At the age of 20, Roberto Salicio moved from Madrid to London, where he worked his way up the hospitality ladder. His first job was a steward, during the days when dishes were washed by hand. He has worked at InterContinental London and The Dorchester. Career highlights include winning the Manager of the Year award at The Dorchester Collection in 2012 and being shortlisted for the Restaurant Manager award for the Cateys award in London. Here’s a peek into his world at InterContinental Sanctuary Cove Resort in Queensland.
What are your impressions of Australia?
I arrived in September 2015, so almost a year now… So far, so good!
Australia is an amazing place for children to grow-up; the outdoors activities and friendliness of the people have made the move really easy. We feel at home already!
My daughter Natalie is three years old and my son Liam is 18 months.
How long have you been working in hotels?
I have been in hotels since I was 20 years old… wow, 17 years in total!
I started from the bottom. My first job was actually as a steward and back in the day we were washing all dishes by hand!
I then moved into a waiter position and few years later joined South Bank University in London where I graduated in International Tourism and Hospitality Management.
I’ve been very fortunate to spend most of my professional career to date in incredible London hotels. I have held all sorts of roles throughout the years such as Bar Manager, Restaurant Manager and F&B Manager until I reached the Director position.
I had a wonderful opportunity working on the opening team of InterContinental London in 2005 and then moved across to The Dorchester.
What’s the best thing about your job as Director of Food & Beverage, InterContinental Sanctuary Cove Resort?
For me, I love that every day is truly different – I could not imagine working a standard Monday to Friday office job.
The industry talent is inspiring and there’s always the need to innovate our F&B offering that keeps me on my toes – the new high coffee was a first for our region and a great example of the diversity.
What are your biggest challenges?
Balancing the needs of the hotel with the wellbeing of staff. We are almost 100 employees between front of house, kitchen and stewarding.
It is important that employees are engaged and happy at work and at home. Balancing life and work in hotels is not always easy!
Do you have any advice for young people seeking a career in hospitality?
You need a genuine love for this industry if you want to succeed.
The key is to have a better understanding of the operation at all levels and it does require time and patience until you have a sound knowledge.
Also, do not expect to learn solely at work, you need to develop yourself out of the working hours to differentiate.
What was you first impression of InterContinental Sanctuary Cove?
I was amazed by the facilities the guests can enjoy at InterContinental Sanctuary Cove – our very own one-acre lagoon is certainly an impressive sight!
The Fireplace restaurant was also something that in all my years of work I have never seen; everything is cooked in front of the guest using our own wood-fired oven and open mise en place.
Describe a typical day
I could honestly say I don’t have a typical day in my role!
That said, first thing I always do is read the handovers from the events held the night before to make sure everything went smoothly, and then see what is happening on the day and ensure all parts involved are prepared.
I will also meet other departments to align our needs, as hotels are big families and we all rely on each other.
What is your food and beverage philosophy at Sanctuary Cove?
First and foremost, my team and I have a commitment to supporting local suppliers, using locally-sourced produce and fresh ingredients for an authentic experience.
With this, our philosophy lies in the experience – guests love the open mise en place and wood-fire oven for a sense of drama and authenticity.
Guests can interact with the chefs and sommelier in the open restaurant at The Fireplace, or get involved with the buffet displays in Cove Café.
We infuse the art and theater to create a dining experience, not just a meal.
What do you love most about Sanctuary Cove?
For me it’s the people. I immediately felt like I was being welcomed into a family and the combined staff knowledge is phenomenal.
We have staff who have been here since the Resort’s opening in 1988!
Besides the culture, the Resort grounds are second-to-none. It’s easy to forget you’re only 45 minutes from the Gold Coast.
We have the one-acre lagoon, exclusive access to championship golf courses and – quite breathtakingly – we have kangaroos and joeys who roam the grounds.
Is there anything you would change if you could?
Public transport is an issue not only in Sanctuary Cove but in the Gold Coast in general.
What are the biggest differences between working in London and the Gold Coast?
London and Queensland are both leading tourism hubs, although they are hard to compare.
The pace is one of the most notable differences. London has a much faster pace and a culture where people dine out late.
The location of InterContinental Sanctuary Cove allows us to have a greater emphasis on seasonal produce and local suppliers and it tends to be less formal.
London, especially in five-star hotels, has a slightly greater focus on fine dining and international cuisine.
Where do you hang out on your day off?
I love Currumbin Creek. It’s the ideal place for parents with young children and the water is crystal clear and not too shallow.
Where would you take friends and family?
Currumbin Creek is a must for trips with the kids.
Springbook National Park would be on the list for its incredible views of the Gold Coast – it’s set among trees so old, you will never find in Europe.
Tamborine Mountain is another of my favourite spots; apart from the scenery it has great restaurants (some of our local cheeses come from the area) so it’s great for a day out with good wine and food.
Where’s the best spot for a good coffee on the Gold Coast?
Actually this recommendation came for my previous executive chef. I must admit other than us I really like Saturday’s Miami High School markets, the coffee served by Daniel and his company Noego is fantastic.
What’s your favourite restaurant on the Gold Coast?
This is a very political question….well, of course…..The Fireplace!
Do you have any suggestions for the Commonwealth Games?
My only advice is that whatever is done for the Games needs to help the community after the Games are finished. There is a lot of construction going on and demands for housings and jobs will be there during the Games but what happens afterwards must be sustainable and considered.