Who says you can’t mix business with pleasure? When you are in Dubai, you can have the best of both worlds. In this episode, Andy McNeill and Todd Bludworth dive deep into the Jewel of the Middle East, Dubai! They are joined by TV Host, Ryan Pyle, who will explore with us why this city of gold is the top business hub, charting with us its dynamic growth over the last few decades. He takes us to some of the great hotels and destinations that are fit for meetings, events, and, of course, travel!
In line with that, Andy and Todd also sit down with Omar Souab of Sofitel Dubai The Obelisk to share with us some of the unique opportunities offered in this luxury hotel. He also takes us outside to give his recommendations on how best to enjoy the city. Join this episode for some fun and luxurious travel options, where you get to enjoy the finer things in life while discovering a different culture that just might enhance your appreciation of respect and tolerance.
Todd Bludworth and Andy McNeill are travel and hospitality entrepreneurs and owners of the global meetings organization, American Meetings, Inc. From sourcing hotels in Dubai to corporate event management, their team sources corporate event venues with and meeting planners for clients worldwide. They provide ideas for convention themes and how to run global meetings and events in Dubai and around the world. For more information go to www.americanmeetings.com.
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TV Host Ryan Pyle Calls The City Of Gold The Top Business Hub, And Explore Luxury Dubai Hotels With Omar Souab Of Sofitel Dubai The Obelisk
Who says traveling for business has to be a task? In Dubai, you can mix business with pleasure as you enjoy not only its growth as a global business hub but also its many luxurious travel destinations. Andy McNeill and Todd Bludworth dive deep into the Jewel of the Middle East with none other than two great people who live there who can share with us all there is you need to know about the city.
First up, they sit down with Ryan Pyle. After realizing a lifelong dream, Ryan took off from his hometown in Toronto, Canada, to China, where he became a regular contributor to the New York Times. In 2009, he was listed by PDN Magazine as one of the 30 emerging photographers in the world. Having designed a career-making travel television based on the aspirational idea of making people want to travel and see the world, he shares what drew him into the city of gold and what he is seeing that makes it so attractive to business people travelers alike.
Ryan regards as Dubai his home. He talks about why it has a fantastic social club with so many things happening all the time—from people in entertainment to the incredible restaurants, bars, and nightlife.
Lest you forget the old world in this cosmopolitan environment, Ryan shares his top must-try things and must-visit places in the city that are unlike no other:
Walk through the gold market
Cruise in a morning boat along the Dubai Creek
Visit some of the deserts just north or south of the city
Plus, if you want to bask in the beautiful sunset with unforgettable views and a fine and luxurious experience, then you don’t want to miss visiting Burj Khalifa.
From one great landmark to the next, Andy and Todd also sit down with Omar Souab, the General Manager of Sofitel Dubai The Obelisk—the second largest in the world and largest in the Middle East and Africa. Fit for a luxurious city, Omar talks about the great things that make this luxurious hotel unique:
One, this iconic building is adorned with a gold pyramidion and in the shape of an obelisk, representative of the Luxor Obelisk currently in Paris.
Two, it is in a great downtown spot, just 10 minutes away from the airport.
Three, it houses five amazing restaurants.
Four, it offers the Sofitel Spa with L’Occitane
Five, it has three signature suites inspired from the emperor Napoleon and Cleopatra and designed by an Italian designer
Going out to the city, Omar then shares his recommendations that any international visitor must try:
Safaris in the desert
Boat trips in the Arabian sea
Indoor activities such as ski slope and diving
Through it all, Dubai has proven itself to be one of the must-visit places, be it for business or pleasure or both. Before we forget, it helps to be reminded of the cultural differences any well-meaning traveler needs to know about Dubai. So get yourself acquainted with their culture and, most of all, always keep in mind to be respectful.
Capping this amazing episode off, here are Andy and Todd’s bucket-list items to do in Dubai:
Sand Dune Bashing and Sandboarding
Visit the Dubai Souks (Markets)
Lounge 152 stories up at Burj Khalifa
Zipline across the Dubai Marina
See the world’s largest natural flower garden at the Dubai Miracle Garden
Experience the culture during Ramadan
Attend the activities at the Dubai Opera House
Enjoy the Arabian Gulf on a private yacht
About Ryan Pyle
Born in Toronto, Canada, Ryan Pyle spent his early years close to home. After obtaining a degree in International Politics from the University of Toronto in 2001, Ryan realized a lifelong dream and traveled to China on an exploratory mission.
In 2002 Ryan moved to China permanently and in 2004 Ryan became a regular contributor to the New York Times. In 2009 Ryan was listed by PDN Magazine as one of the 30 emerging photographers in the world.
In 2010 Ryan began working full time on television and documentary film production and has produced and presented several large multi-episode television series for major broadcasters in the USA, Canada, UK, Asia, CHINA and continental Europe.
About Omar Souab
As General Manager of Sofitel Dubai The Obelisk, Omar Souab leads the strategic direction and managed the pre-opening and current operations of Sofitel Hotels & Resorts largest property in the Middle East.
Souab brings a wealth of hospitality experience with an in-depth background in operations and sales following a 15-year career with Accor Group in Morocco and the UAE.
Souab holds a Bachelor in International Business from Santa Monica College in Los Angeles, USA, a Bachelor of International Business majoring in Marketing from Schiller International University in Madrid, Spain, and a Masters in Hospitality from Accor’s International Hospitality Management Program in Paris, France.
In his free time, Souab is a keen golfer, enjoys running – aiming for a semi-marathon – and discovering new Hospitality as well as Food & Beverage trends.
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When people talk about New Orleans, the first thing that comes to mind is Mardi Gras and Bourbon Street. But it is also home to jazz music and the best of meeting and event venues. Here, Kermit Ruffins shares his journey from being an aspiring member of brass bands from New Orleans to becoming a songwriter for Disney’s Jungle Book and a jazz trumpeter jamming with Jon Batiste. On the other hand, discussing the elegant facilities and unparalleled service of The Windsor Court Hotel is its General Manager, Ralph Mahana. For your next business meeting plan, Andy McNeill and Todd Bludworth explore the cuisine and culture deep in the heart of New Orleans.
Andy McNeill and Todd Bludworth are travel and hospitality entrepreneurs and owners of the global meetings organization, American Meetings, Inc. From sourcing hotels in New Orleans to corporate event management around the world, their team selects corporate event venues and meeting planners for a wide array of enterprise business clients, providing ideas for convention themes and strategies for running global meetings and events. Learn more at www.americanmeetings.com.
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Jazz Trumpeter Kermit Ruffins gives a musician’s guide to the Big Easy, plus hear from the Windsor Court’s General Manager Ralph Mahana
New Orleans is a timeless place. It offers a different feeling and experience with every visit, and the next one is always better than the last. It doesn’t end with Mardi Gras or Bourbon Street. In this episode, Andy McNeill and Todd Bludworth explore the rich beauty, culture, and cuisine of New Orleans, with two special guests joining them to delve into its music and hospitality.
Jazz Trumpeter Kermit Ruffins
New Orleans is the land of jazz music. It is home to a local jazz festival, which mainly contributes to the area’s signature laid-back vibe. This is why many children are drawn to a career in jazz music as they grow up. Kermit Ruffins is one of those kids, with his relatives and friends all into trumpets and brass bands. Who would have thought that years later, his career would bring him to the mainstream stage?
Kermit’s passion as a jazz trumpeter led him to Jon Batiste and Stay Human, performing on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. He also played himself in the HBO series Treme. Outside his busy days, he cooks in his bar, Kermit’s Treme Mother-in-Law Lounge.
Rapid-Fire Questions with Kermit
Have you ever completed anything on your own bucket list?Putting out CDs.
If there’s any place in the world you could live in for a year, where would it be?Probably the Africans because I haven’t seen it.
When you’re packing for a trip, what is something you pack that may surprise other people?A Crockpot. Before the gig, I’ll put some rabbit or chicken in it. When we come back, it’ll be just smelling up in the whole hotel.
Voodoo Festival and New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival
Best Seafood Places: Frankie and Johnny’s, Big Fisherman, and Cooter Brown’s
American Horror Story Trip: Buckner Mansion, Tau Omega Alpha fraternity house, and LaLaurie Mansion
Private tour of the Garden District
Culinary workshop at The Bakehouse
S. Rau Antique Shop
Drag queens at the Country Club
The Sazerac House
Top Three Restaurants: Nina Compton’s Bywater American Bistro, Willa Jean Restaurant and Bakery, and Commander’s Palace
General Manager of The Windsor Court, Ralph Mahana
Serving at the hotel for more than 13 years, Ralph Mahana rose as the General Manager of The Windsor Court after sitting in almost every hospitality position imaginable, from the director of banquets, officer manager, to assistant general manager. He is the main guy of this elegant place that features a British style and a $15 million art collection, all curated by the original developer and certified Anglophile James J. Coleman.
Main Facilities Of The Windsor Court
Iconic lounge with live night music
Second-floor restaurant fit for royalty
Eight-room spa treatment
Rooftop pool with a poolside bar
As one of the oldest properties in New Orleans, it is home to the most interesting stories. For Ralph, the most memorable one would probably when Paul McCartney himself serenaded the guests by playing the piano in the lounge. To further ensure that everyone who visits the hotel gets an experience that cannot be found anywhere else, The Windsor Court provides enthralling private offers to their executive-level club, which are best for those returning to New Orleans.
The hotel is also no short on crazy requests from guests. Ralph shares one time when someone wanted to land a helicopter on top of their building, and even arranging a parade where local chefs showcased their food while riding giant floats.
