Four Seasons Tenure
- Since 2017
- First Four Seasons Assignment:
Executive Chef, Four Seasons Hotel Tunis
- Four Seasons Hotel Tunis; Raffles Istanbul; Arola Restaurants, Istanbul; W Paris Opéra; W Barcelona; Osmosis, Barcelona; Sketch, London; Hotel Balzac, Paris; Hotel Plaza Athénée, Paris; El Raco d’en Freixa, Barcelona; Gaig Barcelona
- Barcelona, Spain
- Culinary Arts/Chef Training, El Bulli, Roses, Spain; Culinary Degree, Hofmann School of Hospitality, Barcelona
- Spanish, English, Catalan, French, some Turkish and Italian
In a country crawling with top culinary talent, Omar Mallen admits that he didn’t join Four Seasons Hotel Madrid to be the best Executive Chef in Spain. “But,” he says, “I am definitely here delivering the best products to our guests.”
Arriving on the Hotel’s opening team, Mallen was immediately taken with the full variety of produce and protein available locally, as well as the enthusiasm with which it is purveyed. He had “queues of suppliers lining up to show me their products,” he remembers. “Supplier after supplier: Artisan agriculture, millions of vegetables, all of it high quality. I was so impressed.”
So, finding the best products was a breeze, then? “Well, no, it actually takes a lot of time. You need to see everyone.”
Laid out within the authentically elegant interiors of a former bank, Four Seasons Hotel Madrid occupies the most prominent of seven historic buildings dating from the late 1800s, all newly restored as Centro Canalejas, a commercial and residential centre in the heart of the city.
The Hotel has three food & beverage outlets, each with its own identity and a world of flavours between them. The highlight is eight stories up on the rooftop where an expansive terrace restaurant has views interrupted only by the building’s ornamental bell tower. The original concept for the rooftop is by Consulting Chef Dani Garcia, a Michelin-starred celebrity on the Spanish scene, with whom Mallen collaborates to ensure smooth operations in the kitchen and a steady supply of great product.
Closer to the ground, Mallen oversees a Spanish venue serving elegant tapas and traditional dishes in a space off the Lobby that he likens to “a living room for Madrilenos.” He also fashions dining for a gastro pub on the first floor, with the menu offering a wide variety of Asian- and Mediterranean-inspired finger foods, and more.
Mallen is similarly confident about the Hotel’s banqueting operation, summing up the concept he created as “restaurant food for large numbers of people.” As elsewhere, the key to banqueting is the wonderful product, but also the quality of the kitchen. “The back of the house here is put together very well. They’ve given us so much in the way of equipment and kitchen space to work with.”
Barcelona born and raised, Mallen’s parents were restaurateurs, and he was encouraged to discover the joys of cooking from a young age. He found the joys all right, but he didn’t consider culinary as a career until a friend got him into a program at Hofmann Culinary Institution that was taught at a local one-Michelin-star restaurant. Twenty years later, looking back at the hometown beginnings of his impressive culinary career, Mallen remembers: “It was highly competitive and highly inspiring. Once I got started, things came easily for me.”
As his training continued, Mallen was fortunate to land in a three-month ‘stage’ program at Ferran Adrià’s late, great high temple of molecular gastronomy El Bulli in Roses, Spain. As his career took off, he continued cooking at Michelin-starred restaurants and alongside their renowned chefs – Carles Gaig, Ramon Freixa, Alain Ducasse, and Pierre Gagnaire among them – and even led an opening before joining an international hotel group, which took him to properties across Europe.
Then, in 2011, Mallen reconnected with Sergi Arola, a Michelin-starred chef, with whom he worked his way up as Executive Chef at prestigious hotels such as W Paris Opéra and the Raffles in Istanbul.
Mallen joined Four Seasons at last in 2017, starting as opening Executive Chef at Four Seasons Hotel Tunis. He remembers the destination quite fondly, and the experience as well. “In my profession, you never stop learning, and I learned so much.” Perhaps more than anything, that Tunisia was not the closed country he and his family had anticipated. “People there were always so nice and welcoming to us. We were expecting a closed culture, but they eat pork and drink alcohol!”
Madrilenos do, too. Among the many things that excite Mallen about being in the capital city is the enthusiasm he sees from locals for the dining scene. Back in Barcelona, people work and go home, he says. “Here in Madrid they go out to drink and dine. As a chef, it’s really amazing to see restaurants so full during the week.”
From its rooftop terrace to its gastro pub, Four Seasons Hotel Madrid is the perfect match for the rhythms of the city, he concludes. “Plus, we have the best beer in town!”