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Monday, March 25, 2013

San Francisco Through the Eyes of the Grande Dame - The Fairmont

Slow Living Radio brings you a taste of the magical city of San Francisco, through stories, experiences and insights from the Fairmont San Francisco.  We'll hear from Tom Klein, General Manager, of its colorful history, including the many famous people and occasions that have graced its variety of distinguished rooms, forming some of the city's most memorable times.  We'll learn of hidden gems around the city and the insider's to do, from their concierge, Tom Wolfe, America's oldest concierge.  And we'll get a "new kid on the block's" perspective from their Executive Chef, Chad Blunston.

"Wish you were here", broadcasting from the gorgeous Penthouse!

But first, some interesting and insightful tips in the following questionnaire to our show guests.  Enjoy the show as they expound on their intriguing stories.

When you have a day off in the city, what do you like to do?

T.K.     I love to just go to the Saturday market, have coffee, see friends and walk the pier area!! Such a great walking city.
Fort Baker, home to Cavallo Point Lodge,
The Lodge at Golden Gate
T.W.    Take my wife and dog on an outing in our vintage MGB with the top down (if it's a nice day!) Explore locally, especially not so well known areas, or head out of town to some nearby destinations such as Fort Baker, or Half Moon Bay, etc.

C.B.     Day off? What is that? All kidding aside, being relatively new to this city I have been primarily searching for the perfect place to settle my beautiful little family. You can rest assured that we will be spending the majority of time in the great outdoors. Ask my son and there will be hockey involved somehow. We could be on the ice in a game, playing street hockey, mini sticks in the house or on the Wii. When the “game” is over, it will be centered on a meal, whether picnic style, trying a new place or stumbling upon a neighborhood classic.

Where do you like to take guests or family for a big night out in the city?

T.K.    Jazz or show in town – Sausalito on a clear day/evening provides spectacular views back to the city…after of course, crossing the GG Bridge…
Hubert Keller at Fleur de Lys
T.W.    For a truly memorable meal, my absolute favorite is Fleur de Lys; Hubert Keller does a fantastic job, and the restaurant is one of the last places where people actually dress up to go out.

C.B.    Depends on who is coming to town… However everyone wants to come to The Fairmont San Francisco. I am not joking. They have heard so much about it and not from me…. My Mother used to watch Hotel and by default, my brothers and I did too…The History, the location & the views are second to none…Have you seen the Fairmont Suite?
Not just because I am The Executive Chef, but I really believe a trip to San Francisco is not complete without an experience in the Tonga & Hurricane bar. I used to come here every time I was I the city before I lived here…it is so much fun. You don’t believe me? Ask Anthony Bourdain or watch his show the Layover when he visits San Francisco with Chef Chris Cosentino. Parental discretion is advised…

And for a relaxed meal?  
Slanted Door
T.K.    Slanted Door is always a good bet! Allegro Romano (if you can get in!) with Lorenzo, the authentic Italian owner!

T.W.     Wayfare Tavern,Tyler Florence's restaurant here in the City.

C.B.     Give me another couple months and I will be able to give you some great suggestions. I have heard about a few and I am anxious to try them myself, not just myself but with my wife of course…

A visitor only has one day in the city. What would you suggest they do?

T.K.    Open bus tour – for sure. Great Museums (DeYoung, etc.) – Japanese Garden.

T.W.    If it is their first time, take a tour to get acquainted. There are many tour options, and we are always able to tailor one that is a good fit for the client. We like to have a consultation with them, so we can make a day that will match their desires.

C.B.     My first suggestion would be that they call their boss and ask for a few more days off. You can’t see this wonderful city in one day!

Chinatown for sure, you won’t find that experience anywhere else. It is authentic and it is incredible. I love it…if the one Day was a Saturday. I would suggest the Ferry Building for the market. It can’t be beat. Although Fisherman’s Wharf is a “little” touristy I would say it is a must to see. Alcatraz as well, but that would eat up the majority of your day. North Beach… Yum!  Do you find it weird that everywhere I suggest they go is food related?

What is your favorite weekend away?

T.K.    Getting on my Harley Davidson with my wife, Barbara, going to Tomales Bay for oysters and then driving up the coast! - going south along the coast to Half Moon Bay and a stop at Alice’s Restaurant is always a good time as well.
T.W.    I love the Mendocino Coast, but exploring the Wine Country is always wonderful too.

C.B.    Looking forward to wine country…

So many great places to eat. The views are spectacular and the wine is pretty darn good as well.

International destination?
T.K.   Thailand is a definite ‘must’!

T.W.    Places I lived before, such as Tokyo (5 years), Paris (2 years) or London (3 years). I like to go back to the "old neighborhoods" and see the places I used to frequent.

C.B.    For me, it is a toss up. London or the Caribbean…London is a world class city just like San Francisco.  The Caribbean as well -  we lived there for almost four years in St. Thomas and Grand Cayman. There are so many fun things and great places to see and explore while you are there. The local foods are rustic but so good! From one island to the next you can feel like you are in another world..

Most memorable food and wine experience?

T.K.   Would have to be Santéat the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn and Spa - - does not get better!

