|Eppisser (left) and Franziska bring their luxury expertise to The Banjaran in Perak. Photos by The Banjaran Hotsprings Retreat|
IT was a match made in heaven when hospitality expert Lucia Franziska first met culinary expert Felix Eppisser at The Relais & Chateaux Hotel Giardino in Ascona, Switzerland, 24 years ago.
The pairing worked on so many levels — they became life partners and their career path blossomed as together, they combined their expertise and started on a journey to create unforgettable experiences for guests who had the privilege to step into an establishment managed by the couple.
Since Switzerland, Franziska and Eppisser have managed some world-renowned hotels and restaurants like Zurich’s Hotel Rigiblick from 2004 to 2010 — home of one-star Michelin and 16-point Gault-Millau rated restaurant, Spice — and Myanmar’s Le Planteur Restaurant & Lounge, which was named one of the Top 200 Fine Dining Restaurants in Asia (Miele Guide 2012/2013).
“From catering services to introducing a new food concept for airlines, we experienced a diverse range of projects and endeavours. We approached each project with tremendous pride, passion and maintained a cheerful disposition and attitude at all times. This makes work enjoyable for us; and sets a positive tone and pace,” Franziska explained.
Since Aug 1, the couple has started working their magic on The Banjaran Hotsprings Retreat in Perak. Franziska manages the operations of the 25-luxury villa wellness retreat while Eppisser helms the culinary as well as bespoke events management and operations at the retreat.
It was the warmth of the Asian people and communities, along with the wealth in natural resources that drew Franziska and Eppisser to leave the lavish, first-world surroundings of Europe. They made their move from Switzerland to Southeast Asia (Yangon) permanent four years ago.
Obviously, culinary and hospitality in Europe and Southeast Asia are worlds apart, and it takes a visionary sort of person who’s well-established in his field at home to take the plunge into the unknown.
“In Europe, hospitality is highly personalised and dining can turn into an artform; it can take several hours to complete an exceptional dining experience.
“Whereas in Asia, we noticed people tend to eat faster; however they do dine out more often. Through our travels and work in the region, we see an increasing trend for fine cuisine and new dining experiences in Asia,” Franziska elaborated.
Eppisser and his culinary team have of late been focusing on creating a menu at The Banjaran which will showcase classic, local favourites as well as light and healthy selections with contrasting flavours. They have cleverly decided to blend fresh inspirations from Asia and Europe, therefore introducing a brand new “Asiatic-European” cuisine.
Inspired by legendary Swiss master chef, Frédy Girardet (of the three-star Michelin restaurant in Hotel de Villa in Crissier) who is often considered one of the greatest chefs of the 20th century; Eppisser clearly has big dreams for dining at The Banjaran.
“We also see great opportunities in blending the hospitality service principles — bringing together the best of Asian and European service standards.
“Together with the team, we will witness a ‘refreshed hospitality culture’ that will continue to focus on highly personalised attention and care to guests,” said Franziska.
The main reason that compelled the couple to join The Banjaran was the resort’s holistic approach and vision towards wellness and sustainability. This is clearly evident in the retreat’s adoption of the four pillars of eco luxury which includes social, cultural, economic and environmental well-being.
“Both Felix and I place great emphasis on leading a healthy and balanced lifestyle. Joining The Banjaran gave us an opportunity to mesh our daily lifestyle practices with work. There is a quote by Confucius that always rings true to us: ‘Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life’,” Franziska surmised.
One thing that sets The Banjaran apart is not only the fact that a world-renowned couple are at its helm; it is that the entire resort is ideally nestled among magical limestone hills, tranquil tropical surroundings and has unique features such as geothermal hot springs; all of which bring Franziska and Eppisser’s vision of combining health, wellness and relaxation to life.
To maintain tranquillity and exclusivity, The Banjaran welcomes guests 12 years of age and over. For more information, visit thebanjaran.com, email [email protected] or call The Banjaran at (05) 2107 777.
This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on September 30, 2014.