Alex Bujoreanu is a talented executive chef & consultant with 20 plus years in the hospitality industry. Born in Romania and raised in Spain, Alex’s creativity and love for food and flavors began at an early age. After studying at the school of hospitality and tourism in Lleida, Spain, and working in some of the most fine dining restaurants in Europe and New York City, Alex went on to open his own restaurants and consult. We had the pleasure of speaking with this trailblazer about his journey, the lessons he’s learned along his career and what’s on the horizon for him.
You grew up in one of the most exotic countries in the world, where family and food is a central part of the culture. How did that shape your career?
Well, for me it was something amazing and to be honest with you I don’t realize or valor too much the fact to be in one of the top three best culinary countries in the world. When I came to the US and started to get awards, I realized how lucky I was to train and learn in Spain.
Your background includes working at some of the best restaurants in the world. What was your greatest take away from those experiences?
The power to make people happy, the power to train and make better employees, the power to share and get experience and learn new things.
You had multiple restaurants both in Europe and the US. Can you tell us a little about each one?
My first adventure was in Sweden, where I opened a small bed and breakfast in 2007. It was a dream and a challenge to open a place in Sweden as it was one of my favorite countries to live and work. Unfortunately the experience was completely different from Spanish culture and gastronomy. Beside that, the weather was opposite than Spain, cold and snowing all the time. So after one year I decided to come back to Spain. After a while I had a short partnership with someone in Spain close to Barcelona, a village on the beach called Sant Roc de Galleta. It was a “chiringuito” – meaning a small restaurant on the beach specializing in seafood and fish. In 2012 I decided to visit the US, where everything turned in a positive direction for me. After a year in the US I opened Viaggio Tapas in NY where I received four stars in the New York Times for best restaurant, four stars in Newsday, Pulse Magazine and LI Restaurant. After a few years with full success on tapas, I decided to open at the same time two other restaurants: one in Long Island, NY and the other one in San Francisco, CA. The second restaurant, Coral Tapas, was a waterfront restaurant and just as successful as the first one, receiving all the awards in Long Island. On the west coast was Botas Tapas and Paella Bar which was a very chic and modern spanish tapas.
And these days we can find you at The Hampton Maid. Can you tell us a little bit more?
The Hampton Maid for me was an unexpected opportunity and a challenge at the same time to start this new venture with my partner/girlfriend, Tara Poulakis whose family has owned the hotel/restaurant for 62 years. Our aspiration is to introduce my cultural and gastronomic background to the local ingredients of the area, which is how we came up with the name R.aire for the restaurant.
Why tapas? What is behind your passion for tapas?
Tapas for me is one of the best gastronomic experiences. In one meal you can experience 5-6 different dishes, touching all categories, vegetable, seafood, and meat. It’s an explosion of meals combined into one.
You were born in Romania. Do you ever include any Romanian dishes or flavours in your menu?
Absolutely! I feel very proud to have roots in Romania and in each one of my restaurants I always tried to include that part of me.
Who inspired your career the most?
My mother was a huge inspiration to me. She was the first one to open my palette and knowledge on how to combine different ingredients into an amazing meal. Growing up in Romania, back then it wasn’t a popular idea for men to have a career in the kitchen. However, I knew from an early age that I wanted to be a chef and to dedicate my life to the hospitality industry, so I worked my way into it.
What is your favourite dish to prepare?
Everything…it doesn’t matter if it’s a simple potato or up to seafood percebes to playing with caviar. In each one ingredient I find a different flavor and contrast and enjoy figuring out how to continue the chain between the ingredients.
What is your favourite dish to eat?
I have multiple favorite dishes, some from Romania which is “Piftie”- Headcheese and Saramura. From Spain I love the Caracoles a la Llauna and Paellas.
What’s next for Alex Bujoreanu?
My next step is to focus on The Hampton Maid, where my goal is to receive the same kind of recognition and awards I received in the past for the best restaurant. I also hope one day to open an intimate tapas restaurant with a unique wine and chocolate selection.
The Hampton Maid is the perfect location to escape the city for a weekend getaway. They combine luxury hotel rooms that are spread out over 12 acres of natural land overlooking the Shinnecick Bay, close to the village of Southampton. It is also a great location for a destination wedding or special event, where your guests can enjoy the festivities while having the privacy of the resort to themselves. Check out hamptonmaid.com or @hamptonmaid on Instagram for pictures and more information.
All the photos courtesy of Alex Bujoreanu