From playing himself in the HBO Series Treme, to barbecuing outside his bar, Kermit’s Treme Mother-in-Law Lounge, to sitting in with Jon Batiste and Stay Human on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, the trumpeter/vocalist keeps himself busy when he isn’t on stage doing what he does best—entertaining and sharing his love of life with the world.
Ruffins continues making his imprint on the world with wider exposure including appearances on Bravo’s Top Chef and on the soundtrack to Disney’s Jungle Book with Bill Murray and Christopher Walken. He personifies the laid-back vibe of New Orleans.
About Ralph Mahana
Ralph Mahana, a New Orleans native and alumnus of Isidore Newman School and Tulane University, was named general manager of Windsor Court Hotel in April 2018. No stranger to hospitality, Ralph previously spent 13 years entrenched in the day-to-day operations of the hotel. While a sophomore in college, Ralph joined the Windsor Court team as a night auditor/bellman. As a business major, he quickly fell in love with the industry and transitioned through a variety of positions and departmental leadership roles over the years, including director of rooms, operations, front desk, guest services, food and beverage, and assistant general manager. Ralph is passionate about an array of causes, from education and affordable housing, to human trafficking and gender equality.
Through his leadership, the hotel has undergone a staff training on human trafficking awareness and prevention; donated used furniture from recent renovations to Nicholls State University’s new ballroom project; and committed time and resources to guarantee the hotel is welcoming to the LGBTQ community. Ralph’s leadership and commitment to his community have recently earned him positions as a Board Member for GNO, Inc.’s NextGen Council and Chair of Community Engagement for the Greater New Orleans Hotel & Lodging Association.
With a keen eye on being unbiased, he’s also doing his part, alongside GNO, Inc.’s Race and Equity Foundation, to make New Orleans the most equitable city in the nation. Ralph is honored to be recognized as one of the Sharpest in New Orleans, and he looks forward to collaborating with SHARP Men to affect change in the local community and beyond.
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From famous movie sets to afternoon tea, Sophie Malerba shares her Blue-Badge Guide knowledge on all things London for your next corporate meeting or event planning. Plus, from the official hotel of London Fashion Week and London Film Festival, The May Fair Hotel’s Anjie Keegel shares some insider tips.
Together with Andy McNeill and Todd Bludworth see London as you’ve never seen before, for business, pleasure or both. Curating unforgettable experiences for your next London trip, this episode will give you a glimpse of the London scene through the eyes of locals.
Andy McNeill and Todd Bludworth are travel and hospitality entrepreneurs and owners of the global meetings organization, American Meetings, Inc. From sourcing venues in London, to corporate event management around the world, their team selects corporate event venues and meeting planners for a wide array of enterprise business clients, providing ideas for convention themes and strategies for running global meetings and events. Learn more at www.americanmeetings.com.
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London. Official Blue Badge Guide Sophie Malerba Shares Best Things To Do In London, And Catch Iconic Events With The May Fair Hotel’s Anjie Keegel
There is a reason why London is simply a must-visit travel destination. From its medieval history to pop culture, this United Kingdom capital has something to offer every traveler. From famous movie sets to afternoon tea, Sophie Malerba joins this episode to share her Blue Badge Guide knowledge on all things London. Plus, as the official hotel of London Fashion Week and London Film Festival, hear from The May Fair Hotel’s Anjie Keegel. Together with Andy McNeill and Todd Bludworth, they take us into a view of London as we’ve never seen before, be it for business or pleasure or both.
Starting with the basics, Andy and Todd dive deep into the world of tour guides. Bringing you only the best experience, they talk to Sophie Malerba to share the prestige that comes with being a Blue Badge Guide.
A Blue Badge Guide stands out from all other guides in the city. One, it is not just a summer job; it’s a profession. People wearing this badge have to go through a tough and competitive 2-year course with roughly 30 people a year. From entry exams to written and practical, the Blue Badge ensures that any traveler, no matter where they come from and what language they speak, is getting high-quality standards.
Kicking off this tour in the most English way, Sophie gives us an insider perspective of London, revealing some of the city’s secrets.
Her top three places to visit for an afternoon tea are:
The Goring Hotel – This hotel is a family-run hotel just outside Buckingham Palace frequented by the Royals.
Ham Yard Hotel – This hotel offers design-oriented, beautiful interiors. They do afternoon tea for £25, which is a steal in London.
Fortnum & Mason – This final entry serves not only the three tiers but after you finish them, they then bring along the cake trolley with more cakes to choose from.
From there, Sophie takes us to the streets, but not just like any other streets out there, because for her, “Whenever you’re in London, don’t stay on the main streets. Go to the side streets.” Everybody knows Piccadilly, but not many know the treasure that is St. James. If you want to shop where the Royals go, then this is the place to be! A lot of shops here have Royal Warrants, which means they produce goods and services for the Royal Family.
If you’re into the arts, then Sophie recommends the East End of London’s Shoreditch, London’s creative hub. Most people nowadays are familiar with this area as the place where street artist Banksy started. Since then, this has become the holy grail of the world’s best street artists.
Moving on from the Royals to A-listers, Andy and Todd also sit down with Anjie Keegel of The May Fair Hotel, which is the official hotel of the iconic London Film Festival and the London Fashion Week. She shares some insider stories, celebrity encounters, and high-end events that take place in this great hotel.
Going deeper, Anjie tours us to some of the little gems around The May Fair area, where musicians, celebrities, and the Royals also love to visit:
The Coach & Horses – One of the oldest pubs in May Fair
Shepherd’s Market – Located just at the back of the hotel where you can visit a few galleries, pubs, and restaurants
Curating unforgettable experiences for your next London trip not only with a great hotel but also with equally great bucket list items to match, listen to this episode and have a feel of the London scene—be it the lifestyles of the rich and famous or exploring the city through the eyes of locals.
About Sophie Malerba
Sophie Malerba has been a Blue Badge Guide of London for 5 years and absolutely loves it! She mainly works with the US market, both private bookings (families and couples) and Incentives.
Her past experience is in the travel industry, where she worked for an Italian DMC for 8 years, before returning home to London.
She then worked for a London DMC, before fulfilling her dream to be a guide, which takes 2 years training.
About Anjie Keegel
Anjie Keegel has been in the industry for over 20 years.
She started out in operations (reservations, reception/ front of house) prior to moving in to reactive sales, then proactive sales.
Some of her previous roles includes, Corporate Sales Manager, Director of Leisure & Group Sales, Business Development and Director of Sales (property based) for hotels in London, Heathrow and Manchester UK.
Originally from Sri Lanka, Anjie moved to the UK over 25 years ago and never looked back.
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From its eclectic restaurant selections to the local music scene, Dallas offers great opportunities and venues for business travelers and corporate meetings. Learn about the best things to do in Dallas with our guests Dean Fearing, the Executive Chef and Partner of Fearing’s Restaurant, and Ryan Miyamoto, the General Manager of the Statler Hotel. The two showcase the unique beauty of the city embedded in the Southwestern cuisine and dashing hotels. We go beyond Big D’s year-round rodeo and highlight the less-explored side of Dallas, Texas’ third-largest city. Come along to visit historic sites, an annual floral blooms festival, and on an invitation-only dinner hosted by three Master Chefs.
Andy McNeill and Todd Bludworth are travel and hospitality entrepreneurs and owners of the global meetings organization, American Meetings, Inc. From sourcing venues in Dallas, to corporate event management around the world, their team selects corporate event venues and meeting planners for a wide array of enterprise business clients, providing ideas for convention themes and strategies for running global meetings and events. Learn more at www.americanmeetings.com.
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Father Of Southwest Cuisine Chef Dean Fearing Shares His Famous Tortilla Soup And The Statler Hotel’s Ryan Miyamoto Tells The Tales Of Its Historic Past
Never been to Texas? Bless your heart. The Lone Star State’s third-largest city, Dallas boasts TV fame with its namesake show wild West notoriety and ritzy Highland Park Village. In this episode, we hear from Chef Dean Fearing, the Father of Southwestern Cuisine and the author of The Texas Food Bible. We’ll also speak with The Statler Hotel, a spectacular property right in the center of the city’s action. Let’s explore Dallas’s trendy hotspots on this episode of Destination Everywhere, Dallas.
The Texas Food Bible
We are excited to bring you one of my favorite places and a place that I lived for six years, Dallas, Texas. It’s what I consider one of the most underrated cities in America. It has a beautiful skyline and downtown that has blossomed over the last several years. There’s so much to do, and great weather as well. Todd, I know we’ve taken a lot of clients here over the years. What are your thoughts?
I love Dallas. First of all, Dallas changed so much at such a short time, and it continues to change. I had this perception of Dallas because I am a pop culture fan, and I watched the show Dallas. Dallas is big money. There’s industry there. We like Southfork, the house from the Dallas show. We did go and see that, which was cool. You can do events there. There are a lot of private clubs. There’s an insider’s version of Dallas and then there’s the rest of Dallas. Trying to find out that insider’s Dallas is a fun thing to do.
We’re going to give you some ideas around that. When I lived there, it was a growing city, the food is amazing.
What neighborhood are you in?
I was in Deep Ellum. Deep Ellum is the eclectic, cool area with the garage band, bars and great food. We’re going to have a great chef on, Dean Fearing. What you learn about Dallas is it has all different types of food, the Southwestern style, as well as the amazing continental that they’re known for. That’s something you want to do when you’re there, but overall, it was a great experience being there. The people are nice and polite. It’s like a modern Southern charm.
Dallas is great. On the meeting side, I remember we always liked Dallas because we were bringing people from all over central place. It’s easy to get you from the West Coast, easy to get to from the East Coast. There are lots and lots of Lyft in Dallas because you have a couple of airports there.
