I love interviewing people.
There is something about this condensed exchange of thoughts letting us peek into someone’s life and experience that gives me a rush of positive energy.
While I do not always get the chance to do it due to the more satirical nature of this blog, I try to cheat from time to time and make an exception with a fun interview.
One such interesting exchange of ideas happened last week with Genaro Pérez, PF CHANG’s Vice President for the global marketing at P.F. Chang’s, a restaurant I have loved ever since my stay in San Francisco after Lara introduced me to its food, concept and atmosphere.
Following is a transcript of the conversation that took place at the new branch opening at Zaitunay Bay:
What is the story behind the PF CHANG’s horse? Any funny stories to share with us?
PF CHANG’s started 1993 in Arizona as a project to open one restaurant to bring Asian food into the state as there was still no such cuisine there. The founders wanted to put a decorative item that would symbolize China and back then the Terra Cota horses discovered in Chinese tombs were very famous. Since then it has become part of the culture to have a horse at every PF CHANG’s as some even call our place “the restaurant of the horse”.
When we opened the first restaurant in Buenos Aires, the horse did not fit in any of the containers, so it had to travel all across the city in an open truck. Needless to say everyone was curious to know what was going on!
If you were to be stranded forever on an island with one dish from the PF CHANG’s menu, which one would it be?
That’s a tough question! You know at PF CHANG’s the menu is around 65 items and I think I have tried them all. The one dish I always go back to is Mongolian Beef. It’s so simple yet so delicious and has only two ingredients, beef and green onions.
It’s this simplicity that makes PF CHANG’s so unique.
In a battle between “Lettuce Wrap” VS “Dynamite Shrimp”, who would be the ultimate winner?
Well it depends where you are on the planet. In the Middle East it would definitely be the “Dynamite Shrimp” which is so popular in the region. We cannot believe how much people here LOVE this dish. In the US the crown goes to the “Lettuce Wrap”.
In the boxing game between Mayweather and Pacquiao, you must have been in a tough dilemma, did your heart side with the American or with the Asian?
Well yes, the decision was tough. Usually I root for the underdog, for the not so famous, my heart was with Pacquiao. Not only because I have been to the Philippines and fell in love with its people who are so nice, but also Mayweather has won so many fights and it would have been nice for Pacquiao to get the spotlight on this one.
Did your experience at PF CHANG’s teach you any Arabic or Asian words?
Well I learn new words in every new country I visit! Lebanon was a special learning experience as I learned the now famous “Hi! Kifak, ca va?”. I love getting exposed to new cultures.
What is the number one ingredient for a business’ success?
In our industry the secret is in consistency. For example in our brand, we do sometimes alter the menu country by country, but if you go to any branch around the world, you will find the same food, the same comfortable place, the same great drinks and great music. We stay true to who we really are, everything fresh, nothing is made before you order and we just stay true to that. It takes a lot of work and costs a lot of money but we love doing it.
Do you have any food tasting openings we can apply to?
Hahahaha. Well we do not do tasting with consumers usually but we have something called LTO’s, Limited Time Offers, where we sometimes have inserts in the Menu that last 2 or 3 months and we test items that way. We experiment the most with desserts like for example Lebanon has a dessert item specifically made for this country. Lebanon is also one of 9 countries which have the sushi set rolled out.
If you were to tell Jimena and Martin about Lebanon, how would you describe the country and its people?
I do FaceTime with my kids from everywhere I go, and I plan to show them Lebanon and not only tell them about it.
I would say that Lebanese people are like me, Latinos at heart, friendly, fun, they enjoy family time yet they are very hard working and creative. The majority of people, I meet in the industry of Marketing and Design in the Middle Eastern region are Lebanese. Lebanon exports talented people.
If you were to describe the PF CHANG’s experience with a sound, what sound would it be?
It would definitely be “Mmmmmmmmmm”.
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