On one of its corners, grand flames blazing beneath rich fare flaunt the majestic cuisine of China. And on another, succulently flavored steaks come skewered to invoke the enticing spirit of Brazil. On one side, freshly cut meats summon the refined artistry of Japan. And on another, a mix of flavors alludes to the archipelagic richness of the Philippines. Since it was launched, the famed interactive buffet of Sofitel Manila has made a name for itself as one of the most diverse dining destinations in Asia. Fittingly, the place is run by Damien Marchenay, a man who has traveled and lived in numerous countries, a connoisseur as multi-faceted and cultured as the culinary experience he oversees.
Please tell us more about yourself. Where did you receive your training, and how has your background prepared you for your current position in Sofitel?
I was born in Bordeaux; the major hometown of all the best vineyards.
My father, Daniel Marchenay, was a major player in the wine industry and at the age of 6, I had my first taste of wine for my birthday. It was a Calon de Segur 1982. It was like yesterday when I was sitting in our garden, listening to my Dad explaining all the complexities of wine. From a simple tasting, it became a real addiction. Every Sunday we would open a different bottle—from Leoville Poyferre to Latour Blanche, going through Yquem or other Bordeaux. I got my first taste of Burgundy wine at the age of 15 and New W orld wine at 18. Educational-wise, I have an MBA from IMHI, a joint diploma of Essec, France and Cornell University in New York.
Are you an avid traveler?
I always travel around nearby cities and countries. I have always imagined myself living abroad and getting acculturated with different cultures and customs. I have travelled in around 25 countries and lived in 6 countries.
What are the major challenges you face as the Food and Beverage Director of Sofitel and how do you overcome such challenges?
Time is crucial, in 24hours we need to ensure that everything is perfect and that we are always planning the next promotion. We also need to take care of our incredible team to make sure that we bring out the best in them, since the hotel business requires quality and constant innovation.
What are the current trends in the hotel dining scene and how does Sofitel cope with such trends?
An interactive dining destination such as Spiral is a big thing in the Philippines and the challenge lies not in quantity but more on the variety our guests can choose from. Filipinos, being well-travelled, are very knowledgeable of the quality of the product and therefore we owe it to the Filipinos to deliver only the best they deserve.
What more can we expect from Sofitel’s dining experience in the future?
Lots of surprises. I will ensure that creativity, quality, and excellence remain our credo to ensure that we remain the leader here in Manila.