It’s in Northern Texas. It’s a metropolis. It’s huge. It goes on forever. They have beautiful springs and beautiful falls. It’s hotter than Hades in the summer but extremely dry. It’s one of those places like Phoenix or Tucson that’s warm. Take that into account. We’re excited to bring on our next guest. Todd, who is it?
We’ve got somebody who I’ve worked with in the past, who has done amazing meals for groups, and I’ve eaten there in his restaurant when he was at The Mansion on Turtle Creek. Dean Fearing is going to be joining us. He is the undisputed King of Southwestern Cuisine. I’m looking forward to hearing what he has to say and what he’s got coming up.
Our guest is a guest I’ve been familiar with for a long time. We have the Chef-Owner of Fearing’s Restaurant in Dallas, the author of The Texas Food Bible, and crowned but non-contested Father of Southwestern Cuisine, Chef Dean Fearing. Chef, thank you for joining us.
It’s great to be here on your show. Todd, I love your background. I didn’t know you were standing in the restaurant.
I’m in the restaurant. I’ve got it all to myself now.
[bctt tweet=”Dallas changed so much in such a short time, and it continues to change.” via=”no”]
Andy, you’ve got the whole Dallas skyline behind you.
I used to live there. I loved it.
We had brought meetings and events to your former property, The Mansion on Turtle Creek, another great spot. You used to have the restaurant there. You would always do such an amazing job with our guests. You always made them feel like VIPs, but your food was always off the hook. You go and everybody’s like, “Get the Tortilla soup, start with the Tortilla soup,” and then work your way up from there. How did you go from where you were to Southwestern cuisine?
Right after culinary school, which was Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. I graduated in ‘78 and went straight to the La Maisonette in Cincinnati, which was one of the famous five-star Mobil Guide restaurants. I worked there for about two years and the chef says, “I have a job for you in Dallas, Texas.” What got me to Dallas was the Fairmont Hotel. I became the poissonier there, that was the fish cook. I fell in love with Dallas. The landscape there is the skyscape, which I fell in love with. If you can imagine, I lived in River Belt, Rust Belt, Steel Mill City all through the Midwest, which had its charm, but then coming to Dallas, which was brand spanking new, I couldn’t believe it. I fell in love with new. I stayed. It was in my first restaurant in 1981 called Agnew’s, which ironically was the first American restaurant in Dallas, Texas.
If you can imagine in ‘81, it was all French and Italian restaurants. The only American restaurant was Luby’s Cafeteria, barbecue joints, and a hamburger joint along the way, but there wasn’t any American-style, white tablecloth, casual restaurants. They weren’t there. It was there that I said, “I am going to lay my claim to do American cuisine.” All the French chefs at the time said, “Good luck.” They gave me about six weeks to survive because they said, “It’s not American cuisine that people want. They want French cuisine.” It spooked me. Within six weeks, we were five-star in both of our local papers. It started the career.
I started to develop what would be Southwest cuisine along with Stephan Pyles, who was also in Dallas, Texas, and also Robert Del Grande from Cafe Annie in Houston. The three of us banded together to start a style of cuisine that is still current to American-style cuisine. It was using all the products indigenous to our area, fish from the gulf, wild game from South Texas, great steaks from West Texas, all the white trash coming out of Oklahoma, which is not intended to be a slang or a slam by any means. It was those great Southern flavors that we love, fried chicken and anything fried.
The term Southwestern cuisine, what year was that coined?
We coined it in 1985 and it started to take off. That’s when I came back to The Mansion as Executive Chef. I said, “The only way I was going to be the Executive Chef of The Mansion on Turtle Creek was if we marketed the restaurant as a Southwest cuisine restaurant.” That was big at that time because Southwest cuisine was in its infancy and who was going to bite and say, “We’re going to do that.” Bob Zimmer, the President of Rosewood Hotels at the time who was a visionary said, “We’re going to do it,” and we never looked back.
I want to talk about some of your accolades because it’s impressive. You’ve won a James Beard Award for Best Chef Southwest in ‘94, nominated for Best New Restaurant in 2008 with Fearing’s Restaurant, Outstanding Restaurant ‘95 and ‘98 at The Mansion. Not only that, you’ve also been featured in the New York Times, USA Today, Newsweek, Food & Wine, the list goes on and on, but this one I thought was the most important and most impressive, Guitar Aficionado. You’re in two groups, you’re a guitar player. You’re with an all-chef alternative country group called The Barbwires and then the Lost Coyote Band.
I love to play. Being the Chef-Owner of Fearing’s Restaurant has been the greatest thirteen years of my life. It has taken me to new heights, and to be able to do food that I want to do in an atmosphere that is come as you are, pretty much. We have no rules. We don’t say no. I love that. To be able to create food in that environment has been stellar, but also to be able to write music, which my songwriting partner is Robert Del Grande from The Annie in Houston. He and I have been writing songs since 1985. We have a whole slew of songs.
Where do you play in Dallas?
We played mainly in food events. We mainly play at Fearing’s Restaurant or The Annie. There are a lot of food events that are going on and they always say, “Dean, can you and the group play?” We love that. It’s not like we’re supporting ourselves out on the bars. It mainly is to keep our toe in the water.
Let’s go back to Southwestern cuisine. Where do you see it going from here? It’s been around for several years. Where do you see it headed or what has happened that’s been different?
It never has left. Let’s talk about Tortilla soup. Tortilla soup has been with me since 1981. When Caroline Hunt brought the scratchy, almost unreadable recipe from The Argyle Club in San Antonio to the kitchen of The Mansion, and handed it to the chef who was Christian Chemin at that time and said, “I think we should do a local soup.” A Texas-style soup in our restaurant which was all French at that time. I’m standing next to the chef and there’s Mrs. Hunt in front of us. She leaves the kitchen and Christian hands me the recipe and says, “I can’t believe she’s going to make me do a peasant soup on the menu.” Now it is the greatest soup known to Dallas and still is with Fearing’s. We have some time a lot of dishes that are never going to go away. The chicken fried lobster with the prime filet at the restaurant has been on the menu for several years. If I took it off the menu, I’d have to leave Texas. It’s soaked in maple syrup for 48 hours with jalapeno grits and butternut squash taquito can never leave the menu. People come in for that. It’s such a legendary item now. Where is it going? It’s never going to leave is probably the best way to put it. It’s those flavors that people love. That little tinge of spice is what everybody is addicted to.
Dallas: Dallas brings people from all over the place, giving easy access to both East and West Coasts.
Chef, when did you decide to make the jump and go from a coveted position at The Mansion on Turtle Creek? A great restaurant to go out on your own and open up Fearing’s at The Ritz in Dallas. When I make a change, I’ve always got a nervous knot in my stomach, but what prompted you to do that?
John Goff, who’s my business partner, came over and said, “How would you like to have your own restaurant, design your own restaurant, and run your own restaurant?” I said, “Sure.” I tripped probably three times running over to The Ritz because it was exciting.
Where you are with Fearing’s, which is a little bit north of downtown, that area has come together nice in the last several years. Tell us a bit about that and what people should visit.
We call it Uptown. It has become a major restaurant area, but also with The Ritz being there and the most gorgeous office buildings.
They’re doing parks over the freeways there.
Klyde Warren Park is amazing. It’s 5 acres of park that’s over our major freeway that connects I-35 with 75, which are our two major arteries in town besides the tollway. You get on this park and you think you’re somewhere else. You’re surrounded by all of these beautiful architectural buildings.
All the museums are right there as well.
Everything is pocketed perfectly. That’s the other thing is I like the way Dallas has laid itself out.
Chef, I want to go back to Fearing’s. You said you got to design it yourself. Chefs and designing, sometimes they go hand-in-hand, other times probably not, but what were you trying to do when you were building out the restaurant?
Bill Johnson Studios out of Atlanta was our interior designer. He’s an old hippie, I’m an old hippie so we fit right in. His idea of the restaurant was one big dining room. I was like, “Bill, we can’t do that.” In the middle of July, on a Sunday night, when somebody walks in and there are four tables there, just because there’s nobody in Dallas, the business traveler isn’t traveling in the middle of that month. They’re going to walk in and psychologically, they’re going to say, “I’m at the wrong spot. This isn’t happening.” I said, “No, we need to break it up into smaller rooms, seating 40 people in each room. With that, we can still have a big restaurant, but let’s change the look of each room to give it its own atmosphere.” We have a white tablecloth room we called The Gallery that is beautiful, 18-foot ceiling. You walk in and it’s this gorgeous, beautiful, lots of art in the room, which is called The Gallery, all of this beautiful art you see.
We have The Kitchen Room, which I designed the whole kitchen around the working kitchen. It’s called The Kitchen Room because of the fact that you can hear people talking, “Pick up. Don’t forget the special order on there.” You see flames and you smell fire from the grill. It’s all of that. Our guests become infatuated with being in our kitchen like they are there. In this day and age, people love that. We have a glass pavilion that looks out into our outdoor bar, our garden. It’s this whole beautiful area. We have Fearing’s patio, which is all outdoor dining and also outdoor bar with its own self-sufficient bar out there, fireplace, bandstand. We have live music on Friday and Saturday nights that are just fantastic. It brings people out, camaraderie and community.
[bctt tweet=”Dallas, all around, is such a big, diverse city with so many things to do on every corner.” via=”no”]
Chef, thank you so much for joining us. We’d like to tell our readers, Chef has agreed to give away five of his cookbooks to five of our readers, The Texas Food Bible. Thank you for that. Go onto our website and subscribe for that.
