Palmer

What defines luxury to you?

Charles Keusters

Luxury is comfort, innovation, uniqueness, and anticipation, which are defining elements. Service also plays an important part.

Liz Palmer

Does Casa De Campo have a wine cellar? If so, how large is the inventory? Who maintains it? And who chooses the wines and prepares the wine list?

Charles Keusters

We have an 8,000 bottle cellar, with an inventory of French, Italian, Spanish, Chilean, Australian and New Zealand wines.

I manage and maintain the cellar and am currently reviewing the wine lists to make some future changes.

Liz Palmer

What is your favorite glass of wine to sip at the end of the day?

Charles Keusters

Wine is a personal experience – I like Italian and Spanish reds. Especially Cepa 21 from Spain.

Liz Palmer

Charles, how do you keep up on industry trends and cultural needs of global clients?

Charles Keusters

I’m personally interested in international industry trends. I read magazines, food blogs, and am constantly reviewing Instagram.When I travel I love to explore other cultures and their dishes.

12th Edition of Sicilia en Primeur #SiciliaEP15

2015-04-16 21.36.35Sicilia en Primeur was established in 2004. The purpose of this annual annual event is to present to the Italian and international press the latest vintages from the wineries belonging to Assovini Sicilia.

Over 100 international wine journalists invaded Sicily to attend the 12th edition of Sicilia en Primeur from April 14th – 18th, 2015. With over 40 participating wineries pouring 300 wines, we had the chance to taste “en primeur” wines from different parts of the island, and speak first hand with the winemakers and owners. This also gave us the chance to learn more about their terroir, history, landscape and the various winemaking regions on the Island.

This new generation of Sicilian wine producers have utilized the island’s enviable climate, indigenous grape varieties and fertile soil to win many international wine awards. Their wines have also won the hearts of many of the attending journalists.

So I heard… “Some of Italy’s finest wines are now being made in Sicily”.

Assovini Sicilia selected a sublime venue the Grand Hotel Atlantis Bay, Taormina, which had stunning views of the Mediterranean.

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Exclusive Interview with Conrad Bergwerf, Managing Director, of both the Paradisus Palma Real and Paradisus Punta Cana

2015-02-23 19.02.17Exclusive interview with Conrad Bergwerf, Managing Director of the Paradisus Palma Real and Paradisus Punta Cana properties, in the Dominican Republic.

Conrad Bergwerf has almost twenty years of experience in the luxury hospitality industry and has won a number of prestigious awards. As General Manager of Hotel Gran Meliá Jakarta, Mr. Bergwerf was recognized by the Comité de Turismo de Asociación de Naciones del Sudeste Asiático (ASEAN), in addition to receiving a nomination by the government for the best hotel in the country. Mr. Bergwerf also served as the General Manager of Melia and Paradisus resorts and hotels in Cancun, Jakarta, Vietnam, Costa Rica and Punta Cana.

About the properties:

Both resorts are 5-star all-inclusives. Paradisus is the the all-inclusive luxury brand of Meliá Hotels International.

Paradisus Palma Real is a 554-suite all-inclusive resort that offers a signature adults-only Royal Service program with personal butler service, private beach and pool areas, and Family Concierge service. The resort also offers an abundance of water sports activities, horseback riding excursions, four tennis courts, three pools, Kids’ Club, six gourmet restaurants, and a full-service spa.

Paradisus Punta Cana is a luxury all-inclusive resort situated among white-sand beaches and beautiful blue waters in the easternmost province of the Dominican Republic. The resort offers an array of chic suite accommodations and exclusive offerings for guests creating a distinct and memorable vacation experience including seven swimming pools, 12 restaurants and a full service, signature YHI Spa.

Liz Palmer:

What does Meliá Hotels International brand represent?

Conrad Bergwerf:

Across four continents it’s the number 1 vacation destination world wide; in Spain it’s the number 1 hotel chain, it’s number 2 in Europe, and world wide it’s number 10 – this all speaks how successful it has become.

Liz Palmer:

Does the Paradisus Palma Real and the Paradisus Punta Cana properties have a philosophy?

Conrad Bergwerf:

Yes, they do… “Its he pure freedom of just to be…” and this speaks for itself.

Liz Palmer:

Can you share what makes Paradisus Palma Real unique?

Conrad Bergwerf:

Paradisus is unique in that every single aspect has been thoughtfully and precisely created to deliver an unparalleled experience for all the senses. Your senses will be fully engaged in all respects.

The Family Concierge at the Paradisus Palma Real has had a recent $12 million renovation which includes 42 deluxe suites, with ocean or partial ocean views, some suites have Jacuzzi’s on the balcony — there is lots of marble, an elegant bathtub (separated by a white diaphanous curtain), has VIP check-in, private pool, exclusive restaurant, butlers, and a lounge with a nonstop selection of snacks and juices.