Horcher Restaurant Madrid
T.W.    Restaurant Horcher in Madrid

C.B.   Wow, narrowing this down will be very difficult. Charlie Trotters in Chicago was amazing. His tasting menu was amazing. I still have the wine label at home somewhere…Blue by Eric Ripert in Grand Cayman was right up there. Another tasting menu with a few extra "Cheffie" courses put in there as well.
We have been known to have a few great meals at our house as well. You will have to ask my family and friends. That is another great thing about the business, a lot of my friends are Chefs and Wine guys… There is no doubt that when we are together that there will be more than a few memories created. Heck, we may have forgotten some of those memories with all that wine…

What is your favorite feature of the Fairmont San Francisco?

A concert in the Venetian room
T.K.    It would have to be the history of the Venetian Room and then of course the Penthouse Suite, where, if walls could talk, we might be in trouble!!

T.W.   The fact that although it is a classic place, we still are innovators (first hotel in the USA with Concierge service, first to have the internet at the Concierge desk, etc.)
C.B.   Mmmm, Not fair! You are sitting in one of them right now. The Penthouse is spectacular, The Lobby so grand, the only time it is better is at Christmas when we have our two storey Gingerbread house. The Cirque Room is treasured. The Roof top garden is beautiful and unique. The Venetian Room still takes my breath away when I walk inside. You really have to stop and think who was walked through those doors. Whether they were on stage or simply here as a guest to enjoy the show…Our Grand ballroom is the best in town. Did I mention The Tonga Room?

The Iconic Tonga Room
 Tom Klein
Regional Vice President - California & General Manager of The Fairmont San Francisco

“Select, lead, train and recognize,” is Klein’s mantra and personal mission statement toward providing exceptional guest service. Klein focuses on the customer and finds creative ways to satisfy guests’ needs while prioritizing colleague training to ensure that staff continues to provide uncompromising levels of service. Two years ago, Mayor Newsom presented a “Certificate of Honor” for his tireless public service and philanthropic contributions. During daily interaction with staffers at all levels, he constantly inspires colleagues to provide exceptional guest service. Klein brings the same intense level of engagement to his charitable endeavors. In 2012, Klein led an unprecedented city-wide crusade that united San Francisco hoteliers in a “Million Dollar Mission” (MDM) benefiting the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Enlisting colleagues’ specialized skills and corporate support, this groundbreaking campaign raised funds for financial, education and social services for those affected by blood cancer. Tom’s hard work on this campaign positively affected not only the Hospitality Industry, but the community as a whole. In 2012, Klein was honored with CH&LA’s GM of the Year Award and in 2013 he received the Hotel Council of San Francisco’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

Tom Klein and Tom Wolfe on the Penthouse Deck
Tom Wolfe
America’s First Concierge

When Tom Wolfe first arrived at The Fairmont San Francisco in 1973, the Concierge did not
yet exist in the United States. Wolfe, who trained as a Concierge in Europe, was fortunate to have worked with legendary Concierges in London and Paris, whose lineage went right back to Caesar Ritz. Upon his arrival, Wolfe saw a great opportunity to take this revered European tradition, inject it with an American 'can do' spirit, and implemented the concept to The Fairmont San Francisco. And so The Fairmont became the first hotel in the United States to offer this unique service to its guests. In 1978, Wolfe founded the US chapter of the international organization of hotel lobby concierges,Les Clefs d’Or (the Golden Keys Society), which at the time was recognized as the 19th member section of this international guild of professionals. Now, as Concierge service proliferates - at department stores, health spas, and even pet shops - the meaning still resonates – personalized, caring service provided by a local contact with the guests' interests at heart. The Fairmont San Francisco continues this noble tradition, and looks forward to assisting guests with any and all requests. The hotel’s Concierge Desk is staffed with skilled professionals who are eager and delighted to attend to every request and ensure a memorable stay.
Chad Blunston
Executive Chef-The Fairmont San Francisco

The Fairmont San Francisco’s Executive Chef Chad Blunston leads the hotel’s culinary

Chad Blunston with his rooftop aviary
team, creating authentically local, seasonal cuisine with a contemporary spin. Chef Blunston brings more than 20 years of progressive culinary experience to his role, beginning his career training on the East Coast of Canada in 1991. Before joining The Fairmont San Francisco, Chef Blunston celebrated the culinary richness of Southern California as Executive Chef at The Fairmont Newport Beach. Having introduced six rooftop honey beehives to that property in 2010, he now continues his work with the “liquid gold” from The Fairmont San Francisco’s own rooftop apiary atop its 1,000-square-foot Culinary Garden.
Chef Blunston places great emphasis on the consideration of guests’ individual palettes, and enjoys providing a uniquely memorable culinary journey through his dishes. He credits his innovative spirit and expertise to his mentors and now thrives on educating and inspiring young, aspiring chefs and the community. In his free time, he enjoys spending time with his wife and two kids, coaching his son’s hockey team, gardening, and outdoor activities.

Enjoying a fine San Francisco Day on the Penthouse deck
Tom Klein, Chad Blunston and Slow Living's Steve Andrews

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