O'Connell brings global view to landmark hotel

Tue Aug 3, 2010 11:49am EDT
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By Richard Leong

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Chef Sean O'Connell brings a global outlook to the landmark Fontainebleau hotel in Miami, which operates 11 restaurants and lounges after a $1 billion makeover more than three years ago.

O'Connell, who grew up in Europe and worked extensively in Asia, is in charge of operations for all the restaurants at the hotel. The 41-year-old, who wanted to be a forest ranger, spoke to Reuters about his overseas experiences and giant fish tanks.

Q: Where did your love of cooking comes from?

A: "Actually, I was an army brat. I grew up in Europe until I was 14 in various different countries and different bases. My father didn't have a lot of time, but one of the things we would do on Saturdays is pop into a car and drive into the different villages and towns.

"He would take me with him and we would go to all these different restaurants and chateaus to experience them and the different cuisines. He would force me to eat these different foods, and at the time, I really hated it and resented it. But as I grew older, it really sparked an interest and a passion within me."

Q: When did you know cooking was going to be your career?

A: "At that time, I wanted to be a forest ranger. I really like naturally beautiful places. When I was living in Germany, I saw the Alps. I really loved nature and all these pristine places. I worked at a restaurant in the evening after high school. Going to the counselors, they said there is not much of a future in forestry. What other things do you like to do? What's passionate for you?

"I started talking about cooking and traveling with my father and my sisters. They said why don't you decide to be a chef? Then you can make a decent living and most of the resorts you work at are next to those beautiful places so you'll have the best of both worlds. That was when my mind was made to go down that route."   Continued...

<p>Chef Sean O&rsquo;Connell is seen in an undated handout photo. REUTERS/Handout/Courtesy of The Fontainebleau Miami Beach</p>