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We are talking Dallas, Texas. It’s one of my favorite places and where I lived for a number of years. There are many things to do. We’re going to give you a wide range of bucket list items to do. The first one we have, you may have seen it a few years ago when they hosted The Super Bowl, is visiting AT&T Stadium and having an event there or going to an event there. It’s about twenty minutes out of downtown. It’s in Arlington, Texas. It’s the largest dome stadium in the world and one of the most expensive ones ever built. Inside it, there are 22 event locations. Everything from hosting the Final Four, they’ve done. You can go to a concert. You could also have a birthday party in one of the smaller suites. There are lots of things to do, and a great thing to go see the sheer mass and the size of it. You’ll see it if you’re driving in from the airport, but it’s also a great tourist attraction.
The next one is for all of the history buffs and government enthusiasts. We’ve had in the past several years two President Bush’s from Texas. Everybody knows that the George W. Bush Presidential Museum is in Dallas. It’s a unique spot. It has exhibits highlighting the presidential term, and also an exhibit such as life in the White House, a 9/11 Memorial, and an exact replica of the Oval Office while he was in it. That’s always something cool to see. It’s got a lot of history to it.
Todd, you’ve been in the Oval Office.
I’ve been in the actual Oval Office. It was during President Bush’s term, Bush one. That’s a whole different story, but that was cool to see.
The next one is located at the spot where JFK was assassinated. This has a huge historical significance. It’s in Dealey Plaza, it’s right downtown. When I lived there, I used to run. It used to be part of my jogging circle, but there’s a city park there now near the West End district. There’s an X on the street at which marks the spot of his assassination. It’s great to go there. There’s a great museum called The Sixth Floor Museum. It’s where the person who assassinated him was.
That was the book depository where The Sixth Floor Museum is. When we were there, everybody is still trying to solve the case. People were running around on the street. They were going to the vantage points where they said the gunshots were. Everybody’s still working to actively see if there was a second shooter. There’s a ton of history and it’s interesting to see. They showed the live footage too in the museum, which is cool.
This next one is awesome. You can attend a private invitation-only dinner hosted by three master chefs. It’s a secret themed dining experience called Frank. It was created by three chefs who met on Gordon Ramsay’s show, Master Chef, and it features a communal table of twenty guests that are randomly seated from a reservation list. The location of the party changes. The three chefs prepare a multi-course meal of fresh local ingredients. If this is something that you’re interested in, they do have a website, it’s called FrankUnderground.com. You can add your name to the list. Guests are only selected one week prior to the dinner. You need to be flexible with your availability. That seems like an amazing experience.
The next one is visiting the grave of the famous criminal couple Bonnie and Clyde. The two started in Dallas and they ended up in Dallas. They’re buried in two different areas. Bonnie is at Crown Hill Memorial Park and Clyde is at Western Heights Cemetery. Check them out if you want to see the graves of Bonnie and Clyde. If you follow this show, we’re always finding those unique places to go and that’s one of them.
It’s a great movie. Bonnie was Faye Dunaway, and Clyde was Warren Beatty. Before you go, watch the movie to give you some perspective if you plan on stopping by that. The next one is something most people think about when they think of Dallas. There is a year-round rodeo. If you want to channel your inner cowboy or cowgirl, you can attend this year-round rodeo. It’s located about 30 minutes from downtown, and it is the Fort Worth Stockyards. You can watch the bull riding, the shootout shows, and enjoy a saloon-style bar.
It is a lot of fun. Rhinestone Cowboy was filmed there, and you’ll notice a lot of other famous Southwestern and country movies that have been shot at Gilley’s. The next one is something that’s beautiful. The best time of year to be in Dallas, which is March and April. There is the Dallas Blooms event at the Dallas Arboretum. It’s an annual festival showcasing over 500,000 tulips. There are cooking classes, wine pairings, live entertainment. This is a fun event. There are also Easter events that go on. It’s a great venue also for a corporate event or a fundraiser at the Arboretum. It’s a beautiful space. I highly recommend going to Dallas Blooms in March and April.
Dallas: Flavors and spices that people gravitated to for a long time will never leave any restaurant menu.
If you want a nice local neighborhood to explore, if you want to get out and walk, do some shopping and eating, there’s a great little neighborhood called the Bishop Arts District. It’s known for its small-town feel. It’s got a hidden gem appeal. It’s a close-knit community, and you can expect to find diverse nightlife, colorful street art, Texas-style barbecue, coffee shops. It also hosts festivals and wine walks. Check out the calendar for the neighborhood and try to line it up so you can do some great wine walks.
This is what we did one night, Todd, if you remember. We went to Deep Ellum for barbecue, for dinner. Deep Ellum is another eclectic neighborhood. It’s a short drive over to the Bishop Arts District. That has a much more of a tight-knit neighborhood feel. We walked around, shopped, and got some ice cream. It was a beautiful night. I highly recommend it. It’s that neighborhood feel, but near downtown Dallas. It’s easy to get to. I highly recommend that as a bucket list item. It’s a great evening to do and great food there as well. The next one is cool. Go to the first place the frozen margarita was created and visit the restaurant that started it all. It’s Mariano’s Hacienda and it’s owned by Mariano Martinez. The home to where the first soft serve ice cream machine was retrofitted to make margaritas back in 1971. You can see all the history there and experience a great margarita.
There’s a lot to do in Dallas. There is so much more to do in Dallas. We’re going to switch the topic. We’re going to come back with our next guest who is Ryan Miyamoto. He is the Hotel Manager for The Statler Hotel. The Statler is known for its celebrity appearances within the Statler ballroom, performances from the Jackson 5, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, and Cher. It’s got a lot of history. The Statler also features a bowling alley and a speakeasy bar, which are my favorites.
I’m excited to talk to our next guest. The next guest is the General Manager of The Statler Hotelin Dallas. The Statler Hotel has been around since 1956, but it did take an extended hiatus. It closed in 2001, reopened in 2018 after some large renovations. It’s the first hotel that introduced elevator music. The Statler Ballroom is famous for hosting such performers such as the Jackson 5, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, and many more. I’d like to welcome Ryan Miyamoto, the General Manager of The Statler Hotel.
Thank you for having me.
Ryan, what are some of the hotel’s most recognized amenities?
There’s so much. When I think about The Statler, I think about a destination in Downtown Dallas. It’s built and designed for the business traveler, local traveler, and leisure traveler. Some of the things that stand out about us is the renovation that we did. It’s a blend of modern design with that old-style charm. We still have the original terrazzo floors that the hotel opened up in 1956. Some of the great offerings that we have here has to do with our food and beverage offerings, as well as the design. We’re fortunate enough to have one of the best views in Dallas on our nineteenth floor. It’s a great gathering place. The venue is called Waterproof. Funny back story about Waterproof is when the hotel first opened up, Downtown Dallas wasn’t built with all the skyscrapers and high rises then. It was originally the helipad for the hotel. When we had celebrities come in, they would have the helicopter drop them off on the rooftop then enter the hotel that way. As Downtown Dallas grew, it became unsafe to have the helipad up there. We transformed it into one of the most sought-after nightlife spots in downtown due to its view and the ambience.
I hear you also have a bowling alley. Is that true?
Yes, in our sports bar named Scout. There are four bowling lanes. It’s an interactive setting. You have your bowling lanes, you have pool tables, ping pong, TV screens everywhere, all the fun arcade games that you can find. It’s an interactive, family-friendly venue.
Ryan, I know you mentioned Waterproof, but something you failed to mention is there’s a rooftop pool up there, which is gorgeous.
It’s outside. You can get one of their specialty cocktails out there, hang out in the pool, and take in all the views. It comes in handy during the hot Texas summers.
Most major cities, New York, Chicago, I know when I go, the best thing to go to is a speakeasy. If you can find one, because a lot of times they’re hidden, it’s always a great experience. I understand that The Statler has a speakeasy.
We do, it’s called Bourbon & Banter. It’s one of my favorite places to visit in the building. It’s an interesting field. The thing that makes it fun is that it’s located in our basement. Originally, when the hotel opened, there was the original barbershop. When you walk into it, the entryway has the shoeshine station, and then there’s a telephone booth in there. You have to know the secret code to type into the telephone booth, and then the speakeasy door opens up. We did a great job down there. The concept still revolves around hairstyles. All the drinks are still named after old hairstyles. We carried on the tradition of leaving it as the barbershop.
[bctt tweet=”Dallas locals are known for their politeness and modern Southern charm.” via=”no”]
Do you hold any annual events on the property? Do you have anything that comes in on a regular basis that our guests would be interested in?
We do have annual events. We mostly center them around the holidays. We have a great event every Halloween. It’s a two-featured event focusing on trying to accommodate everyone during the day. It’s a trick or treat for families. We have the local kids from the neighborhoods come in and pass out candy. There’s a small haunted house feature that goes on and then at night, it turns into more of an adult-only Halloween gathering. We always put on a great New Year’s Eve party. The nice thing about us is that we have this beautiful ballroom, 14,000 square feet of space, which is an entertainment venue, and we can bring in DJs and set it up. It’s a great time. We put on a spin on the state fair, because the state fair here in Texas is big. It’s iconic in its own.
It’s right down the street from your hotel.
It got curtailed a bit. We put on a performance called Fair Play at The Statler. It was more of a photo opportunity, get out of the house, be safe and still get all the same great things that you could at the state fair. We had photo booths, corn dogs, turkey legs, and we had all the great things that you could get at the state fair. We had the midway going with games. Everything’s pretty much short of a petting zoo and the rides.
Ryan, as General Manager of the hotel, I know you’ve only been open since 2018, what are some of the most extraordinary requests you’ve received from guests to make their experiences over the top?
