CovetED presents the amazing and exquisite behind-the-scenes of Vila Vita Parc, one of Portugal’s most precious luxury hotels. In these exclusive interviews, discover everything about the experienced team that we’re about to unveil! From the wine cellar’s team to the restaurant’s chef or the head of costumer service, step inside the usually unknown world of the luxury hotel.
António Pinto – Wine Cellar’s Team
Many people don’t know the existence of this fabulous place that makes part of Villa Vita’s incredible history. Also known as “A Cave de Vinhos”, this special place is where you will find the best wine qualities to complement the luxury experience at this incredible resort in the south of Portugal. Wine tasting, personalized service, personalized dinner for the guests and incredible tours through the wine house facilities are some of the main activities that you will have the chance to experience in Villa Vita’s incredible Wine House.
“I joined Villa Vita on March 15, 1998, and the “Cave de Vinhos” was finished in May 1998. I started by helping in the replacement of bottles and the organization of spaces, and later things developed and I ended up working in this inspiring place where guests can not only experience this delicacy but also know everything about wine, which is one of the great pillars of Portuguese culture.”
Originally from the small village of Resende in the region of Lamego (which is in the north region of Portugal), António Pinto started his journey at the incredible Villa Vita as a simple waiter but he was always passionate about the Portuguese wine culture. After working in Switzerland for several years in the field of restoration, António Pinto thought that it was time to return to his home country. Later on, when he enters the Villa Vita team, António Pinto decided to know the history and the process of winemaking through a 10 months course on one school specialized in restoration.
“My passion for wine began in my childhood when I helped my grandfather at the time of the grape harvest to clean the traditional pip. From the grape harvest to the grape picking, all this was what made me fall in love with this area.” This inspiring White House started as a simple storage space for the resort’s incredible wine collection in 1998, and today it is considered one of the best parts of Villa Vita’s luxury experience.
“The world of wines is not as easy as it seems. Understanding wines is something that is learned from experience because the school only offers the theoretical component. To really understand the wine itself, you need to be in contact with its history and its origin. To select the wines for the Vila Vita collection we either organize a tour through the country to savour some of the best qualities in the market or we organize a meeting with the local wine producers to see if their products fit in our vision. This incredible industry requires a lot of sacrifice and dedication in order to truly understand the secret behind the high-quality.”
They have some of the best wine collections in the world, and about 70 per cent of them correspond to wines created in Portugal. Besides this incredible selection, the Vila Vita’s amazing wine house also features some of the best wine qualities from France, California, Spain, Italy, among other places.
“I would say that 90% of the guests want to know the good Portuguese wines. As you know, our wines are recognized worldwide for their excellent quality, so when they visit this magnificent place, people want to know and experience the good national wines since having excellent quality for the price set.”
To complement a memorable meal, like an incredible family dinner, António Pinto advised some of the best Portuguese high-quality wines. For example, if you’re tasting the truly Portuguese seafood dish like “Ameijoas à Bolhão Pato”, the ideal wine choice is a refreshing green wine or “Vinho Verde” known from the Alvarinho collection. For a second dish like tuna on the stone, the ideal wine would be a drier, more gastronomic quality, like “Vinho do Dão” in order to complement the flavours present in the dish itself.
For the meat dish, the choice is completely different. António Pinto believes that the best wine choice to complement is high-quality wine from the Douro region in the north of Portugal. “This is a wine that is not too heavy or full-bodied, making it quite balanced to accompany this type of dish.” The perfect ending to the perfect family dinner should end with a sweet Portuguese delicacy such as the traditional “Queijada de Laranja” with orange ice cream, that would go perfectly with the famous Moscatel wine.
Daniela Luz – Yoga Instructor
Originally from the beautiful city of Lagoa in Algarve, Daniela has travelled throughout the world where she had the chance to experience different cultures and customs. When she moved back to Portugal, she later had the opportunity to join the Villa Vita Spa team. Besides working the Vila Vita’s health club, Daniela is dedicated to the spa’s yoga activities, where the guests can experience incredible yoga lessons, meditation, and Pilates.
“Although I was born here in Lagoa, in the Algarve, I lived outside the country until four years ago. I had the opportunity to live in Australia for five years, but I also stayed in Italy and Mozambique, so I can say that I’m a bit of the world. Before my definitive return to Portugal, I decided to take a long trip through Asia for a year to learn about its culture.”
The passion for Yoga is something that accompanied Daniela throughout her life. “The curiosity to go further and connect with the body, mind, and spirit, came to me very early when, as a child, I was looking for something more. At the age of 17, I started to read about meditation in books and magazines and realized that yoga could help me get there. I started to practice yoga in one of the first centres in the region which was located in Portimão, 15 years ago and at that time yoga was not a very common topic.”
