NEWH - Fall 2011 - (Page 22)
Q & A one-on-one
From design and concept development to marketing, public relations, and operations management, the Puccini Group in San Francisco does it all for restaurants. Robert Polacek, chief creative officer and partner, heads up the design side of the company, and for the past eight years has helped the firm create countless sophisticated, chef-tailored, noteworthy restaurants across the U.S. for clients like Kimpton and Strategic Hotels, with more planned for India, Dubai, and Orlando for Jumeirah and Fairmont, among others. A Rockwell Group alum, his success stems not only from his passion for the industry, but also his knowledge of the business side of restaurants, allowing his restaurants to do more than just look good. We sat down with the San Francisco Bay Area Chapter president to chat NEWH and dream projects. Why did you want to become involved in NEWH? What has it done for you? I wanted to join because I saw the opportunity to be able to pay it forward in my career through NEWH’s student scholarship programs and the positive role it plays in helping students connect to the industry. While in school, I did not know of NEWH or have access to an organization that promoted connecting students and career persons in the hospitality industry. It is also a great way to stay connected with my peers in the industry, promoting self confidence and personal growth in my career building.
Meet Robert Polacek, president of the San Francisco Bay Area Chapter
As president, what are you hoping to do for the chapter? Any new initiatives? I became president of an un-chartered chapter that had a diverse group of passionate people working in hospitality. My main goal was to keep the momentum going of the hard work and dedication this group maintained in becoming a chartered chapter. I am extremely proud of our chapter, its members, and the dedication we have towards raising money for scholarships, student awareness, and most importantly learning from each other. We held a Wine by Design event last year in Napa where 110 people enjoyed wine pairings and tastings. Now we are planning another one this fall, which will include wine tastings and education, property tours, and a surprise chef appearance. Finish this statement: 2011 will be known for… Editing and moving forward by understanding the authenticity of social behavior and what users really want. What’s so great about designing restaurants? Restaurant design is much more than creating a beautiful space. It is about creating a total environment where guests can escape their own reality, if only for a moment. It’s creating that opportunity to escape and to enhance people’s enjoyment of life on a daily basis that most fascinates me about restaurant design versus other avenues of design. Restaurant designers have the pleasure of being able to take a basic human need—eating—and transform it into a cultural ritual and custom that makes every meal a celebration of the human spirit. All of the senses come into play and need to work together harmoniously to create an unforgettable environment to enjoy the ritual of eating. Is there one thing that’s most important to remember when designing a restaurant? The human scale: How people interact with each other and understanding personal space. We are most comfortable anywhere when we are comfortable with ourselves. What’s a recent project you are most proud of? I recently created a rooftop lounge and bar concept for a client who was converting an existing building into a hotel. The roof condition only allowed for very controlled views, but the building was low enough to capture peaks of the skyline around it. The first thing that came to mind while standing on the roof was à ciel ouvert Le Corbusier’s concept for the very eccentric—Charles de Beistegui—in Paris. This location is similar in that you see iconic pieces of the city’s skyline poking out above the parapet walls. I played upon Le Corbusier’s concept of creating an outdoor room with no ceiling that played with the guest’s perception of space. A surrealist approach that was executed with great results in Paris, could be modernized to create an urban oasis where one experiences the feeling of being in two places at once—curled up by a fireplace in a cozy room and underneath the night’s sky in a garden. Are there any current trends you are paying attention to? I am involved in the movement and idea of providing third spaces in hospitality. What areas are you eyeing for development? Farms as destinations. Can you tell us about any cool projects you are currently working on? I am currently restoring vintage workhorse collars for an art installation and organizing my first curated show. What new place in San Francisco do you love for its design (that you didn’t design)? The converted shipping containers in Hayes Valley used as retail and food outlets. Greatest lesson learned? Remembering that everybody in the room was at one time starting out for the first time and what they have to say is to be respected even if it’s in disagreement. You get what you give. Dream project? Artist commune.
22 fall 2011 www.newh.org tel 800.593.NEWH
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of NEWH - Fall 2011
NEWH - Fall 2011
Icon of Industry: Harvey Nudelman
Have you Seen?
On the Scene
Cover Story: Nielsen/Hospitality Design
Project: Hotel Five
Project: Azur West
Save the Date
NEWH - Fall 2011