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Four Seasons Astir Palace Hotel Athens

  • 40 Apollonos Street, Vouliagmeni, Athens, 16671, Greece
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Bertrand Valegeas

Executive Chef
“There are times in life when opportunities just happen. This was one I couldn’t miss.”

 

Four Seasons Tenure

  • Since 2019
  • First Four Seasons Position: Current

Employment History

  • The St. Regis Singapore; Sofitel Singapore Sentosa Resort & spa; Sofitel SO/ Singapore; Waldorf Astoria Dubai Palm Jumeirah; One&Only Royal Mirage, Dubai; Hotel Grande Bretagne, Athens; Park Hyatt Dubai; Vardis Restaurant, Pentelikon, Athens; Relais Louis XIII, Paris

Birthplace

  • La Rochelle, France

Education

  • Degree in Cuisine, Centre de Formation Apprentis Hôtellerie, Dax, France

Languages Spoken

  • French, English, Greek

“All of them I love for different reasons, at different times of day, in different seasons.” That’s Bertrand Valegeas waxing poetic on the long line-up of dining and drinking experiences he oversees as Executive Chef of Four Seasons Astir Palace Hotel Athens.

Vastly experienced from three decades of culinary creativity in top-end hotels around the world, Valegeas is quick to admit that his current position was not a long-term goal or anything. “I worked in Athens before and had no plans to come back. But there are times in life when opportunities just happen. This was one I couldn’t miss.”

His is quite an opportunity at that. Playing off Astir Palace’s renown as a historic hotspot in the Athens and on the global scene, the Hotel offers seven food & beverage outlets including signature Pelagos serving sophisticated Greek seafood; the trattoria Mercato spotlighting authentic Italian cuisine; Taverna 37 dishing local specialties on the beach; and seasonal Helios by the pool with a DJ at sunset and live music at night.

The essential ingredient of each are the products Valegeas sources from across Greece and beyond. “The beauty of this country is we can have almost anything we want,” he enthuses, noting in particular fresh fish and seafood pulled straight from the Aegean that laps the Hotel’s beachfront. “We have fishermen who come in every morning with amazing catch of the day and live langoustines. There are amazing vegetables, amazing cheeses. It’s so easy.”

Valegeas is similarly excited about the talent on his team, nine-in-ten of whom are Greek and most of who have worked abroad. He feels “quite lucky,” he says. “Technically my wife is Greek, so I have a connection here. I’ve always found people very friendly and welcoming. Our team helps give a message of authenticity, and that goes a long way.”

So, too, does Valegeas’s approach to management. He jokes that at his age, “I cannot yell anymore!” Actually, he can, but he doesn’t. “I worked for a chef like that maybe 20 years ago, so I know exactly how someone feels on the other end.” Times have changed, he continues. “What we’re doing here is about teamwork. I may have ideas, but others may too. Giving them a chance to contribute lets them know they can deliver.”

Valegeas grew up not far from Bordeaux on the Atlantic coast of southwest France. Unlike many in his profession, he doesn’t credit family meals as inspiration, but he does have strong memories of summer vacations to his grandparent’s farm. “That’s where I discovered my sense of taste. And that’s why I’m so focused on product. If you don't have good ingredients, you cannot cook.”

Never much of a student, he contemplated becoming a baker, not least because he simply loves the bread. “Then I went to talk to a baker, and he told me the day starts at 3am. I said, ‘no way can I get up that early,’ and I started looking at the rest of the kitchen.”

Valegeas’s career began with an apprenticeship in a small restaurant before he moved onto Paris and the desirable kitchen of a very successful chef. “It was very hard, but I learned so much. If you’re French and you don't work in Paris, you’re nothing.”

He went further, with assignments in Dubai, Greece and eventually Singapore, learning something new in every kitchen and about every culture as he went. Success in Paris wasn’t enough, he recalls. “We French like to think we’re the best cooks in the world, but a well-rounded chef needs to learn things elsewhere as well.”

Now back in Greece and with Four Seasons for the first time, Valegeas is confident of success and excited about being at the forefront of a new era of luxury hospitality in Athens. “You sometimes just feel when you arrive at a hotel that it’s going to be the best. Here we have everything: The people, the products, the culture. We can’t go wrong.”