When traveling for business or pleasure, what you eat can be as important as where you stay. One of our favorite brands that takes great care and pride in both gastronomy and luxury accommodations is Relais & Châteaux. CIRE COO Amy Brueckner was recently invited on an educational trip with Relais & Châteaux to experience some of their New England properties. It was there that Amy met our wonderful partner at R&C, Thiago Fortunato. He’s someone you’ve got to meet!
CIRE: Hello Thiago! We know and love Relais & Châteaux, but can you give a little overview to our readers about what makes your brand of hotels and restaurants so special?
THIAGO: Hello CIRE friends! For those who don’t know us, we are an association of luxury iconic hotels and fine dining restaurants. We are very unique. Other hotels companies are great in what they do but you always know what you are going to get. The standard is always the same no matter where you are in the world. The Relais & Châteaux experience is all about differences. First of all, every hotel is independently owned, which means every hotel has a different story to tell. Our properties try to be as authentic to the local destination and communities as possible. For example, if you are going to France, be ready to sleep in medieval castles. If you are going to Japan, you will have an all-inclusive traditional Ryokan experience. You have to understand if you are staying in a Relais & Châteaux property, it’s because you want to experience something different. Also, keep in mind that gastronomy is what unifies our (R&C) community. Food and sustainability are very important for us. We strongly believe in ethical cuisine. You have to know what is on your plate, where that food comes from and how it’s been made. I have a good colleague that always says: “Relais & Châteaux is love.” I fully agree with that. I love what we do.
CIRE: This expression is a tad cheesy but so true… “If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life!” But we know how hard you work! Will you tell everyone a little more about your role at R&C?
THIAGO: It’s a lot of work but it’s also super fun work. I’m a Regional Sales Manager at Relais & Châteaux. I am responsible for all luxury travel accounts on the Northeast of the US and Canada. Sometimes when I want to sound a little fancy, I call myself an Ambassador of the Relais & Châteaux brand. I represent 580 hotels & restaurants worldwide.
CIRE: R&C has sooo many amazing properties and fine-dining restaurants! What’s the best part about your job?
THIAGO: I could say the travel opportunities, or maybe the great dining experiences… I mean, who doesn’t like to travel the world, stay in iconic places, eat amazing food and on top of that, be paid for that? But the most exciting part is the people. I am lucky to work in an industry where people help people every single day. I love having connections and good friendship all over the world.
CIRE: Speaking of connections around the world, where are you from originally?
THIAGO: I am Carioca! That means I’m born and raised in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Rio is one of the coolest cities in the world! I don’t want to sound cliché, but Rio is magical. It has everything a tourist can wish for. It’s warm all year long, beautiful people, breathtaking views, rich culture and the finest cuisine. New York City is home for almost a decade now. It’s a city where I found love, good friends and an amazing job. I am lucky to call two of the best cities in the world home.
CIRE: Rio is AMAZING! What local food should we try when we visit?
THIAGO: You should try “farofa”! It’s a Brazilian wheat flour fried side dish. Omg it’s so good! You can make with banana, sausage, bacon…It’s a perfect side dish for a BBQ day. If you mix it with vinaigrette sauce…Yummy! It could taste a little weird at first because the texture is a bit like sand (as some Americans say) but believe me, it’s delicious!
CIRE: Can’t wait to try farofa! Where’s your next trip?
THIAGO: My next vacation will be in France in July. I’m taking my husband to the South of France. We are doing a nice “Route du Bonheur” connecting Paris to the Riviera and the Provence Alps. We chose France because…why not? It’s the heart of Relais & Châteaux. I got to keep up. We are a global company but if I really want to learn more about the Relais universe, I got to be in sync with France.
CIRE: Other than Rio, are there destinations you return to again and again?
THIAGO: Three years ago, I found this amazing connection with the ski world. Weird right? A Brazilian on the slopes? Well… I love skiing! Winter vacations are so fun. I try to plan a least two or three trips a year.
CIRE: You look like you were born to ski, Thiago! As an intrepid world traveler, what’s your top travel tip?
THIAGO: Leave a day of your vacation to explore freely. No plans. Follow your instinct, be vulnerable and immerse yourself in the local destination.
CIRE: Agree 100%. We like scheduled activities and reservations, but sometimes, it’s those days you’re wandering aimlessly that you find magic. Thank you, Thiago! Enjoy France…bon voyage!