The Family Concierge section also has special  children’s in-suite amenities including robes and slippers and Kids Camp.

Liz Palmer:

Whom Does Paradisus Palma Real Particularly Appeal to?

Conrad Bergwerf:

Our guests come from:

#1 USA – East Coast and Midwest

#2 Canada

#3 Brazil

We do a lot of “barefoot dinners on the beach”, weddings, proposals,  entertain celebraties and Latin American sport celebrities.

Liz Palmer:

You have so many restaurants to choose from, which is your favorite? Do you also have a favorite dish? And a favorite wine?

Conrad Bergwerf:

It usually depends on the time of the day and my mood. Usually, I enjoy seafood. I love Spanish wine, we have many on our wine lists.

Liz Palmer:

How do you keep up with the industry trends and changes in emerging markets and cultural needs of global clients?

Conrad Bergwerf:

I am very focused on this. For example I like playing with the lighting – indirect on the beach and other parts of the resort. I’m also looking at changing the shower lighting. Also, having more open space on the properties, this gives it a nice flow. Using trendy architects to assist us in designing space. Trends start in Asia and I follow a lot of the top designers. Lastly, and the most important is that getting Wi-Fi to go to the beach.

Liz Palmer:

Thank you for taking some time out of your schedule to talk to us and for your wonderful hospitality during our visit to Paradisus Palma Real.

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Review of Casa De Campo, Dominican Republic

By Robert Roland + Liz Palmer

Casa De Campo, one of the Caribbean’s legendary resorts boasts six restaurants and three award-winning golf courses – one being the top golf course in the world, the Teeth of The Dog. That’s just the beginning and the Casa story tells the tale of constant evolution and corporate contribution.

Casa de Campo translated means “homes from cropland” and the real beginning started in the late 1960’s with the success of the Gulf + Western sugar mill operation at La Romana.

Alvaro Carta operated the largest producing mill in the world at the time, and was interested in investing profits into impoverished parts of the island. Alvaro Carta decided to bring in designer Pete Dye in to design a hotel and golf course. Originally the plans were drawn up for an area just outside Santo Domingo but Dye focused on an area near the La Romano Sugar Mill.

Dye started building an Executive Course for the employees of the Sugar Mill and in walking the Caribbean coastline realized that a course along the shore was something special. This course was hand-built by over 300 Dominicans. Coral rock was chipped by sledgehammer and soil was carted in by wagon.

The course was originally called Cajielies which refers to the cashew trees in the mountains, the name was changed to “Teeth of The Dog” when Dye heard locals refer to the sharp coral rock, which looked like canine teeth, as “ diente del perro” (teeth of the dog in Spanish). Teeth of The Dog officially opened in 1971 with seven of the most spectacular holes in golf along the shore of the Caribbean. We toured this and this is something to be seen.

By 1974 the Casa De Campo resort opened as an executive retreat for Gulf + Western Employees and a private airport was built at the resort to accommodate CEO’s and other executives who arrived by private jet.

Over the next ten years Casa has evolved into a resort for many reasons. Prince Maharajah Jabar Singh helped start organized polo, breeding and training. Tennis was added. Altos de Chavon, a village showcasing Dominican art and culture was completed and features many cafes, restaurants and a 5000-seat Grecian style amphitheatre inaugurated by a Frank Sinatra HBO televised special on August 20, 1982.

In the mid-1980’s the property was sold to the Central Romana Corporation and Carta’s dream started to take off in a whole new dimension which is still expanding to this day.

In many ways the story of Casa de Campo in 2015 is being rewritten again.

Casa de Campo’s resort community is spread out over 7,000 immaculately manicured acres which includes: the main hotel, guest rooms, world-class spa, riding stables, polo, tennis, an immaculate private beach, marina, Altos de Chavon – a cultural village with amphitheatre, seven restaurants and several neighbourhoods of privately own villas with many pampering amenities. Casa de Campo’s has its own real estate brokerage onsite and helipad. This sheer size is class and understated, in fact you actually get a golf cart to manoeuvre around the property when you check- in.

Accommodations are everything one would expect of from a world-class hotel and Casa de Campo did not disappoint. We stayed at one of the elite guest rooms, which was conveniently a two-minute golf cart ride to the main building and face out onto one of the greens.

Amenities include a 42-inch flat screen television, marble vanities, iPod/iPhone docking stations, an espresso coffee machine with L’Occitane products found in the bathrooms.

Hidden away in the tropical foliage of Casa de Campo is Casa de Campo Spa – it’s a true sanctuary for renewal. Everything at the spa speaks to the body, spirit and mind being one and being in total alignment. It is delivered by exceptional practitioners, in world-class facilities and one client described the spa as “an incredible spa experience that truly lifted my soul”. There are seven spa suites, each with a private shower with a Zen garden. With a local twist, indigenous ingredients are used such as Dominican Coffee exfoliation, Fruity-Herbal Body Wrap and Choco Body Mask. A true indulgence!

