Juan Bermudez: “My colleagues are the stars of the kitchen, without them nothing would be possible”

date_range 13 July, 2023 question_answer Leave your thoughts

Hailing from Torrecera, in Jerez de la Frontera, Juan Bermúdez Atienza, head chef at the Hotel Riu Buenavista (Tenerife), tells us about his extensive experience at RIU and explains the process that all the food passes through from the moment it arrives at the hotel until it is served on the guests’ plates. He also highlights the plastic reduction method that has been implemented in the hotel since last March.

Juan has been the head chef at the Hotel Riu Buenavista for two years, but he has been with RIU for almost three decades. 27 years with us, starting as a kitchen steward, then assistant cook and then cook until he got to where he is today. He explains that the key to this professional success is “hard work, determination and patience” and he is very grateful for the opportunity that RIU has given him, as he is aware that “if we have something good inside, it gets encouraged and is not sought for outside”.

We all know what a sacrifice cooking is, you can spend two hours preparing a dish that you enjoy and it disappears in just 15 minutes, but despite being a complicated task, Juan thinks that it is also “very gratifying”. “When a guest thanks you directly or when you see that the satisfaction surveys are positive in the kitchen area, it dissolves all your exhaustion at once”, he says with an ear-to-ear smile.

Like a good boss, when he is asked about his star dish, he points to his workmates, “my colleagues are the stars in the kitchen, without them nothing would be possible”. He also has a special dedication for the kitchen stewards, the position in which he started his career at RIU, “I always say that the most important people in the kitchen are those who wash the pots and pans, they are the ones who help the most and get the least, I greatly respect that position.” Juan explains that there is a great atmosphere among the 62 to 70 workers in the kitchen and this is a factor that is reflected in the results “As we spend 8 hours a day in there, we have to get along well.”

“The hotel feeds an average of between 1,600 and 1,800 guests a day”

To give you an idea of the amount of work that goes into preparing each dish, consider this fact: “An average of 1,600 to 1,800 customers are fed (breakfast, lunch and dinner) each day at the hotel.” With this insatiable demand, some products are used up very quickly at the hotel. Juan uses the example of hamburgers, “You can use between 500 and 600 kg of meat a week”, pizzas “we cook somewhere around 250 to 300 pizzas a day”, and eggs, “I buy between 12,000 and 12,500 eggs a week“.

At the end of the day, the goal is to keep all the guests happy. “I always say that if we have 1,600 customers and one is unhappy, we have a problem that needs to be resolved; this is the philosophy that RIU has instilled in me and what I try to pass on to my team.” The kitchen team’s priority is to ensure that the guests leave the restaurant happy and having enjoyed their meal. Juan explains that “After so many years working there are many friendly guests who send me messages congratulating me on my work”, and that is something that is “very gratifying” and an indication that the job is being done properly.

However, despite devoting a lot of time and effort to the food served at the buffet or the snack bar, Juan most enjoys cooking for the themed restaurants as he says it is “where we can show off the most”. As it is a “different kind of cuisine to the buffet, we can be a lot more detailed. My favourite is Asian.” And on a personal level, the cuisine he enjoys the most is traditional; “I love cooking stews and soups, but my favourite dish is Iberian pork cheek“.

Hotel Riu Buenavista, in Tenerife.

Hotel Riu Buenavista, in Tenerife.

RIU hotels have a hygiene and sanitation plan for all their food.

As you know, in a kitchen it is not all about turning up and starting to prepare the dishes. There is a whole process behind it, which in addition to purchasing the food, includes a strict hygiene and sanitation plan, which Juan gives us a glimpse of. A meticulous task that aims to offer safety as well as quality.

For example, suppliers never enter the kitchen, only RIU staff. These same staff members are in charge of checking that all the products arrive in good condition, that they comply with their expiry date, that the cold chain has not been broken, that the packaging is not damaged and that the quality and quantity corresponds to what has been ordered. Then, all food (fruit and vegetables) is disinfected before entering the kitchen. Each type of food has its process and its specific storage area.

And finally, when all this is done, the kitchen can focus on preparing the dishes for you to enjoy!

“Since March this year we have been using an innovative method that allows us to save a very large amount of plastic wrap in the kitchen”

The CSR department chose the Hotel Riu Buenavista to pilot a method for saving cling film and between May 2022 and May 2023, 64% less of this product was used.   “Previously, the hotel used around 38,000 metres of cling film per month”, one of the reasons being that the trolleys that transport the food from the kitchen to the restaurants must be hermetically sealed to avoid contamination, and this material was used for this purpose. This process could be repeated several times during the day, with an approximate useful life of 3 hours. Since the implementation of this method, the consumption of this single-use plastic has been considerably reduced.

Now, instead of the plastic wrap, more durable and reusable made-to-measure covers for the trolleys are used,  an apparently simple but very useful method. “It is much more practical to use the covers and the savings are enormous”, concludes Juan. This scheme for reducing the use of plastic wrap will be implemented in the rest of the company’s hotels thanks to its success at the Hotel Riu Buenavista.

As you can see, our kitchen staff have everything under control to guarantee the quality food you enjoy during your stay. They want the best for you and they achieve this through love and dedication, always with your satisfaction in mind. We would like to thank Juan’s team and the staff in all the other hotels for their hard work to make sure you leave with a happy stomach after your holiday.

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