On the road with Mario Bauer – gathering inspiration from all over the world
Mario Bauer has one of the best jobs in the world – he is a member of Vapiano’s Executive Board and spends most of his time travelling in search of both culinary inspiration and new locations for Vapiano.
Mario is responsible for developing and building new Vapiano restaurants all over the world which means that he has spent around 300 nights in hotels away from his home, which is currently Amsterdam. His favourite cities are Istanbul and Tokyo, and he loves Italy for its way of life and the food, of course. Want to know more? Yes, we did too, so Mario kindly found some time, whilst on the move, to sit down and tell us about his passion for discovering new and exotic cuisines in the furthest and most exotic corners of the world.
What’s the most extraordinary and exotic place that you have ever visited?
That would be Lapland, you feel completely cut off from civilization there. We travelled there by plane via Helsinki, from there we took another flight and then travelled in the car for a further one and a half hours through the wilderness. From there, we set off on foot for three days to catch a glimpse of the northern lights. There's really nothing there. The air is so clear, the nature so intense - that was definitely the most unforgettable experience I’ve ever had, by a long way.
Colombia was another big discovery for me. I really fell in love with the country and its people, whilst I was developing and opening a new Vapiano restaurant in Bogotá. Their warmth and hospitality really inspired me.
What was your biggest culinary surprise? Did you find yourself liking something that you didn’t expect to?
When I was in Cuba I tried hutia (large cavy-like rodents). I was just curious and they tasted much better than I expected them to.
Is there a place in the world that is still on your bucket-list, and if so, why?I have already travelled to so many exciting and different countries, for example: Japan, Jordan and Argentina, for Vapiano. My dream is still to make an extended safari trip in Africa and really get to know the continent. I also want to experience New Zealand properly and in a relaxed way, but that takes time and some free headspace.
When you arrive in a big city that you haven’t been to before, where do you go to eat first? Do you research where to go beforehand? Or do you explore and see where you end up?
The first thing I do is go for a two to three hour-long walk without a map or GPS. I just let myself drift and discover new corners of the city, try out different bars and restaurants, or take the time to enjoy a cigar and familarise myself with the new surroundings. The most important thing to me during all of my travels is the exchange I have with the local people. By their very nature, restaurant owners are always full of life and very sociable. They are great to talk to because they are always well connected and know their city inside and out. They know where to go to see or experience something new. My tip for you is just to ask, ask, ask!
Do you have a favorite country, a favorite place in the world when it comes to the local cuisine?
Yes, definitely Cambodia and Japan. In my opinion, Japan has the best food I've ever tasted. I was lucky enough to live in Tokyo for six months and learn all about Japanese cuisine. I learned how to make Tonkatsu, the Japanese equivalent of a schnitzel for example, but I love all of the different types of meat, sushi and sashimi on offer there. Cambodia was the biggest surprise for me, but I’ve actually noticed that many of the smaller countries have very sophisticated and refined cuisines just look at Lebanon or Peru for example.
What is your favourite culinary souvenir?
I am reluctant to take food with me as I like to travel with as much as ease as possible, often taking just hand luggage. Anything with a liquid is out of the question. Having said that, though, I do really enjoy collecting special memories and impressions of my trips by taking photos and sharing them with others.
Do you have a tip for suriving hotter climates and really hot days?
Tropical heat can be very draining. One tip would be to make sure you drink a lot. I automatically drink a lot when visiting hot countries and often drink up to five litres a day. I also find it easier to enjoy the local dishes if I follow what the locals do and adapt to their rhythm.
What is the best thing about your job as an Executive Board Member, Expansion, Partnerships & New Markets at Vapiano?
The contact I have with so many different people, is the best thing, without a doubt! I enjoy making contacts and being on the move. I don’t have a fixed office, I just work wherever I am. That could be from a hotel room, an airport lounge or a bar, but it is not a fixed office where I have to sit every day. I always really appreciate the experience of bringing the new Vapiano restaurants to life and spending lots of time with the Vapianisti on the spot.
Thank you Mario for telling us about your travels!