Four Seasons Resort Punta Mita, México
- Punta Mita, Bahía de Banderas, Nayarit, 63734, Mexico
Director of Food and Beverage
Four Seasons Tenure
- Since 2008
- First Four Seasons Assignment: Current
- The Old Manor House, Romsey, England; El Refectorio, Cartagena, Colombia; Le Buerehiesel, Strasbourg, France; Café 15, Sofitel Lafayette Square Hotel, Washington, DC; Ici Urban Bistro, Sofitel Lafayette Square
- Brittany, France
- CAP in Classical Cuisine, CFA of Rennes, France
- French, English, Spanish
Time was when resort guests could be expected to check in, stay put, and not be tempted by enticements from the next property over or down the road. Not anymore. “I arrived here just after the golden years when guests had a captive appetite,” recalls Philippe Piel of his start as Executive Chef at Four Seasons Resort Punta Mita in 2008 before becoming Director of Food and Beverage in 2017. “Now the market is more relaxed and they venture out more to dine at other resorts and little restaurants in the village. For us, that means showing guests better value for their money.”
And show them Piel does. Working with Richard Sandoval, the renowned Mexican chef who holds a consulting role at three of the Resort’s restaurants, Piel draws guests and visitors alike with “as many things as we can offer for a good price.” At the lavish Asian contemporary restaurant Aramara, for instance, appetizers are now sized for sharing and diners in shorts and t-shirts are welcomed warmly – wherever they’re from. At Nuna Pool guests enjoy authentic Mexican street food with fresh tacos offered from a custom stainless steel cart, and Tuba, a fermented coconut palm sap served in a dried pumpkin shell from roving waiters. Resort cooking classes have been well received, as has the “Catch of the Day” program, which finds guests meeting local fishermen on the beach to learn the distinctions of Pacific catch and choose preparation of their dinner entrée.
Such things add up, says Piel: “Competition has been good for us. We’re high-end, of course, but our innovations really set us apart.”
Piel travelled a long road to Four Seasons on the Pacific coast of Mexico. Born and raised surrounded by the sea in Brittany, France, he recalls with fondness the “rich, creamy, earthy dishes” prepared by his mother and grandmother. His family didn’t stay put, however, but followed his father, a career military man, for years abroad in Asia and Africa. After culinary training in the French tradition Piel took off on his own 14-year journey to Bali, Cambodia, Bermuda, England, Colombia and beyond with opportunities to hone his skills in renowned kitchens along the way.
The far-flung experience did him good. “The things I saw at local markets in Asia would make people freak out in Europe, but I learned to how work with local producers to get the best ingredients,” he recalls. “Food goes with ambiance – where you’re at, what your mood is, how it fits with what is around you. It is very important for chefs to travel to try new things where they originate.”
Among Piel’s stops before Punta Mita was opening Café 15 on Lafayette Square in Washington, DC, while working as a consultant with Michelin three-star chef Antoine Westermann at Le Buerehiesel in Strasbourg. “I’d always wanted the chance to work with a three-star chef – it’s nice to see how those people operate.” He has also enjoyed opportunities to glean inspiration from more of those people – Thomas Keller, Michael Mina and Joel Antunes among them – since joining Four Seasons.
These days, Piel’s lifetime of influences can be enjoyed by the ocean at Aramara, Bahía by Richard Sandoval, Ketsi and Tail of the Whale, as well as the Resort’s bars.