Four Seasons Tenure
- Since 2017
- First Four Seasons Assignment: Current
- Raffles Istanbul; Arola Restaurants & Hotels, Istanbul; W Hotels in Paris, Sao Paolo, and Barcelona; Restaurant Osmosis, 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
There are many things to inspire Omar Mallen as Executive Chef of Four Seasons Hotel Tunis, and right near the top is enthusiastic clientele. “There is a huge culture of going out to dine in this city, and that’s exactly what a chef wants,” he says, musing on his role in creating a luxury dining destination along the coast of the bustling capital. “We’re appealing to the local palate and our guests on so many levels, with international concepts, consistent quality, and truly beautiful restaurants that set Four Seasons apart.”
Indeed. The seafront hotel situated in the affluent Gammarth district has three distinctive venues under Omar’s watch including a chic Mediterranean-inspired bistro serving coastal cuisine from the Côte d’Azur, Italy and Spain; an adjacent sun-splashed beach bar and lounge concept nestled near the swimming pool with a kick-back vibe, creative cocktails and sizably portioned seafood sizzled on a charcoal grill; and an international all-day restaurant with delights for every palate offered with engaging service and appealing presentations for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Integral to the success of all of the above is the quality of ingredients – including and especially those from the sea. “The culinary culture here is focused on fish, and we’re taking that over the top with international concepts,” notes Omar who, having arrived from “meat-loving Istanbul,” couldn’t wait to get started. He mentions whole grilled salt-crusted fish, lip-smacking ceviche, and live sea urchins plucked straight from the sea dressed with nothing more than a spritz of lemon.
He recalls his excitement over ingredients he found at the city’s block-long Central Market – “Beautiful! I’d never seen anything like it!” – though he is quick to note that availability of produce in Tunis is decidedly seasonal. While that requires most other hotels and restaurants to refashion their menus as summer fades, Four Seasons resources enable Omar to maintain consistency with high-quality imports.
Then there is the talent that Omar has assembled in the kitchen, nearly all of it local and hungry to learn. “Every chef has a different strategy. What I like to do is take a very passionate attitude with employees and train them my way.” He admits to being highly professional and stressing attention to detail, but he loves to teach as much as he does being present in the kitchen and out on the floor. “I’ve learned a lot in my career and like any chef I enjoy passing my knowledge along. Assuming my team has the Four Seasons spirit, I can take them far.”
Growing up in Barcelona, Mallen’s parents ran their own restaurant and he was encouraged to spend time in the kitchen from a young age. Though he always loved to cook, it wasn’t until a friend got Omar into a highly competitive program based at a Michelin-starred restaurant at a local university that he decided to pursue culinary as a career. “Once I got started, things came easily for me,” he recalls.
An early opportunity saw Omar continue his training at El Bulli, the renowned hotspot of molecular gastronomy on the Costa Brava of Spain. After working his way up at other Michelin-starred hotspots, Omar began opening restaurants, including Osmosis in Barcelona, before moving onto new addresses of an international hotel group across Europe. At the last of these, in Paris, he reconnected with Sergi Arola, an El Bulli alumnus, who encouraged Omar to join his budding hospitality group in Istanbul.
Following his successes with Arola, Omar took his talents to another new international hotel in Istanbul that was being managed by a former Four Seasons general manager. “He always told me, ‘I hope you’ll follow when I move on,’” Omar remembers. “When he returned to Four Seasons, he reached out and told me he really thought I would like working for the company.”
The manager was right about that. Now loving his life and his job in Tunis, Omar shares a beautiful house with his wife and son and squeezes family time, sports and other recreation as he can. “You know, we chefs spend more time in the hotel than we do at home. That’s why I love the Four Seasons approach: they take care of you.”