Graduated in Social Education, all of Daniela’s travelling experiences were based on her passion for meditation and social education subjects. She has participated in several projects throughout the world, but there was one that truly marked her as a professional and as a person. “I had a very good work opportunity that consisted of working with children with special educational needs in which these children came from needy families. Social work is very demanding emotionally and for that reason, I always felt the need to go recharge energies in order to be able to give to others. Meditation was always a way to find me.” Daniela decided to develop her expertise in this area and took some mindfulness, yoga and meditation classes so that she could transmit a sense of tranquillity and peace to her students and their families.
“I always try to go a little bit in the roots of meditation and try to look for the original basis of this art, but it is becoming increasingly difficult to do it. Every year I travel to India, Asia or other countries that can help me progress on a professional and personal level because it is a way to recharge batteries and update my knowledge so later, I can share it with other people. “
As we said before, the Yoga Studio Villa Vita’s Spa features several activities dedicated to the well-being of the guests, like free group lessons in the healthcare are, like yoga and meditation, that is one of the guest’s complimentary service. Aerial Yoga is becoming one of the greatest trends in the meditation area and it is the newest novelty of Villa Vita’s yoga studio.
Aerial Yoga is a new type of yoga practised in suspension on suspended silk fabrics with about six meters wide. In this activity, the guest can either stay in or out of the fabric to do some relaxation and stretching exercises. The goal is to exercise and activate the “core” by combining the strength with breathing and relaxation. “We can say that this soft silk fabric can be used as a cocoon where the goal is to bring attention to our minds and focus on the part of meditation and relaxation“, explained the Villa Vita’s yoga specialist. This type of yoga practice promotes a feeling of lightness and happiness while relieving tension in the spine and improves blood flow.
However, if the guests of the luxury resort wanted a personalized experience in the healthcare department, the Yoga Studio also has some private lessons that are more dedicated towards the guest’s specific needs, either in terms of health or practice. In these private lessons, Villa Vita’s guest can choose everything about the class, like the time, the location, or if they want to turn it in a family activity.
“Here at Vila Vita Resort and Spa Yoga Studio we also have once a week” Kids Yoga ” so that all children can also interact with the world of meditation. Since we have children of all nationalities, our team organizes a lesson through picture books so that everyone can understand the moral of the story. Each page of this book represents a different yoga posture. “
Daniela believes that yoga is one of the greatest secrets to experiencing a positive life experience because it is a way to have a clear mind and spirit, something that will later help you to face the biggest obstacles or problems with a positive perspective. “My mission is to make the person self-meet and connect more with the body, heart, and mind“, enhanced the yoga instructor.
Isaulinda Pires – Mizu Restaurant Chef
Isaulinda is a chef at the Mizu Restaurant in Vila Vita Parc, and she works there since 2001. According to Isaulinda, Vila Vita has been constantly evolving. “One of the good things that Vila Vita has is the organization of training lessons for the workers, which allows us to be in constant evolution.” Sushi is their strong suit within the Mizu restaurant. They work with high-quality products and are always receiving amazing feedback from their customers. They are definitely at the right track.
“The world of cooking is not easy, but I give myself completely to the kitchen, I am very pleased to be able to give the customers food that will satisfy them.”
According to Isaulinda, it’s very important that the entire team works in the same direction. But for that, there must be affirmation and the certainty of what you want. It’s not only necessary to know how to cook, but also it’s very important to listen, respect and work.
Lukas Neves – The House Bar’s Bartender
Lukas Neves is a bartender at the House Bar at Vila Vita Parc and he has been working there for 6 years. According to Lukas, when he was younger, the world of the hotel business never fascinated him. But what once started just for fun, soon began to be a passion. He took a course at the hotel school and started to work at Vila Vita when he was 18 years old.
Vila Vita has become Lukas’ second home and they are open all year. Their priority is the bar and they consider their cocktail bar unique. His focus has changed in the last few years, for Lukas, the cocktail presentation is very important and it sells as much as a beautiful dish.
“I consider the service and hospitality more important than the cocktail itself. The cocktail may be incredible, but what really remains is the experience.”
According to Lukas, a lot of people ask themselves if it’s really worth it, and he explains that is totally worth it because it’s a luxury experience and for him, that is what really remains.
Recently, they changed the menu that contains 12 cocktails – the best sellers and other new items. Besides that, they are also working on a non-alcoholic cocktail.
“Since I’m here, I feel that Vila Vita has evolved a lot! Nowadays, we talk a lot about sustainability and this is something that we take into consideration by using reusable products like straws and coasters.”
Márcio Baltazar – Pastry Chef
Márcio Baltazar is a Pastry Chef at Vila Vita Parc, that stands out through his amazing creations within the bakery and pastry industry. On the context of his work in the Hotel, Márcio focuses mainly on “giving the client a tasteful and original experience, because I don’t follow trends, and I don’t like to create them”. He’s able to create the most exquisite and eccentric items that will leave you absolutely breathtaking. That happens due to his “creative process because there’s always an original source. It can be a challenge or even something that’s spontaneous that comes up!”
Although the pastry chef has created many incredible items, with different styles and concepts, “at the moment there’s a need to invest in the classical and traditional concept of desserts, and through that, I eventually end up influencing others”. And with a menu full of different flavours, there’s something that Márcio makes sure it stays, and that is Portuguese elements on the menu. “I always make sure to produce items that have some Portuguese origin, in a way or another.