One of the most requested items, and it’s from our groups, it ties all the way back to when the hotel first opened. It’s one of the most signature events in Statler history, Neiman Marcus is located right down the road from us, about two blocks away. In 1959, they had a llama, and her name was Llinda Llee, flown in from New York and flew into Dallas Love Field at the time. She took a limo from Love Field all the way to The Statler where she did a check-in. It’s neat because we have a picture of her at the desk getting the registration paperwork from the desk agent. We have pictures of her throughout the building. She was here on a promotional tour with Neiman Marcus, visiting children at the Children’s Hospital while she was here. One of the requests that we get all the time from groups is, “Can we have Llinda Llee stop by and say hi? Can we have a photo opportunity with Llinda Llee?” From time to time, Llinda Llee makes a special appearance here at The Statler.
You had Frank Sinatra there. You had the Jackson 5 there over the years. Are there any stories, any urban legends about what happened to The Statler way back when it was in its prime before it’s had this amazing redo and has come back into its own?
I don’t know about urban legends. There are a lot of things that happened here. I’ll share one with you that happened that’s not a legend. Back in 1976, The Statler was getting ready to welcome Tina Turner and Ike Turner, and they were going to get ready to perform in our ballroom. They came and they checked into the hotel. The night before they performed is when Tina Turner famously fled from Ike while he was asleep in the guestroom. With the help of one of the hotel bellmen, she exited the hotel through the service stairs and out the back door and down the road.
Do you have a guest that’s come back after all these years that’s experienced The Statler prior to the renovations and now? Have you talked to anybody specifically that had been a guest prior?
When we reopened in 2018, we knew we would have some of that. I don’t think we expected as many people to remember what it was like back in the glory years. It’s seems weekly that we’re having a conversation with a guest. One thing that we do have out front in the drive is we always have two classic cars out front, from the ‘50s, the ‘60s. I hear guests all the time, “When we came back in 1960, we remember the cars out front and they’re still out here.” They’ll stop and they’ll take photos. It’s funny, referencing back to the Llinda Llee experience. In all of our guest rooms we have pictures of Llinda Llee and we have a statute commemorating her. This was around June or July of 2020, I got a letter from a gentleman who said, “We loved our stay at The Statler. Thank you. We’re here celebrating our wedding anniversary.” I looked over at the side of the bed and I noticed the picture. My dad worked here and my dad is in the picture. He was the desk agent handing Llinda Llee the envelope. It blew my mind. We get guests all the time that come up to us and thank us for bringing this iconic fixture in Downtown Dallas back to life.
You are on East Commerce Street right downtown. What are some great activities within walking distance from the hotel? As we wrap up the interview, we’d also like to know, what’s your favorite thing as a hospitality professional to do in Dallas?
I mentioned Neiman Marcus, their flagship store is two blocks down the road from us. Going back to where we’re located on Commerce Street, right across from the Main Street Garden. We’re blocks away from the historical sites here in Downtown Dallas, such as the JFK Tour Memorial Park. That played a big role in Dallas’s history. Funny enough, when that tragic day in our history happened, the FBI set up headquarters here at The Statler Hotel. We had a big part in that as well. We’re close to the Arts District and we’re right down the road from the Farmer’s Market. There are a lot of activities within walking distance of the hotel.
A lot of people probably don’t consider Dallas like a walking city, but it is a nice, condensed downtown with amazing skyline and great little neighborhoods all the way around it. You can probably walk straight out of The Statler and pretty much go in any direction and be a short walk from any of the activities.
The great thing about Dallas, and not many people think of it when they’re thinking about Dallas, that I love doing in the city is going to all the different museums. There are many great art museums and history museums, cultural museums here in the city. We’re close to the American Airlines Center where the Mavericks and the Stars play, and they put on great events over there. Catching an event over at the American Airlines Center is fantastic for me to do too.
Dallas: Family-friendly venues, interactive facilities, and annual events truly make the Statler Hotel one of a kind.
Ryan, one more thing. If our readers want to follow you and see what’s coming up, where can they find you? What are some of your social media?
The best place to see what’s coming up is our website, TheStatlerDallas.com. We’re also on Facebook, The Statler Dallas, and then our Instagram feed as well. We do a great job promoting there. All of the upcoming events that we’re putting on, we put out all through our social media channels. Anybody that wants to come down, we welcome everybody in.
Thank you, Ryan.
Ryan Miyamoto, General Manager of The Statler. Thank you for your time.
Thank you. Have a great day.
Dallas is one of my old hometowns. I love it. There are many great histories. It’s such a great place to go to find Southwest cuisine. If you’re anywhere near one of Dean Fearing’s restaurants, make sure that you get the Tortilla soup. It is something that you will never forget.
It was nice to meet him. He is such a nice guy. We’ve found he’s connected with a lot of other amazing chefs around the country. If you’re ever traveling in a city, talk to the chefs because they seem to know all the best places to go. He was fascinating.
The Statler Hotel, I can’t wait to visit it. We haven’t been yet. It was closed when I lived in Dallas. From the pool to the speakeasy to the bowling alley. You can do all these great things just in the hotel without even leaving the hotel. When you leave the hotel, you’re riding Downtown Dallas and can walk around. It’s such an easy city to walk.
Ryan shared a lot of great history. One that stuck out was the night that Tina Turner left Ike and started her solo career. I thought that was fascinating.
I remember that from the movie.
I’m going to have to go back and see exactly where that was filmed and be sure that it was representing Dallas in that movie. It’s a great place. Dallas all around is such a big, diverse city and so much to do. I’m looking to get back there and check out some new things.
That concludes this episode. Thank you for joining us. We’d like to thank our team, Chris Jordan, our copywriter, Annie Fernandez, our creative director and Lauren Campbell, our podcast producer. Please make sure to subscribe, rate and review the show on your preferred podcast app or by going to www.Destination-Everywhere.com. Be sure to join us next time on Destination Everywhere. Safe travels.
Please be sure you subscribe, rate and review the show on your preferred podcast app or by going to www.Destination-Everywhere.com. Let us know where you want us to travel next on Destination Everywhere. Safe travels.
Long known as the “Father of Southwestern Cuisine,” Chef Dean Fearing’s legendary cooking and infectious charisma have long captured the attention of a worldwide audience. An accomplished James Beard award winner, cookbook author, and successful restaurateur, Dean’s namesake Fearing’s has become one of the most critically acclaimed restaurants in Texas, recognized as “Restaurant of the Year” and “Table of the Year” by Esquire Magazine, as well as #1 in Hotel Dining in the U.S. by the prestigious Zagat Survey.
Each night, guests from all over the world are dazzled with bold flavor and variety of Dean’s favorite local delicacies from the Lone Star State, including his signature tortilla soup, rib eye cooked over live mesquite, maple-black peppercorn-soaked buffalo tenderloin, achiote-glazed antelope from his friend’s ranch, and a chicken-fried Maine lobster, which has been described as a genuine “taste of Texas.” The son of a Kentucky innkeeper, Dean grew up with grandmothers who knew all about food, appreciating the finer details of Southern cooking and barbecue.
He still uses and treasures their recipes, and they remain one of the most important inspirations of his culinary life. Some of them even received their own spin in Dean’s cookbook, The Texas Food Bible – published in 2014. After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America and following 20-plus years at The Mansion on Turtle Creek, Dean opened his own Fearing’s Restaurant at The Ritz-Carlton, Dallas in 2007.
About Ryan Miyamoto
Honolulu native Ryan Miyamoto came to The Statler from the Sheraton McKinney.
The Pacific University grad has been managing properties for Plano-based Aimbridge since 2006.
His leadership has been well recognized, as he’s been at two different properties which have one the Aimbridge Hotel of the Year for outstanding overall performance.
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Costa Rica, besides being known for its beaches, volcanoes, and wellness, could be a great location for your next corporate meeting or retreat. Hear about the best time to visit Costa Rica with Federico Gurdián, General Manager of Casa Chameleon Hotels, and learn how to take advantage of group-friendly outdoor activities with Chakiris Menafacio. Meanwhile, our hosts go deep into their top ten things to do in perhaps the most relaxing country in Central America, from hiking in the excitement-filled mountains, achieving temporary flight in the zip line, to immersing in the Costa Rican culture first-hand at local restaurants.
Andy McNeill and Todd Bludworth are travel and hospitality entrepreneurs and owners of the global meetings organization, American Meetings, Inc. From sourcing venues in Costa Rica, to corporate event management around the world, their team selects corporate event venues and meeting planners for a wide array of enterprise business clients, providing ideas for convention themes and strategies for running global meetings and events. Learn more at www.americanmeetings.com.
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Adventurous General Manager Federico Gurdián Shares Guest Experiences In Paradise And Celebrate The Pura Vida Lifestyle With Outdoor Enthusiast Chakiris Menafacio
Ticos and Ticas, the casual name for Costa Ricans, have the longevity mindset Pura Vida meaning pure life and they live it to the fullest. With volcanoes, rainforests and beaches, there’s no shortage of inspiring activity. Have an adventure on horseback, zip line, raft, rock climb or relax on a catamaran and sip on coffee or craft brew. We will be interviewing the General Manager of Casa Chameleon Hotel, Federico Gurdian. This villa hotel has been described as the gates of heaven. Get ready to put together a list of fun, outdoor activities with Chak Menafacio. Live out the simple life on this episode of Destination Everywhere, Costa Rica.
