From its family of award-winning boutique hotels, Casa Cook does not simply boast a fresh lifestyle concept but an entirely new school in hospitality. Across social distancing and an array of restrictions, the hotel manages to connect guests in an ambience of freedom and harmony.
The upscale village setting in chestnut olive walls and lush ferns, carry a deep minimalist elegance and the serenity of home. Life here is one of blissful openness, inspiring your connection with nature indoors and outdoors. With its round the clock accessible kitchen, the restaurant’s outdoor patio beneath the star-studded lapis heavens is breathtaking. What strikes most at Casa Cook is the power of simplicity, where natural elements feed your mind and soul.
Eating poolside? Start with a crisp Casa Caesar Salad before taming the heat with a tingling sorbet. Dining later? Choose an appetising starter such as the braised Octopus. Pair with a colourful salad like the Buddha Bowl, bejewelled with pomegranate and sumac that garnish roasted sweet potato, fresh avocado and locally grown organic heirloom tomatoes.
Opt for the heavenly main dish, Braised Lamb Shank, that’s slow cooked to a melt-in-your-mouth perfection or go more casual for the Casa Cook Burger where you’ll be surprised with a medley of two cuts fused into one decadent patty. The burger is topped with caramelised mushrooms and a dash of cilantro! Satisfy any remaining tingle with a bold lemon curd cheesecake that’s perfect for a summer night’s sweet delight.
Casa Cook has emerged as hospitality redefined. I’ve interviewed the key dedicated visionaries, to address the challenges and discover some of the ways they’ve managed to propel this seaside desert luxe to the forefront of the hotspot scene.
Q: GM Denis Nikolov, the soul of a team shapes success, tell us a little about yourself and your background as a leader.
After much success managing Cooks Club, I’m here at Casa Cook with the same passion to lead my team from the heart. I would say I bring more diversity to the lifestyle and entertainment at Casa Cook. With a glowing appreciation of life and the shared experiences that unite us, my goal is to host profound experiences for our guests and surprise them when we exceed expectations. This requires a lot of fine tuning and flexibility, so I like to scale effort and not linger on small issues as much as the more meaningful ones.
Q: Leaders need a strong team translating their approach to a daily reality. What is an employee’s most valuable quality?
FLEXIBILITY. True hospitality is the ability to satisfy the needs of diverse guests each day. It’s what leaves a lasting impression and comes hand in hand with your flexibility. I’m always looking for ways to foster flexibility towards our guests and amongst each other as a team. It’s a treasure to work with caring people who show resilience when needed.
Q: Despite the pandemic, how has Casa Cook consistently maintained its popular status?
There are many reasons why we’re a top performing hotel. I duly credit Simone Hoech, the previous GM, and her efforts considering the obstacles. Since my transition here I’ve worked with the team to develop our efforts in hospitality and align them with the spirit of the Casa Cook, reminding each other of our goal: connecting people.
Q: How would you describe the perfect blend for paréa or the experience of togetherness?
Paréa is a lifestyle that Casa Cook’s spirit fosters. However, applying it has been tricky given the circumstances. We need community tables, where people can get together and share a meal, connect, even grow new families. Now more than ever, the team is our most valuable asset. As staff, we connect people and assist the place itself to be able to do so. From all the restrictions, we’ve been forced to adapt so that Paréa can be enhanced.
Q: I’m sure working from this remarkable destination makes jobs easier. Why do you believe guests from around the world visit El Gouna?
El Gouna is a trendsetter regionally and a global destination trend. With Casa Cook, there are international expectations for the franchise. These involve an almost seamless integration of the venue’s elements without compromising the authenticity of the franchise. It’s a delicate process but the result is worth it: you end up adding a fresh narrative to the already charming El Gouna.
Q: The restaurant adopts a ‘Farm to Fork’ philosophy. What’s your interpretation of it?
With Farm to Fork you rely on local, non-processed ingredients. However, Casa Cook is not fixated on satisfying a trend, so we’ve looked deeper. It’s a philosophy of sustainability including but also very much beyond food. It’s a reality we’re consistently working to achieve. You’ll experience it through our restaurant, delivering prime freshness and flavours but you’ll also feel it in the furnishing of each Casa, the architecture, the entire spirit. We’re even introducing our own potable water soon!
Q: Chef Edwin Gomes, the menu boasts a tempting selection titled ‘Chef’s Heritage’. Tell us about your journey to El Gouna?
They say chefs rarely hunger because they are constantly surrounded by the scents and ingredients, but this isn’t true for me. I’m always hungry to reach and connect people with my creations. After years of gaining recognition across the Hilton, Dubai, Saint Laurent & Mauritius, I came to Egypt.
From a concept call, the vision for Casa Cook El Gouna was a brewing labour of love. I longed for the simple lifestyle away from the mundane and common dazzle. An open kitchen adorned with mother nature and a wholesome, earthy home village experience attracted me.
Q: You have great passion for simplicity, what about your ingredients?
We don’t just use any local produce, there are premium standards to set and consistently meet. All our dishes are prepared with excellent locally sourced ingredients. Local is often mistaken as reductive. You just need to know where to look. Take for example the finest olive oil—Domaine Natroun—or the most exquisite pomegranate balsamic vinegar—Akka—used in our dressing.
Luxury is not simply a statement, for me it’s something you literally must taste!
Q: Tell us more about local inspiration; what about El Gouna influences your craft?
It’s people who inspire me most. The friendliness, warm sense of family and connection; we’re a family here.
El Gouna’s energy is unparalleled, seeping into everything we do. So naturally, when scouting my kitchen staff, I relied upon the Sawiris Foundation’s German Hotel School and it was the best decision. Beyond ingredients, our main talents are locally nurtured. It brings me immense pleasure and pride to see what they accomplish daily.
Q: What do you want guests to experience when they dine here?
A strong sense of home, both simple and refined. I’m eager to meet my guests, which is a rather underrated skill in hospitality. This is your Casa for some time, so I want to know you. Only then can I truly cook for you! Guest dissatisfaction can be avoided by taking the time to sit down and talk, familiarising ourselves with their preferences. They feel home for real. They come back.
You realise by connecting with people that life is here. Outside, the masks, the fear, the disconnected crowds- much life is missing. In the Casa, we take care of everything as if I’m feeding my own family. We have each other at Casa Cook so everything is right here. Isn’t this life as it should be?
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