In order to embellish and create the perfect dessert, there are many factors that the chef must keep in mind, such as the “visualization of every ingredient and baking process whether on paper or inside my mind”. Márcio thinks that that’s one of the most important things to consider due to the opportunity of the “reinvention within a classical item”. To reinvent within the industry, you have to think that “nothing is defined by nature, we can create something and then it turns out absolutely different”.
To get to this stage in his life, Márcio Baltazar shares a “massive passion for bakery and pastry”. “I started to work as a bartender in a restaurant, and meanwhile I applied to a kitchen course. Then, I easily realized that I really wanted to be a pastry chef, due to its connection to architecture and paintwork”. On his daily routine at Vila Vita Parc, we take his works very seriously, to create the most amazing desserts, that are “according to how I’m feeling, according to what I want to do”.
The pastry chef had an impressive professional journey in Portugal and abroad, leaving his wonderful mark through every everywhere he went. “After my pastry course, I worked on a cake factory, and then in the Confeitaria Nacional in Lisbon. Then I had the pleasure of working at the Pestana Palace, before passing through Spain, Greece and England. When my son was born, I moved to Portugal, and five years ago I embraced this project in Vila Vita Parc”. Since he became a pastry chef in the Hotel, Márcio became a different person for the better, because he was an “explosive person and this job turned that around”. He was able to transform into a “more considered and stable person, on a professional and personal level”.
Mariana Soares – Oásis Bar’s Bartender
Meet Mariana Soares, the friendly bartender within the Oásis Bar of Hotel Vila Vita Parc. Before her new life stage at this position, everything began in Leiria, her hometown, where she luckily “chose the training for Restaurant and Bar, and then my love for it instantly grew”. First, she was interested in the art of making sophisticated cocktails due to the “adrenaline I felt while making them”. She started on the Restaurant industry, but after a while, she realized that the industry was “a choreographed dance” and that the bar industry was “constantly a new day because you never know what you’re going to get, every day you meet different people”.
First, she was “an introvert person, so this position was very important for my development because I began to feel more comfortable”. With this position, she “grew with much more confidence”, although she says that this is not an easy industry and that everyone must be sure when pursuing this line of work. Thanks to her growth, she is able to establish a bespoke relationship with her clients, “it’s a Portuguese way, it’s all about the smile, and about the welcome greetings”.
Through her experience as a bartender in Vila Vita Parc, she learns to love and appreciate the selling action with the customers. “I like to talk to the clients, at the bar we have time to have a real talk, to play a little”. She personally takes interest in interacting with children because she likes to “interact with children, and the parents take that in absolute consideration, with the bespoke details I’m able to reflect on the service. It’s all about the simplicity and kindness”!
Mariana Soares is very proud of her professional journey at the Hotel, and she affirms that “there’s no place like Vila Vita Parc. It is excentric, and our service, as well as our service quality, is hard to find anywhere else. We’re also able to have our own creations, and that is absolutely amazing”. The professional bartender recognizes that she’s finally found her place at the Oásis Bar because it functions as their “welcome card. When the guests arrive, I really like to greet and welcome them”.
Roberto Venturinha – Head Of Customer Service
Presenting Roberto Venturinha, the Head of Customer Service, which means that he’s responsible for everything to function perfectly when the guests arrive at Vila Vita Parc. “I’m responsible for everything when it comes to guests, travel agencies and personal assistant’s needs. We prepare a customized itinerary for the guest upon his arrival, taking into consideration their requests, from the most normal to the most original”.
Roberto lives in Algarve since 1988 and has been working on the hospitality business for all his life. For six years, he has been working on this Hotel’s department that requires a “lot of knowledge, many contacts within the region, in order to satisfy the guests’ requests. From restaurant reservations, spa, golf, transfers, helicopters and private planes”.
His love for hospitality began when he was very young, through his work in the reception area. “When I was very young, I started to work at the reception, and it was always a challenge for me to satisfy everyone. Not only unveiling the best that Portugal has to offer, but it was also an attraction to satisfying guests in that way”. The Head of Customer Services aims to please on a daily basis, therefore he’s constantly looking to learn and search in order to improve.
To succeed in this challenging line of work, Roberto firmly states that “it’s required to know the guest, what he’s looking for. We try to see that through the questions they ask, for the kind of restaurant they request. I’ll do the guests’ profiling, which sometimes sits on personal assistant’s requests through their information and preferences”. So the truth is that he works extensively in order to establish the most exquisite stay for every guest, and of course “never saying no to the guest”!
As far as guests’ requests go, Roberto Venturinha states that “The boat rides in Algarve are the most requested experience, from the luxury yacht to the most modest boats, in order to explore the magnificent caves”. He also speaks about the importance of the contact guests must have with some incredible places such as “Monchique and Silves, which are out of the litoral area. Normally I advise them on the thermal places of Monchique, as well as restaurants in the area”.
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