There are seven restaurants in and around Casa de Campo to indulge in. The three main dining experiences are La Caña by Il Circo (Steak, seafood with a good selection of wine) overlooking the pool and spa area, Lago Grill, a full-service restaurant with alfresco dining, and Beach Club by Le Cirque, an elegant beach front dining experience featuring Le Cirque-trained chefs.

Other popular restaurants include La Piazzetta, a gourmet Italian dining experience at Altos de Chavon, La Casita at the marina, where seafood and tapas are the draw and Chinois with breathtaking views at the marina views serves up pan-Asian flavors, Cantonese specialties, Japanese sushi, sashimi and other Oriental dishes.

Our top two were the Beach Club by Le Cirque with two outstanding signature dishes: Lobster Salad and Grouper, and La Piazzetta both for their top service, wine list and over all dining experiences.

At Casa de Campo we found an excellent equestrian center which staff is on hand for lessons in English or Western-style riding and jumping. For ages seven and up, three ponies rides are available on Anita, Juanito or Miguelito. We did a trail ride around the polo fields and saw some teams at practice.

World-class polo has come to the Caribbean – There are three polo fields: one practice field and two for matches.
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Casa de Campo is best known for its three Pete Dye-designed golf courses, namely The Links, The Dye Fore and considered by many to be the top 18-hole course in the Caribbean and one of the top in the world, Teeth of the Dog. This course has seven holes along the brilliantly colored Caribbean Sea. One of the golf pros told us “most of the world’s great oceanside courses play along high cliffs, the Teeth of the Dog is ocean level and you’ll feel the spray of the waves on a couple of holes”.

Other “Sporting Life” activities

Water sports such as boating, fishing river sailing, ocean sailing, kayaking, snorkeling and Scuba

Tennis at La Terraza Tennis Center with 13 Har-Tru Courts

Jim McLean Golf School

Bicycle rentals

Fitness Center with Cybex equipment, treadmills, stationery bikes, free weights with an area dedicated to improving golf performance

Shooting Center with more than 200 stations for sporting clays as well as three trap and skeet layouts

A 150-slip Marina & Yacht Club facility with upscale shopping

Supervised children’s programs

 

Power Patrons:

Bill Clinton – Former US President

Elizabeth Taylor – Actress

Luciano Pavarotti – Famous Tenor

Carolina Herrera – Fashion Designer

Shakira – Singer

Gloria & Emilio Estefan – Musical Icons

Marc Anthony – Singer

Enrigue Iglesias – Singer

Jimmy Carter – Former US President

Puff Daddy – Famous Rap Singer

George HW Bush – Former US President

Greg Norman – Professional Golfer and Course Designer

Jean Chretien – Prime Minister of Canada

Nick Faldo – Professional Golfer & Course Designer

Karim Ostreicher – Princess of Austria

Mikhail Gorbachev – Former Leader of the Soviet Union

Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley were married at Casa de Campo.

At Casa De Campo you have the very best of everything… fabulous accommodations, gourmet dining, world-class sporting adventures, pampering spa treatments and personalized guest services. You might even bump into an international celebrity or dine under the stars besides one of the world’s financial moguls or politicos.

Casa de Campo

1-800-877-3643 or (305) 856-5405

www.casadecampo.com.do

Twitter: @casadecampo

Facebook: Casa de Campo Resort

Review of Serisso 47, Trapani Silicy + Saint Germain (Brut) Firriato

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Serisso 47 is located in the heart of Trapani’s historical center and it is interesting to note that it was formerly a Bourbon palace in the 17th century.

Serisso 47 has a wonderful cozy and elegant atmosphere. The cuisine truly interprets the traditional cuisine of Trapani – the catch of the day, which is brought to your table by trolley. I highly recommend you experience this as each fish is pointed out and explained  along with the cooking preparation.  There are other regional dishes including spaghetti with sea urchins.

I found the wine wine list to be large with a great selection of regional Sicillian wines.  Our choice was Firriato’s Saint Germain (brut) – these wines come from Borgo Guarini estate in Trapani.  This sparkling wine was the perfect accompaniment from our appetizer right through to dessert.

Tasting Notes:

Colour:     straw yellow

Nose:        notes of white fruit with some citrus

Palate:      varied and complex, the balance of acidity and freshness enhances the persistence through to a finish marked with mineral notes.  Persistent bubbles.

It’s interesting to note that Catarratto and Grillo’s individual characters are present and easily distinguished.

Overall with Serisso 47 you get tradition, innovation, wonderful local flavors and excellent presentation.

Serisso 47

Via Serisso, 47

91100 Trapani

T: (0039) 0923 26 113

www.serisso47.com

 

Liz Palmer

Wine + Lifestyle Journalist