BASTIEN Peyraud has been bringing French flair to Cork hospitality since moving to the Leeside 15 months ago.
General manager at the Imperial Hotel, the 38-year-old from Lyon is making his mark on the service industry, working towards creating a zero-waste hotel and working with charities such as Cork Simon and the Irish Guide Dogs.
At the moment, Bastien is awaiting a new arrival — a foster puppy from the Irish Guide Dogs, who he and his partner Reece will be looking after from 8-weeks-old to a year.
“I am waiting for my puppy, I will hopefully get it soon. I have done all the training.
"Irish Guide Dogs are very strict, as they should be, a Guide Dog has to be raised in a certain way.”
Bastien and Reece have undergone something of a role reversal.
Bastien is a trained engineer, working in the hotel industry while Reece is a trained chef working in the engineering industry.
“I started as a kitchen porter, and I adored it, I loved the buzz and the team. Then I moved from the kitchen to the bar, it was in the South of France, we had 500 covers a day, it was very busy.”
He loved the job, working with people, and when he finished his engineering degree, he told himself he would never work in the industry.
“I went to work in the Four Seasons Hotel George V in Paris as a waiter and I worked my way up to managerial level.
“I learned to do everything, I would finish my shift and go to other parts of the hotel to learn how things are done. It never felt like work.”
After working there for a number of years, Bastien made the move to Geneva, Switzerland, where he was employed at the five star Hotel d'Angleterre.
From Geneva to London, the hotel manager worked in a number of high profile establishments before making his way across the water to Cork to work with Flynn Hotels as General Manager of the Imperial Hotel.
His partner, who he met while living in London, made the move with Bastien to live in Cork.
“London was amazing, a real adventure, but I wanted to be around down-to-earth people who were true to themselves.
"It is about the balance and here in Cork, London is just one hour and 20 minutes away and the beach is 30 minutes away. It is about lifestyle and wellbeing and I have that in Cork.”
Since coming to Cork, Bastien has done some travel around Ireland.
“I've been to Westport, Galway and Ennis, but there are so many places to visit in Ireland, I have plans to explore West Cork."
He loves the adventure of living abroad and finds Cork culture has some similarities to home.
“It is about discovering a new culture and learning how others live.
"The food in Cork is very good, I can give you ten names at any time of the day of places where you should go to eat, you can’t get that everywhere.
“Similar to France, good food is very important and is at the heart of everything. That is a very French aspect of life. I’m a big foodie, that is very important to me.”
Despite the challenges currently facing the industry, Bastien is convinced Cork and Ireland have something very special to offer.
“You only see it when you are abroad or you are not from Ireland.
"There is a warmth in the smile, and spirit of family, it is very welcoming.
"In particular, there is a pride of being from Cork, the real capital and the cultural and food capital of Europe.
"This is very similar to France, we are very protective of culture and heritage.”
Bastien is sometimes frustrated by the unrealised potential of Cork city.
"It is a beautiful city, I think if we can work together, we can really turn Cork around and realise the full potential of Cork.”
His favourite place is the English Market where the food is "second to none".
Over the lockdown, Bastien has been working on a new restaurant at the Imperial: Thyme at Seventy Six on The Mall.
He is proud that the restaurant is supplied by Irish produce as much as possible.
“It is not possible to get sparkling wine from Ireland, although I have tried! But we have Irish tequila, Irish vodka and a mojito made with poteen. We are very proud of what we have achieved. It is all very local and cosy.”
Some of the dishes have a donation included in the price to one of the hotel’s charities; Cork Simon and Irish Guide Dogs.
“We wanted a vision for the Imperial that would make us proud. High-quality Irish produce. It came together very quickly, everyone was so helpful, it makes me so happy.”
Bastien is working to make the 204-year-old building a zero-waste enterprise.
“We are working towards becoming zero waste at the Imperial. It is a lifetime commitment, I don’t think it has been done by a hotel before.”
He loves his home country, but is very happy in Cork.
“I think when you are abroad you always miss home, and when you are home you miss where you are living.
"I have my friends, my work and my work family here.
"As an ex-pat, you are always in between, a mix of two cultures. You can recognise the beauty and see the opportunity to improve on both sides.
"I don’t miss home that much, home is where the heart is and that is here in Cork.”
Since moving to Ireland, Bastien has not seen his family, his sister and his two nieces and nephew, face to face.
“I didn’t go home last year, I was very busy. I worked really hard and I had planned to travel at Easter.
"Unfortunately, I was not able. Then we had summer plans to go to a beach somewhere together, I was looking forward to that. Now I will be spending my holidays in Cork. Thankfully we have WhatsApp and Zoom to stay in touch.”