"We do everything we can to put customers at their ease, even when something turns up unexpectedly."
Eric Evrard is the head chef in the Résidence Palace restaurant.
What prompted you to come and work at the IPC?
I started off studying hotel and catering then had several work experience opportunities with different major companies. I have spent 15 years working for a company leading the way with various gastronomic concepts. The company runs this restaurant, within the IPC building.
What are the special characteristics of this restaurant associated with the International Press Centre?
What is an advantage is having the opportunity to rub shoulders with people from all walks of life and professions. It is a real melting-pot and every day brings something new, even though the purpose of my job never changes: keeping customers satisfied. What makes me tick is always the same, irrespective of what is involved: a cocktail, a barbecue or a service in the restaurant.
How would you define your contacts with the customers?
I am always attentive to the customers' needs and requirements and my aim is to live up to their expectations. Day after day we are faced with a tremendous challenge when it comes to the IPC tenants. With the same people turning up to eat every day I have to keep on coming up with something new so I never have to hear people saying: "that again!". We change the tablecloths, we change the furniture.
And what about the catering when an event is being organised?
In the case of receptions and other exceptional events, after considering what the customers want exactly I then forward them a quote, by telephone or e-mail. I use local and seasonal produce as much as I can but I am always prepared to cater for a customer's highly specific requirements. The Spanish and Italians, for example, like us to pay a culinary tribute to their regions.
Do you always respond to the wide range of requests made by customers from all corners of the globe?
Yes, as far as we can. The Internet makes it easier, providing access to information to use as a basis for preparing dishes. To give one example, the Turkish embassy asked us to provide a national buffet, which was a major new departure. After the event, the staff asked if they could take was left home with them, which was, of course, a great compliment.
What advantage does the IPC have over other infrastructures?
The IPC offers a tailored service to users: the hiring of rooms and technical facilities, the staff employed by Video House and the restaurant. The people here can count on being dealt with personally rather than treated as just a number to be presented with the bill at the end of a meal. If I see it is raining I pick up an umbrella and to go meet the customers. They look upon us as a unit, not as an outside business running the "hospitality" side of things. The entire service is intended to put customers at their ease, even when something turns up unexpectedly.
Do you have any stories to share on this subject?
There was the one day that the people attending a conference left the room well before the time agreed upon for the meal. We had no warning of this at all. I rushed about preparing a pre-prandial drink so as to distract them for a while. Meanwhile, our staff were pulling out all the stops to ensure these people would be able to eat before the agreed time, as though nothing were amiss.
What kind of feedback do you get from the people you serve?
I do not make any assessment, strictly speaking, but I always make a point of asking customers if everything was to their satisfaction. It is a kind of custom after each event. Whether it be a well-known figure or otherwise, my philosophy is "a customer is a customer", even though you cannot help forming friendships with certain customers after you have been doing this for 10 years. The best compliment for me is to see people returning to eat here day after day.
What you especially like in the building…
My favourite spot is the patio. I like to sit there and simply observe what is going on or listen to the sound of the fountain: a restful, enchanting experience. I have never been able to understand why some event organisers ask for the water to be turned off for a while.