We’re bringing you to one of our favorite places in the Western Hemisphere, Costa Rica. We have been there lots of times. It is known for the Pura Vida lifestyle, meaning pure life. There’s so much to do. We’ve taken family trips down there. We’ve taken clients down there for fantastic incentive trips. We’ve got lots of great ideas for you. Todd, tell me about your experience there and what you’re looking forward to sharing with our audience. We ended up going down. We flew into San Jose. We took SANSA Airlines over to Quepos. We stayed at Manuel Antonio and that was my first trip. We spent quite a bit of time in San Jose. It was absolutely amazing. At the time, it was relatively untouched. It was great for a US traveler because I could get by with my very little Spanish. Most people spoke English that we dealt with, which was great. It was relatively inexpensive. I know there are a lot of resorts there now but it was an amazing trip. I’ve gone since then now that I’ve become a little more settled in my lifestyle and I can check out some of the nicer things. Some of the resorts there are second to none, gorgeous. The currency is the colón. It’s easy to get around. Everyone speaks English even though Spanish is the major language. Because of that, it’s easy to travel. The wild life that they have in Costa Rica, you can do the beaches but then you’re not very far. You’re then just up in the volcanoes and it’s some of the greenest and plushest tropical forest you’ve ever seen. The zip lining and the eco-adventure activities that you can do in Costa Rica are limitless. What’s great is they have the local guys, they call them Ticos. You can always find somebody to take you out on one of these excursions and do something. They are fearless fellows and ladies, everything from horseback riding to zip lining to rafting and rock climbing. You could always find these guides that will knock your socks off. They’ve all impressed me tremendously. It is a tropical climate and it has the Caribbean side and the Pacific side. I’ve been there in October when I was younger and I didn’t know October is the wettest season. You need to know the seasons when you go down to anywhere in Central America but Panama, with its rainforest in particular, it can be really wet. The driest months tend to be around December to March. Take that into account when you’re planning your trips unless you like lots and lots of rain. For those of you who might be considering taking a client down there or taking team members down there from your company, they have a new national conference, a convention center, which opened up in 2018. It’s 5 miles from the international airport. It is focused on promoting business and tourism in that type of climate where you can do outdoor activities. It’s beautiful. There’s a great lift coming from the East Coast or the West Coast. It’s right there in the middle. It’s easy to get to. It takes us less time to get to Costa Rica from South Florida than it does to LA or even Colorado. It’s such a quick trip. When you fly from Miami, you fly straight over Cuba, which is always neat to see. That’s pretty cool.
We are joined by our next guest from Guanacaste in Costa Rica. He is an outdoor and fitness enthusiast and he’s the CEO and Founder of Chakfitness. We’d like to welcome Chak Menafacio. How are you? Thank you for having me on the show. How did you get to where you are? What is it about Costa Rica that draws you in and draws you back? I am Costa Rican even though I wasn’t born here. I was born in Switzerland in Geneva. I lived most of my life here in Costa Rica. Most of my family are from here. I lived abroad for twenty years and I came back. I came back a couple of years ago because I missed this beautiful paradise. Starting with beaches, we have so much variety of fauna and flora and adventures. Anything that you want to do, we have it. We call it the New Zealand of Central America because we have so much stuff to do here. It’s a beautiful paradise. I came back and it reminded me of the beauty of that we have here, the Pura Vida lifestyle which is more relaxed, more calm, taking things one day at a time, not rushing, not going crazy with work and so forth. It’s a beautiful life here, very calm, outdoor adventures, and peaceful. Let’s define the Pura Vida lifestyle for our readers who may not know. You talked about a relaxed lifestyle. It’s also about health and wellness as well. [bctt tweet=”There’s no better place in Central America to get great coffee than Costa Rica.” username=””] Everybody here is very conscious about not just the environment but also what we eat. Everything is natural or organic. Almost everything is fresh from the moment you go to the farmer’s market to the little market on the next door, which they sell fruits and vegetables, everything is fresh. We have a very good lifestyle here, natural and everything. The main courses and the main plates here are based on vegetables, rice and beans. It’s a good lifestyle. It’s healthy. How do you pair up? How do you find the tourist consumer to provide your services to? It’s simple and easy because specifically where I am, it’s a very small town. It’s called Las Catalinas. It’s in Playa Danta, which is in Guanacaste. It’s a small beach but it provides all sorts of things. My experience here, which has been for the past year or two that I’ve been coming here is that everyone that comes here comes specifically with that in mind, adventure, doing trails. We have a huge mountain bike trail that was done by a world champion from Europe. We have paddleboard competitions. There are all sorts of tournaments and competitions for triathletes. It’s really big. I had the opportunity to establish myself here coming from the United States with all my experience in fitness and outdoor activities. It was a perfect fit. Most of the tourism here is geared towards that, adventure, outdoors, waterfalls, jumping, spelunking. I took my daughter to do one of the longest zip lining. They call it the Superman because it’s about 1,800 meters long. Where was that? This is in Diamante. I believe it’s one of the third ones and the largest in the world. You zip line from one tip of the mountain all the way to the other tip. It takes forever. You feel like you’re actually flying. It’s amazing. My daughter was static. She couldn’t even believe it. These are the things that as you’re zip lining, you’re overlooking the ocean. You’re on the mountain and you’re overlooking the ocean. Those are the things that you have to remind yourself like, “I live here. I’m experiencing this.” I would recommend anybody that is looking for a thrill or for an adventure. Even if they’re not going to zip line, you can still see the lookouts. It’s an amazing sight when you see a whole beach from the tip of the mountain and it’s right there. There are few places that I can remember that I’ve seen that. I’ve seen that in Hawaii, maybe in some other places in the United States but there are few ones that I’ve experienced, but here we have it everywhere. Let’s talk a little bit about your approach to fitness and how you work with individuals and groups. I would love to know how you do groups because that’s exciting from a fitness perspective. How do you do that? How do you blend in the Costa Rican lifestyle into your philosophy around health and wellness? Here in the programs that I’m implementing in the Las Catalinas in this area, it’s very simple and easy because everybody that is coming here, the tourists, residents, locals, everyone has already that mindset. They’re coming to exercise, hike, and do all different things. Our gym is an outdoor facility. We also have a small palapa where it’s covered but we can do group classes. A lot of the people here that come, they pay by day or they paid for the week. We have all sorts of memberships that they can do. It’s simple. Everyone is relaxed because the moment they come to Costa Rica, it’s almost like it’s injected in your system. You have to. Coming back for me after twenty years of living in the States, I had to remember that lifestyle. It’s almost like it’s forced because everybody’s relaxed, laid back and then you have to like, “I’m in Costa Rica now. I have to sit back, relax, not stress out, and not worry about things.” People take their time and it’s part of the lifestyle. That’s why everybody tells you, “Pura Vida.” That means relax. You hear it all the time when you’re going around town. Especially when you’re getting stressed out or something is not going your way. People just turn around and tells you, “Pura Vida.” You’re like, “Yeah.” Costa Rica has so much. You’ve got the mountains, beaches, volcanoes, rainforests. What part would you recommend to our readers where they want to go? Do you have a favorite spot? You’re in Guanacaste and that is a very special spot. When you take a vacation in the country, where do you go? It’s hard to narrow one because there are so many. I love going to waterfalls. That’s one of my favorite, and jumping from waterfalls. Do you have a favorite waterfall? There’s a waterfall in Rincon de la Vieja. It’s a volcano. It’s a beautiful site. It’s almost like a tunnel when you’re coming down, you have to go down around this huge hole like a cenote but it’s wider. It ends up in this beautiful, closed mountain and the waterfall is right there. You can actually go behind the waterfall. You can jump into the natural pool. It’s crystal clear. It’s amazing. It’s such an experience. We take it for granted sometimes because I’ve done it so many times. I forget that most people don’t have that at home. They don’t have it right next door.
Costa Rica: Costa Ricans tend to focus more on physical and mental health than money.
What is a typical Costa Rican meal? Do you have a favorite spot that you like to go to close to where you are? Not fancy dining, just a space with good food and good atmosphere. There are several ones and one of my favorites, the typical Costa Rican meal is rice and beans. We call it Gallo Pinto. It’s like rice and beans, a little bit moist and a little bit of sauce. They put peccadillo, which is potatoes and a little bit of meat. You put eggs and everything. You have like a huge car bomb. In Costa Rica, that’s what they eat. It’s a heavy breakfast. One of my best favorite places to go is called Gracia. It’s in Mar Vista. A friend of mine is an amazing chef. The view there, you sit and you have an infinity pool. You get to see the whole ocean from there while you’re dining or having lunch. It’s really good. These are good friends of mine also. Besides the fact that they’re friends, the food is amazing. You can have a drink, you name it. It’s a good restaurant. You were born in Geneva. You lived in the United States. You lived in Costa Rica. You’re a world traveler. We ask all of our local connoisseurs our rapid-fire questions. We’d like to ask you them now, if that’s okay. You can give some tips to our readers. The first one is, have you ever completed anything on your personal bucket list? If so, what was it? I did. In 2020, I went to Chile. I went to El Calafate in Argentina. I crossed the border in about four hours to Chile to Torres del Paine, which is a huge national park there. There’s an eco-camp. It’s a very famous eco-camp. You experience everything. We did horseback riding, mountain biking. We went to the glaciers. We kayaked in the glaciers. It was a nice experience. I’m an adventure-seeker so I love this type of adventure. We also went to Perito Moreno, which is a huge glacier in Argentina. We walked on the glacier. That was one of my bucket lists. If you could live anywhere in the world for a year, where would it be? Costa Rica. That’s an easy one. When you’re packing for a trip, what is something you pack that may surprise our readers? This is why all my friends bug me. I pack a tube band to do exercise so I can put it anywhere in the hotel room or anything. I pack my light gear to work out after a day hiking or whatever, I do a little light work in the hotel. Not all hotels in the world have gyms. I always have to do my workout when I go traveling. Our last rapid-fire question, what is your most memorable experience in Costa Rica? There are so many but I’m going to say learning how to surf when I was fifteen years old, being on my own and sleeping in the sleeping bag on the sand on the beach in Tamarindo. That’s where I started learning how to surf. That was the first place I tried surfing as well. It’s very easy. It’s good for somebody that’s learning. It has good waves. I met Tom Curren at the time. He was a world champion surfing there. I didn’t even know who he was. He told me he was a surfer and I was like, “Great, let’s go surfing.” Later in life, I found out he was Tom Curren, which was huge. That’s a great example of Pura Vida. You just go with it. If our readers want to follow you on social media, how can they track you to know what you’re up to? [bctt tweet=”As a natural paradise itself, Costa Rica has been dubbed as the New Zealand of Central America.” username=””] They can look me up on Instagram. We have an Instagram account which is @Core_Chakfitness. Core is our gym here in Las Catalinas, Core Gym or Core by Chakfitness. Follow us there and check it out. Thank you so much, Chak. We appreciate you taking the time and sharing Costa Rica with us. We wish you all the best. Safe travels. Come by and visit. We’ll see you soon. That’s what I need right about now. Thanks, Chak.
