November 2011 was the beginning of a new era in Baltimore, Maryland — the era of the Four Seasons Hotel Baltimore being a functioning part of the leisure and commercial landscape of the harbor-famed city. With Four Seasons’ arrival, there was definitely a lot of expectations of grandeur, glamour, and posh resorting. It’s nothing the Four Seasons isn’t used to because it has created and branded itself to be “the standard” in the hospitality industry. Four Seasons has 86 locations in 35 cities around the world, and undoubtedly growing. So naturally, with the opening of its Baltimore location, the Multi Cultural Cooking Network wanted to know what makes the Baltimore location so different. We talked with the General Manager, Julien Carralero of the Four Seasons Hotel Baltimore to find out more.
Carralero, looking every bit the part of a handsome, charming General Manager, came to greet MCCN in the exquisite fine-art adorned, marble floored-lobby. He quickly took us upstairs to one of the meeting rooms. On the way addressing employees with a warm-hearted smile and salutations, and occasionally doling out instruction. The meeting room where we set up has a view that makes you feel like the harbor is just steps away. That’s part of the Four Seasons’ strategy. Location! Location! Location! Even on a dreary day the view is beautiful, as nothing separates the hotel from its harbor location. As we set up video equipment, Caralero is moving chairs around, asking about our lighting, and making sure MCCN has everything we need. Hmmmh! Could this be part of Four Seasons’ culture of hospitality? Carralero explains that Four Seasons calls it “The Golden Rule,” which every employee is expected to utilize, treating each customers with respect. We like it! We really like it.
The first question we posed to the GM was why Baltimore was chosen as a location for Four Seasons; after all, to the south there is the Four Seasons Hotel Washington D.C., and to the north there is a Four Seasons Hotel Philadelphia. Caralerro explains, “Baltimore was a destination that was chosen by Four Seasons because it was the right time for us to come to a city that keeps growing and developing. It’s a city that is strategically very well located between Washington D.C., Philadelphia and New York. The Northern Corridor has quite a bit of traffic….we believe that Baltimore is a city that has growth ahead that is positive.” Adding,”Granted the actual state of the economy is still very difficult.”The Four Seasons began building in 2007 but because of the state of the economy the process was delayed, but you won’t find any evidence of cutting corners in the Harbor East location, according to Carralero. “When it comes down to Four Seasons, we didn’t compromise anything. When it comes down to the actual features that go into rooms, that go into the restaurants, the designs, nothing was really compromised from the standpoint that you have technology in the rooms; you have decorum; the quality of the furnishings—nothing was replaced or reduced.” The owners, Harbor East and H&S Bakery, wouldn’t have it any other way. Carralero explains, “I think they believe that to create a product and to launch it, you should have the same continuity when it comes down to the actual specifications.”
….relax in the deep-soaking bath in the hotel’s marble bathrooms.
So back to that technology. Some of it is absolutely mind-blowing. On MCCN’s guided tour of the property we went into several suites which include the latest in Bose home-theatre system technology. You don’t have to miss a thing when you relax in the deep-soaking bath in the hotel’s marble bathrooms; just turn on the LCD television in the bathroom mirror. Yes, in the bathroom mirror.
On top of technology, is pure luxury, especially for the suite-life. Features and amenities include: carpeting that is 70-percent wool, a stone-clad built- in fireplace, balconies overlooking the harbor or with a spectacular city view, custom chandeliers, full-size refrigerators, dishwashers, dining areas, which seat eight, 55 inch and 40 inch-LCD televisions for the bedroom and living areas. The list goes on and on when you choose any one of their suites from the Executive to the top of the line Presidential and Royal suites. However you don’t have to have a suite to enjoy a taste of the good life. Standard rooms are not so standard, with LCD screen or plasma televisions, wall-to-wall windows allowing natural light throughout the guest room. There are also impeccable water-side and city-views of Fells Point, Little Italy and Harbor East (Pictured to the right is standard guest room with King bed. This room has a view of the marina).
The luxury continues outside where you’ll really feel like you’ve escaped the hustle and bustle and landed in a secluded palatial resort. Grab a chaise and find a place to relax right near the harbor. Take a swim in the hotel’s outdoor shimmering pool, which appears to disappear right into the bay. Lounge and linger on the wet deck. Even in the winter, you can take advantage of the hot tub, or warm yourself by the outside fireplace. Will people really use these amenities in the winter? Our sources say, “yes, they will.”
From the wet deck, you can make your way to get a European-style luxury spa. Make no mistake, the 10, 200 square feet spa is a destination its own right. With 11 spa rooms and an extensive menu of spa therapies, relaxation is imminent.
“So far the partnership with Michael Mina is going very well…”
Now, we couldn’t leave you without telling you about the dining options at Four Seasons. Already, getting loads of attention is the celebrity chef-powered restaurant, Wit & Wisdom, A Tavern by Michael Mina. This is the second collaboration between Four Seasons and Michael Mina, the first being Bourbon Steak, located at the Four Seasons Hotel Washington DC. General Manager, Julien Carralera describes Mina saying, “He is a person that is very creative and he cares tremendously about innovation and the concept of doing something that is light, fast-paced and giving good food at a competitve price. So far the partnership with Michael Mina is going very well and I hope will continue to go well not just here in Baltimore.” Headed by Executive chef Benjamin Lambert, Wit & Wisdom’s menu offers breakfast, lunch and dinner, serving modern tavern food with Eastern Seabord sensibilities and some distinctly Baltimore fare.
The hotel has a strong committment to work with local providers and local farmers, working within the state and the region to supply necessary resources from meat, to butter to preserves and more. Carralera emphasizes, “We want our employees to be able to discuss the menu, recommend the menu and promote that specific menu.” He adds, “I think sometimes there are hotels and restaurants that open and they offer some generic menus, when I think the regional profile is very important.”
Also on the premises is LAMILL COFFEE, is an European-styled cafe which offers specialty beverages, pastries, sandwiches, paninis and array of sweet treats. LAMILL has one location on the west coast, but this is the shop’s first venture on the east coast. What a way to lay down roots! And just when you thought you had nothing left to experience when it came to coffee shops, Carralera assures that LAMILL is a different experience, saying, “The culture of coffee is present throughout many cities, but I think the culture of quality coffee that is brewed right there, from the grinding process to the brewing process that is done à la minute, is something that hopefully people in the city and around Baltimore will value.”
Still more dining options are available, including a Japanese Izakaya-style restaurant called Pabu (opening in February of 2012). Pabu will be designed with bamboo ceilings and crafted solid wood tabletops. The restaurant overlooks the harbor with a sushi bar seating 60, serving a variety of sakes and Asian beers as well as small plates. If you just want to enjoy the wet deck and stay close to the hotel’s shimmering pool, you can also grab a bite to eat at the Pool Bar and Grill.
“We don’t take business for granted. We fight hard to get it and we fight hard to keep it…”
Four Seasons Hotel Baltimore is in the process of creating a list for potential buyers for their upcoming residences and they have been booking weddings long before the hotel doors actually opened. Then there are the banquets, the meetings and the stack of donation requests that have local businesses and nonprofits on pins and needles. With so much going for them, they still don’t rest on their name alone. Carralera admits the weight of the Four Seasons’ name in the local community where people know people who have used Four Seasons’ products in other locations does help. “That’s where the mystique of the name is very strong and the powerful delivery of the force’s name is very strong, but we’re only as strong as today as far as our performance. We don’t take business for granted. We fight hard to get it and we fight hard to keep it, and at the same time we want to have people come back to us.”
article by Monica Johnson