Four Seasons Resort Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt
- 1 Four Seasons Boulevard, P.O. Box 203, Sharm El Sheikh, South Sinai, Egypt
Food and Beverage Director
Four Seasons Tenure
- First hired 1993; now since 2001
- First Four Seasons Assignment: Chef de Partie, Four Seasons Hotel Milano
- Four Seasons Resort Koh Samui; Regent Singapore (formerly a Four Seasons hotel); Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace Budapest; Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara; Regent Kuala Lumpur (formerly a Four Seasons hotel); Four Seasons Hotel Milano
- Associates Degree, Hotel, and Restaurant Management, San Pellegrino Terme, Italy
- Bergamo, Italy
- Italian, English, French, basic Spanish
“I like challenges and stimulating operations, and this place has both,” says Food and Beverage Director Simone Cerea, gleefully elaborating on his role in ensuring the success of the extensive line-up of restaurants and lounges at Four Seasons Resort Sharm El Sheikh.
Arriving in January 2021, Cerea took on oversight of 12 outlets set between the stark beauty of the Sinai Desert and the crystal-clear waters of the Red Sea. Five of the outlets were still scheduled to open, part of a property-wide expansion designed to double the Resort’s size into one of the largest addresses in Four Seasons portfolio. They include distinctive restaurants serving pan-Asian, Lebanese, Italian and Latin American cuisine.
The essential ingredient for success in food and beverage, notes Cerea, is selecting the right talent who shares the same vision. “I look for contenders who have a real passion and ability to work together for the same results,” he says. “It’s all about evolution: We start from scratch, experiment, taste, find the exact ingredients and the best ways to plate them. Then we consider how to serve them in a way that satisfies the guests cravings”
While local harvest is a scarce at Sharm El Sheikh - even local marine life can’t be garnered from the protected waters of Ras Mohammad National Park – he has located excellent suppliers of produce and seafood in neighbouring cities in Egypt. He also believes strongly in promoting seasonality on the menu. “That’s especially true for beverages. Nothing brings out the full flavour of cocktails like fresh local ingredients.”
So, too, will the stories. Food and beverage is all about creativity, he says. “You need a vision when you plate a dish, but also passion and knowledge, which opens the door on experience and inspiration. The better we can relay the story behind our products, the more appealing they are for our guests to try.”
Cerea oversees the entire operation of each outlet, with particular focus on the service and beverage side. Hosts and servers are trained to communicate with guests, to smooth the sequence of presentation from the kitchen to the table. “I encourage our teams to go out of their way to make guests feel comfortable and recognised. The human touch is what sets Four Seasons apart.”
A native of Bergamo in the Lombardy region of Italy, Cerea brings a lot of experience to the operation under his purview. He has worked in the culinary industry since he was 13 when, while summering by the seaside with his father, he met a chef who had cooked on a cruise ship and told him stories that, he remembers, “blew my mind.” Despite knowing next to nothing about food, he enrolled in a culinary school, where a trainer soon told him a career in the kitchen was “probably not my best choice.”
Albeit, “I learned that professional progress is always about the people you come across on your career path. They are who give you the opportunities that lead to success.”
Cerea’s career path has taken him all over, starting with chopping parsley at a restaurant in his hometown that now has three Michelin stars. He worked in England, Paris and Geneva, and along the way opened an Italian restaurant in London that was pre-booked three weeks in advance. After a brief turn at Four Seasons Hotel Milan in the early 1990s, he returned to the company in Kuala Lumpur in 2001, and later became Executive Chef in Budapest.
It was as an Executive Chef for a former Four Seasons address in Singapore that Cerea hit the big time, leading a team of 90 chefs for, among other things, a Michelin-starred Cantonese restaurant and one of the highest-rated cocktail bars in the world. “We invested generously in the bar concept and people thought that it was excessive. But it showed we had a vision to introduce a flourishing idea.”
Key to the bar’s success? “Choosing the right people with the right industry experience to take it to the top.”
Cerea finally made the switch to directing food and beverage at Four Seasons Resort Koh Samui in Thailand, his last stop before heading to Sharm El Sheikh. Again, he was drawn by the challenge, but also by the opportunity to experience a new destination after many years in Asia.
“I never jump into a new situation and say, ‘I’m the boss; here’s how we’re doing things.’ It’s more important to understand where you are and who you’re working with.” He feels close to home now, he says, as Egyptian culture has similarities to Italian. “And with the colour of the water and abundant marine life, this is a beautiful place to be.”