Todd, are you ready to do our top ten bucket list ideas for Costa Rica? I am but this was hard to choose because the list could have gone on but we will get as many as we can in. Our first one and it’s amazing. We’ve been several times visiting the most active volcano in Costa Rica. It is Arenal. It’s been the most active volcano for many years. The last time it had a lava flow was in 2010. It’s sleeping. They say it can erupt at any time. There are many outdoor activities around there. There are some fantastic hotels like The Springs Costa Rica. There’s horseback riding, whitewater rafting, hiking, zip lining that we’re going to talk about. There’s so much to do. La Fortuna had some great restaurants, which is right at the base of the mountain in the town there. I would say about two and a half hours from San Jose. It probably depends. We did take an incentive group there once and in a bus, and it was nerve wracking but if you have a smaller vehicle. It’s two and a half hours unless the roads have improved since the last time I was there, which they always seem to be doing. It’s not that long. Todd, what do you have? One of ours and you can pass it if you’re going out to the volcano. It’s La Paz Waterfall Gardens Nature Park & The Peace Lodge. It’s got five amazing waterfalls. It’s the largest animal sanctuary in Costa Rica. It’s one of the most popular nature tours. We stayed on that property and the rooms were amazing. There weren’t that many rooms. At the time, there were thirteen maybe. We took our kids and they have tons of hummingbirds. Our kids were holding up these little hummingbird cups and they would just come right up to you. They had an exhibit with frogs. It’s pitch-black in there. You’d go in. You’re seeing all these different types of frogs that are native to Costa Rica, birds, frogs and butterflies. It was something. It’s great for adults but the kids, ours were 4, 5, maybe even younger, they absolutely loved it. It’s a beautiful location but straight up to a national park. There are lots of hiking as well. My next one is immerse yourselves in one of the greatest exports that Costa Rica has, which is coffee. If you read the blog, you know I’m a coffee aficionado. I love it. There’s no better place in Central America to get great coffee. One of the things you can do is experience the coffee culture by going to the El Toledo Coffee Tours. It’s an organic coffee farm. It’s a family-owned farm. It focuses on growing with organic sustainability in mind and only using the natural resources of the land. Their philosophy is focusing on health than money. A great message as well, a beautiful location and a lot of fun to see how great Costa Rican coffee is made. Anywhere where there’s great volcanic soil can produce some strong and wonderful coffee.
Costa Rica: Nicoya is home to more than 900 people who live over the age of 90, and they credit their longevity to the calcium-rich waters around the town.
Don’t ask for a Starbucks in Costa Rica. You might offend somebody. This next one is cool. It’s spend a night in an exclusive, one-of-a-kind suite at the 727 Fuselage Home. It’s a vintage 1965 Boeing 727 aircraft that’s been refurbished and placed in the jungle canopy. It offers a two-bedroom suite and it totally immerses you in nature. It’s a really different experience. You could sit on the terrace overlooking the trees. Some of the animals you might see while you’re there like sloths or monkeys. Costa Rica has so many animals and different types of species. You’re probably going to be amazed with some of the wildlife that you see if you stay there. The next thing I’m going to talk about is health and wellness tourism. In Costa Rica itself, there’s so much of it but there’s the pure life, Pura Vida which is a living concept that is in Costa Rica. The Costa Rican lifestyle is all about improving mental and physical health. Therefore, it’s very relaxing and there are a lot of great beneficial activities around that. There are forest baths where you can breathe in fresh forest air and barefoot earthing, which is barefoot walks and body wraps made in volcanic mud, coffee and chocolate to moisturize the skin. Costa Rica also has one of the blue zones. If you recall, a blue zone is an area where the longest, healthiest living humans live. That is in Nicoya and they’ve had over 900 people live over the age of 90, they think mainly because of the calcium-rich waters that are around the town. Definitely take that out and include that in your plan as you’re planning your trip. I have a cousin who went to an all-girls surf camp in Costa Rica. It was a whole wellness program and she had the best time. They learned to surf and then they did yoga and meditation. At the time, they had closed it, which can be very comforting at some level for girls who want to travel but they want to stay together. They had the most amazing time. They said the surf instructors were amazing, the meditation and then the scenery and wildlife. If you want to get some more traditional culture, almost Western-inspired, European-inspired, there’s an amazing theater that is in San Jose and it’s modeled after the Paris Opera House. It has breathtaking interiors. The theater’s main ceiling was named one of the top great ceilings around the world. If frescoes, paintings and architecture are your thing, definitely go by the National Theatre in San Jose. Now we’re going to go to the Pacific side and going deep sea fishing off Manuel Antonio. Because there’s no major fishing industry off the coast of Costa Rica, the fishing and the deep sea fishing is amazing. When I was there in my twenties, I was lucky enough to jump on a boat. You can walk straight up to the docks and jump on a boat for the day. I went out there and I caught a black marlin the size of a cow. They pulled it up to the side of the boat. We let it go. For a few minutes there, we were able to touch and experience it in its natural habitat. It was definitely a bucket list item for me. One of those things that I will never forget, it was absolutely incredible. Deep sea fishing, you can catch live tuna and they cut it on the boat for you. You can eat it and you can still feel it moving around in your mouth. It’s pretty incredible. The next one is what I should have been doing instead of surfing. There’s a great, little, hidden sanctuary beach called Playa Quesera. It is located also in the Nicoya Peninsula and as part of the Curu Wildlife Refuge. It’s an amazing, gorgeous spot. It’s picturesque. When you think of the beach, it has crystal blue waters. You can see the bottom when you’re in the ocean. You could see the ocean floor. You can rent kayaks, snorkels and enjoy a serene, secluded spot. It’s gorgeous. Finally, we have something that we did with clients and we brought them down to Costa Rica. We took them to the Limon Carnival. It’s a Caribbean annual carnival, usually in October. It spans over a week and they have famous chefs, dishes, singing, dancing, and just a lot of fun. If you want to experience a traditional Caribbean carnival, this one is for you. It’s a lot of fun and something you can do with the entire family. I want to add one more, Andy, if we could. When I talk about Costa Rica, every once in a while zip lining comes up especially if you’re talking about eco adventures. This is one we discovered when we were taking an incentive group there, and then we went back as leisure travelers. It’s the Sky Adventures Arenal Park. I’m typically not a very nervous person but this one had my knees shaking. You take a tram up and then these guides are zipping down then someone’s there to meet you but these are the longest, highest zip lines. I know there are probably longer ones and higher ones that I had ever seen. I remember when we took the incentive group to these zip lines, someone from the group had to go first and I was working. I was the one that had to go first. Every time I was petrified. You’re going so fast. It’s absolutely amazing if you can keep your eyes open, the views are spectacular. I definitely recommend it. The same group also does kayaking tours, they rent bikes and things like that. The zip lining is a recommended adventure. There are some great bucket list ideas as you’re planning your next trip and destination to Costa Rica.
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With this edition in Costa Rica, we’ve got our next guest with a very special property. I’d like to welcome Federico Gurdian. He is the General Manager of the Casa Chameleon property in Las Catalinas. Welcome. How are you, Federico? Thank you. I’m doing great. I’m excited to be part of this show and looking forward to letting you know all about the property and giving you some insiders about Costa Rica too. What a beautiful property. If you have not seen this property, get online and see it. It has views like I’ve never seen, just absolutely stunning. [bctt tweet=”Most locals take Costa Rica’s beauty for granted, not realizing that most of its gems cannot be found anywhere else.” username=””] We should mention that there are two properties in Costa Rica, the Casa Chameleon properties include not only the one at Las Catalinas but also Mal Pais. They’re both in Guanacaste, right? Is Mal Pais a little further south? Catalinas is in Guanacaste and Mal Pais is located in the Province of Puntarenas. We are on the same peninsula. Let’s talk about this property because it’s relatively new and it has 21 villas with their own private plunge pools. That’s just something that everyone is going to want to do. I bet they’re extremely popular. They’re salt water as well. Tell us a little bit about those and the guest experience. The Las Catalinas properties are a very unique property in Costa Rica. You won’t find many of them like this since we’re perched in the hill but so close to the ocean. That’s not something people get very often. We decided to take advantage of that and build these beautiful villas that offered private plunge pools. All of them have astonishing ocean views. An added fact is that half of them have sunset views. You can enjoy year-round beautiful sunsets from the privacy of your terrace in your plunge pool with your couple, which makes it a perfect setting for a romantic escape or an anniversary celebration. You might not get them out of the villa. It’s actually one of the biggest challenges we have. The town doesn’t allow cars. What can they expect? Where would a guest fly into? How are they going to get to the property from the airport? My recommendation is to definitely land in the Liberia Airport. There are two international airports in Costa Rica, the San Jose one and the Liberia one. You have to land in Liberia because if not, it’s a long drive from San Jose. My recommendation is to stay in Liberia. We will then pick you up in our hotel car with our bilingual driver that knows a lot about the area. It’s a short drive. It’s just 45 minutes to the property, a very scenic drive. Once you get to the hotel, you won’t need a car for much. If you do need to go somewhere else, we have the hotel car available that can drive you to the location that you desire. Tell us about some of these unique experiences. I understand there’s a hanging bridge that goes across a volcano. I hope the volcano is not active. No. There are several volcanoes here in Costa Rica near the hotel, around an hour away is a volcano. It’s still active but the explosion it makes are vapor explosions, nothing like magma or anything. It’s surrounded by lush tropical rainforest. There you can find beautiful ranges, thermal waters, mud baths. How far is that from the hotel? That’s an hour and fifteen minutes away from the hotel. A quick drive and a great day excursion from the hotel.
