In 1993, I began my hotel career in Costa Rica.
Throughout my life, I had been dedicated to the hospitality industry, including owning my own B&B in the Dominican Republic when I was just 20 years old. One of my most memorable hotel experiences was working as a bellboy at the famous Meurice Hotel in Paris, France, even though I was only 17. After selling my bar in San Jose, it was a natural step for me to continue my hotel career in Costa Rica. My first significant job was as a Maitre d'hotel at the well-known and elegant restaurant Le Monastere in San Jose. There, I met numerous celebrities and important figures from this country. Le Monastere was a luxurious restaurant situated atop the central valley, offering an incredible panoramic view of San Jose. At that time, I traveled daily between Escazu and Atenas, owning one of the few Volkswagen Beetles in the country, locally referred to as “Vocho,” which a good friend had brought over from Cozumel, Mexico. I worked there for more than two years. It was a magical place that provided a rich and rewarding experience. Sometimes, if we closed the restaurant very late, I would stay overnight. On one such occasion, I found myself sleeping on an improvised mattress in the famous Chapel of Le Monastere. One night, the owner threw potatoes at my bed from an upstairs window in the chapel, which scared me so much that I quickly left to sleep in an enclosed bedroom far from the "Angels and Potatoes Ghost."
I always spent my days off in Atenas, reputed to have the best climate in the world. I loved the people of this small town. Back then, I was known as Alex, since Alain was too complicated for them. Sundays in Atenas were special. The men would gather in bars, listening to football or playing pool, while their wives stayed home, cooking and chatting all afternoon. However, if the men were not back by a certain time, the wives would band together to fetch their husbands. Although the men laughed and made jokes when their wives arrived at the bars, they quickly realized the situation was serious and would soon follow them home, where delicious typical Costa Rican dishes awaited, reminiscent of traditions from Canada in 1935.
After Le Monastere, I moved to the Pacific Beach Coast, working as the general manager of a small beach hotel in Playa Avellana, which attracted surfers from all over the world. It was my first beach job in Costa Rica. Playa Avellana is close to Tamarindo, and back then, bars offered free tapas with each drink ordered. Nearby Santa Cruz, the second-largest town in Guanacaste after Liberia, was famous for its bull riding festival, horse parades, and dancing. I attempted surfing a few times but, after narrowly escaping death more than twice, I decided it was safer to enjoy Imperial beers on the shore, watching the real surfers.
Following my beach experience, I joined the Barcelo Spanish group, which operates many hotels in Costa Rica. I started as a Maitre d'hotel at the 5-star San Jose Palacio, overseeing all food and beverage departments. During my three years there, I had little personal life, often working from 6:00 am to 2:00 am the following day. They were challenging years, but I gained a wealth of hotel knowledge and knew I could reach the top. One day, the Barcelo director of expansion sent me to Venezuela to assist with the grand opening of a new 5-star hotel in Cumana, where I was responsible for implementing all restaurant, bar, and special event areas. After two months in Venezuela, the Barcelo group promoted me to general manager of the new Parque del Lago hotel in downtown San Jose, Costa Rica. I was thrilled to achieve my dream of being a general manager at a first-class hotel. I remember getting my first computer on my desk and using the Internet for the first time in 1998!
Updated Fab 18, 2024