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Hotseat - Paulo Figueiredo

822_HotseatIn the Hotseat with Paulo Figueiredo

 In a perfect world, everybody should do what they really love.

ILTT brought Paulo Figueiredo (Diageo Brand Ambassador for the Caribbean and South America) for a week of events earlier this month. Out N About caught up with the 31-year-old Paulo during his hectic week of trainings and events. Charter House Restaurant held a fancy Zacapa dinner where diners tasted delicious courses that included the rum as an ingredient and sipped on Zacapa rum. Paulo explained about the history of Zacapa rum with so much passion for what he does that he just has to be in the Hotseat!

 Where are you from?

I was born in Portugal.

 Where did you go to school?

I wanted to study sport science, but had too many injuries, so then I focused on bar/restaurant/kitchen and in my later studies, the management part. From there on, I entered Portugal’s bar scene.

 How did you end up traveling?

I moved to London 10 years ago, working in the bartending hotel management industry. I started out at LAB, which at the time was the hottest bar in London. It didn’t really matter who you were, you had to start at zero when you work there, so I started as a bareback all over again. Lots of important connections were made there; this was a bar where trends were created, and I worked there for two years. After this, I got the opportunity to work at Salvatore Calabrese Salvatore's Bar at Playboy Club London, and the re-opening of renowned Ronnie Scotts Jazz Club. Yes, I was working two jobs which then led me to Hong Kong to work for the Aqua Restaurant Group where I created menus, was the mixologist and beverage manager. I then returned to London to open Aqua London, which was very successful, but then I was looking for a new challenge in order to grow. I joined the Hilton Group as a consultant for Bar Managers and Bar Operations all over Africa. When that was over, I moved on to a new project in Abu Dabi; opening the Cipriani in Yas Island. Once that was done, I decided to take a long vacation and travel the world.

 What happened next?

I got the opportunity to work with Diageo (the world's largest producer of spirits and a major producer of beer and wine) for Latin America and the Caribbean, over three years ago.

 Is this your first time on St. Maarten?

This is my first time on-duty here, but I did spend last New Year’s Eve here on vacation, which was my first visit to the island.

 Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

In the next five years, I see myself as Global Ambassador – my choice would be to be the Ambassador for Ketel One or Bullet Bourbon. In 10 years, consulting and writing about the brands I’ve worked with and about mixology.

 What inspires you?

People, literally people; I am very lucky that in my field, I get to socialize with people from all walks of life: bartenders, influential people, all kinds. It is interesting because you see all sides of life. I get to see everything and learn not to take things for granted in life. It’s a good balance; it keeps me grounded.

 Do you have any advice for those who aspire to get into a career such as yours?

My first bit of advice is; don’t try to be successful, try to be happy in your everyday job. Sometimes you focus too much on the success that you don’t get to have the experience; you miss the connection with people (the customers). My second is to be genuine and be true to yourself. Do what you always wanted to do. You need to really like the people; these days, being genuine is extremely appreciated by people in this high-tech world.

 You are obviously interested in and passionate about your work, what do you do in your spare time?

I do yoga, surfing, sports, motorbikes; I’m never quiet, that’s the reality. I golf; I try everything. I’m up for the adventure because when you are exposed to something new, it makes you more humble. In turn, when you’re the one training/teaching others, you put yourself in their shoes. I apply this to work; it gets back to work, training, bartenders, etc. I speak four languages – none of them very well. Life is work, but it doesn’t feel like work for me. I’m always learning; I easily read about two hours every day because I enjoy learning something new every day.

 Would you ever consider leaving this field to work in another?

No, never. Hospitality, food and beverage, culture: all these things are social networking – real social networking. Food is the largest means of social networking in my opinion, because you’re always learning.

 Where do you call home?

Home is wherever I am I guess. I’m based in Puerto Rico these days. My family is in Portugal so maybe I will one day go back to my roots. But I live in the present.

 Of all the countries you’ve seen in your travels, where is your favourite?

Hmm, that is difficult, I can’t choose. If I have to, I’ll start with categories; when it comes to culture, I love London, Lisbon and New York City. For architecture, I love Bali, because of its open architecture, the Feng Shue and the people. When it comes to food, it’s Peru; I love having dinner and not recognizing the ingredients which come from the Amazon.

 What is your pet peeve?

Arrogant people – people who think they are superior to others. But because I am a perfectionist – and yes it’s tough to be perfect – I think we should all at least try. I go to less-developed countries with fewer resources and see people do their best (try to be perfect), versus people with all the resources, who take it for granted; that’s a definite pet-peeve. In my perfect world, everybody should do what they love, so it’s hard for me to see people not doing what they do with love, and it’s many times because they are not doing what they love to do.

 If you were to host a dinner and invite any three famous persons, dead or living, who would they be and why?

Frank Sinatra; to me he is the voice. I love his music and of course he lived in those days of cocktails, martinis and when people dressed really well to go out and have them. He seems like good company for a night out, a person who lived and enjoyed, like a bohemian.

Chef Ferran Adria from Spain; the best chef in the world, he is a Michelin Chef but also a very simple and down-to-earth guy. I saw a presentation of his and he is the most creative chef in the world; responsible for inspiring many bartenders (we take a lot of trends from chefs).

Dale Degroff, known as King Cocktail; in the 60s, he was responsible for making the Cosmopolitan famous and is one of the best storytellers I know. He has the gift of storytelling, especially because while he’s telling them, he pulls out his guitar and sings.

I think they are all a great combination for a great dinner: a singer, a chef and a bartender!