Imagine a wonderful little country the size of the state of West Virginia in the eastern U.S. Now, give this country an Atlantic and a Pacific coastline, and everything seas have to offer. This example is also an accurate geographic picture of the little country of Costa Rica, Central America’s special jewel with the highest standard of living in all of Central America.
Just this last year Costa Rica’s Real Intercontinental, located in Escazu, a suburb of San Jose, the capital city, staffed its kitchen with a top-notch Executive Chef. Where would an outstanding chef for this hotel come from? Try Bretagne, France (English pronunciation Brittany.) This little French peninsula in the northwest juts out into the Atlantic Ocean and is bordered by the English Channel and the Bay of Biscay. It is known as “Country of the Sea.” For years, the Breton people have fished the seas of European as far north as Newfoundland’s Grand Banks. Again, like Costa Rica her soils are also rich yielding heirloom artichokes, cauliflower, carrots and asparagus. Add to this food scene the Bretons’ fondness for fine breads, crepes and special hams, sausages and pates sold in their quaint charcuteries, and you’ll find a potential for great eating.
Now, introduce a chef from Bretagne, France, and its food heritage and let this chef weave delicious menus in Costa Rica, which is already rich with its own bananas, cattle, cocoa, coffee, rice, hearts of palm and sugarcane. Then, accent these with exotic guavas, maranons, mora berries and more than one variety of papaya.
Enter Erick Bausson. At 40, he’s very much the trim, affable, quick-minded, intent master of his kitchen. Married, he and his wife have three sons and maintain a home in Costa Rica. His previous positions have been in Venezuela and Guatemala. “I have worked in Latin America eight years, Bausson volunteers. “I love the system in Central America. Here, there is a lot of freedom. In America, there is less. I like it, I like it very much here.”
The hotel has three kitchens located around its lush, campus-like grounds. Deep in chef’s largest kitchen, with its clipboard-lined walls and almost life-sized plaster replicas of French chefs, he’s comfortable. It’s his operations central. He’s computerized, and the room’s organized confusion reflects a great deal of activity. There’s also pressure, pressure to present memorable banquets for groups of 600, cocktails for up to 1,000 in any combination of 20 function rooms. The cuisine must be equal to their expectations, and he’d like to exceed it. “We also have two restaurants,” he explains, “a fine dining room and a formal restaurant. Today we are catering a large wedding.”
“I do have a chef for all the departments. We do fusion with French, Asian, Italian, Arabian and more, because our guests want it. I like the kitchen. With fine dining the kitchen is special and different. The kitchen is French. We have 14 cooks, with a total kitchen staff of 70. I like to have a French chef for the pastry and one for the fine dining.” He laughs, “I am French.”
Bausson’s kitchen staff is a hard-working group of people who seem to like what they are doing. It’s clearly a team effort, abuzz with concentration, and the pace is intense. “Here,” he explains, the people know the kitchen and I am the professor, the teacher. I like that.”
The male workers in Chef’s kitchen have a soccer team, and they play weekly. “We are good! My people work hard, they are happy working, but we also need to play together. We pack food to eat there. The Latin people need to be happy together.” he explains. Female workers do not play on the team. The notion makes him laugh.
Jorge Moran is Bausson’s Food & Beverage Manager, joined the Real six months ago. Moran comes to the Intercontinental after six years with Four Seasons and opening another property in the north of Mexico. He has also worked in Switzerland and Thailand. “Now I am in Costa Rica, and I like it,” he confides.
Chef Eric divides his dishes into three categories: Chef’s Healthy, Special and Spicy. Evidence of Bausson’s Bretagne foods-from-the-sea background show up in many ways:
Smoked Swordfish, Shrimp and Smoked Salmon in a Sandwich
Roasted Salmon over its bed of Taboule, Green Pepper Sauce
Jumbo Shrimp sautéed in an Aniseed Sauce
Corvina served with its infusion of Tomato and Herbs
Roasted Lobster a la “San Genaro” served with Fettucine
Smoked Salmon served with Warm Blinis with a Cucumber and Yogurt Salad
Fricassee of Snails and Mushrooms Gatineed and Marinated in a Red Wine Sauce
Follies of Lobster and Potato Gnachi
Shrimp Marinated in an Aniseed Infusion Lobster Cream
Puff pastry of Salmon served with a thick Pancake of Potato Sticks
Filet of Sea Bass in herbs flavored with Paella Rice
Highlight of chef’s Mushroom Menu of the Month featured:
Portobello Mushrooms and Sea Bass Carpaccio
Mushroom Terrine with Ricotta and Eggplant Dumpling
Mushroom and Escargot Lasagna with Foie Gras served with a Ginger and Cilantro Sauce
Salmon Scallop with a Wild Mushroom Filling
Beef Filet with a Porcini Mushroom and a Whisky Infusion