Costa Rica: Costa Ricans are more laid back than anyone else, taking one day at a time and not being crazy about work.
It’s a perfect half-day trip that you can take and enjoy. There’s some beautiful, very traditional Costa Rican restaurants that you can stop by, have lunch and get that cultural connection that our guests are so much seeking for. That’s something that I’ve found in our guests. They love to get to know the Costa Rican culture. It’s something that we have to portray here at the hotel. They get to experience it firsthand when they go visit these locations. Federico, are you finding that more guests that come to your property, are they looking for ecotourism? Are they looking to get outside? Are they looking for activities on the water whether it’s surfing, fishing, things like that? Whatever they’re looking for, does the hotel have access to set all of those up for your guests? Yes. We have total flexibility. Since we are a small property, our main goal is to cater to all and every need that our guests have. For example, it’s funny because since we’re an adults-only property, we get two segments of guests, the very young ones that are on their honeymoon, that are very active and seeking for adventure. We then have the older adults that are already with big kids and they’re coming more for the romanticism, anniversary celebrations, and those type of stuff. We cater to those two things. If you want to just lounge by the hotel and enjoy the day beds around the pool, we will give you a beautiful service. If you want to do hikes and things, you can do it without having to leave the property because the town of Las Catalinas is located on a very big property. It’s over 600 hectares. It’s full of mountain biking trails, hiking trails all surrounding the hotel. You don’t have to go anywhere. If you’re looking for hikes or a short adventure, we have mountain bikes here at the hotel. One of my hobbies is mountain biking. Once a week, we will take guests out mountain biking with me. That’s a good perk to your job. You get paid to go mountain biking. How awesome is that? Another thing you mentioned to us was this coffee tour. I’m a huge Costa Rican coffee fan as some of the best coffee in the world because of the volcanic organic matter there that makes it special. Tell us about this tour. Where do you take everybody? There’s a coffee tour. It’s around an hour and a half away in an area that is a little bit higher than us because coffee needs a certain height to be better. One of our private guides will take you there. You will be able to walk through the coffee plantation. They’ll take you through the whole process of how coffee is made. By the end of the tour, you’ll be enjoying a cup of warm coffee from that farm with some traditional Costa Rican pastries. It’s a learning experience. If you wish, you can buy some of their coffee to take back home or enjoy it there for yourself. It’s something beautiful, not very away from the hotel. For coffee lovers, that’s something I found unique. As a local, what is your favorite restaurant? Where do you like to get food? I’m a huge Italian food lover. Near the hotel, there is an Italian restaurant called La Forketta run by this nice Italian family that has been living for a long time in Costa Rica. They absolutely have the best ravioli with sea bass. It’s always fresh, homemade, and delicious. The pizza is amazing. You then have the ocean here if you like surfing. I love surfing. Do you have good waves right there? Thirty minutes away from the hotel, there is an area called Playa Grande and Tamarindo, which is great for surfing and learn how to surf. I live very close to that area. I try to surf at least 2 or 3 times a week. It keeps my mental health. It’s beautiful. If I’m not doing that in my time off, I am mountain biking the trails or spending time with the family. I love spending time with my family and Costa Rica is a place that makes that very easy because there are a lot of places that you can go without having to drive far away. We like to ask all of our guests our rapid-fire questions and what they are because our readers want to hear from world travelers like you, people who are in the industry and what it’s like. The first one is have you personally ever completed anything on your bucket list? Yes. I had the chance to visit Iceland and it was huge on my bucket list. I was there for two weeks. What was the most amazing thing there? Driving around Iceland. The island was amazing. Pointing out one single thing is so difficult because that place is filled with nature. We are huge nature lovers. We were driving like crazy around the island. We didn’t even stay very long in any hotel. We were on the road all the time, seeing all of these places, the scenery is mind-blowing. [bctt tweet=”Costa Rica doesn’t require tourists to drive a long way just to find a nice place to visit.” username=””] Going is a bucket list itself. I would be back in Iceland in a heartbeat. If you could ever live anywhere in the world for a year, where would it be? That was a difficult one to think about because Australia is one of the places I would love to be able to live in for a year. It’s a huge place where you can experience so much nature. I’m a huge nature lover. I’d say Australia would be perfect. I will be able to surf world-class waves and explore the wildlife there. If you could travel with someone infamous or famous, dead or alive, who would it be? Kelly Slater. He would definitely take you to Australia, wouldn’t he? I will be happy to show him around Costa Rica too. He’s been here several times but there are some places I will be happy to show him. We’ll have to #KellySlater on this and see if he gets the message. That would be a dream come true. Packing for a trip, what is something you pack that may surprise our readers? I always pack food like Costa Rican treats and chocolates. I always need them with me. It sounds weird but I’m very fond of some things that I eat here in Costa Rica. Even if it’s for a week, I try to take my favorite chocolates from here because I like having them at night. Costa Rica has great chocolate for our readers if you didn’t know that. Finally, what is your most personal, memorable experience in Costa Rica?
Costa Rica: There are a lot of beautiful and traditional Costa Rican restaurants where tourists can stop by and get that cultural connection not found anywhere else.
There’s a waterfall called Tinamaste in the Southern Pacific of Costa Rica. You will hike for an hour and a half through the rainforest and then you’ll come up to this huge waterfall. What makes it so special is that right behind the waterfall there’s a cave. The family that owns that farm has set up beds, a kitchen and bathrooms. You will go and sleep in the cave behind the waterfall. Have you done that? Yes, I’ve done it twice. That’s definitely my most memorable experience. That’s a bucket list item. That’s a great one.Did you sleep overnight in the cave? Yes. You hike there in the morning. You arrive at the waterfall in midday. You will have lunch in the waterfall, dinner and breakfast. There is no electricity or anything in the cave. It’s all with candle light and they will fix your meals there. How loud is it? Is it loud? It’s loud but since it’s water falling, it’s soothing. It’s delicious to sleep. It’s very humid. It’s in Tinamaste, the Southern Pacific near Ballena. From here, it’s a long drive. It’s five hours. That’s definitely a bucket list item for sure. How incredible. Thanks for sharing that with us. That’s great. I’ll be happy to send you more information because it is something special. You did great on the rapid-fire questions and we appreciate your time and your beautiful hotel. Where can our readers find you on social media and your website? We have our Instagram, which is @CasaChameleonHotels. There you’ll be able to find us on Instagram, Facebook also, Casa Chameleon Hotels. Our website is CasaChameleonHotels.com. You’ll be able to access all our properties and book there, and access some great specials that we have for booking online for our guests. Federico, thank you so much for your time. We greatly appreciate all the great ideas and explaining everything around the hotel, but also those great ideas you have far away. You gave us 5 or 6 fantastic suggestions. Thanks for joining us on the show. Thank you for having me. It was a pleasure meeting you. Let me know when you want to join me in one adventure here in Costa Rica. We certainly will.
Costa Rica is an amazing country. I’ve been there so many times. I always want to go back. We talked about the mountains, the beaches, hiking, surfing, Pura Vida. Probably the thing that I want to go back and do is the waterfalls just like Chak was saying. I’ve been to many and they are some of the best in the world. When you’re planning your trip, make sure that you look at all the great natural waterfalls that you can see. That’s my last great tip. Special thanks to our team here at Destination Everywhere. Make sure you subscribe, rate and review the show on your preferred podcast app or by going to Destination-Everywhere.com. Be sure to join us next time. Be safe out there.
Chak Menafacio is the CEO and founder of CHAKFitness, Costa Rica’s most unique, beachfront, outdoor gym located in Las Catalinas. He has been working as a fitness professional for over twenty years and is accredited by the NSCA, ACE, AFAA, and USA Gymnastics Association. He holds a license in sports massage therapy from the Florida College of Natural Health. Chak is ranked black belt of the first degree in Kung-Fu Shaolin. He was born in Geneva, Switzerland and was raised in Costa Rica where he started training in martial arts at the age of nine. He is truly an accomplished fitness professional. He has gained national exposure with featured articles in Self Magazine, Natural Awakenings, local publications, TV shows and fitness videos. He has performed at fitness conventions, competitions and exhibitions at more than one-hundred shows at national and international level.
About Federico Gurdián
Federico has been in the hospitality industry for over 12 years now and currently holds a BA in Hospitality and Human Resource Management from Glion Institute of Higher Education, Switzerland. During his time in the industry he had the opportunity to work for a big all-inclusive hotel in Riviera Maya, a big city hotel in Beijing, China and several boutique hotels in Costa Rica. Federico was born on April 13th, 1987 in San Jose, Costa Rica where he was raised. Both his parents are Costa Ricans as well as his brother. Federico’s biggest hobbies are surfing which he’s enjoyed for over 15 years now and more recently mountain biking has also become a hobby. He had the chance to be in charge of 2 hotel openings one of them being Casa Chameleon Las Catalinas and he could say that doing hotel openings is probably what he has enjoyed the most during his years of experience.
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