Hans Viertl of Sacha's Cafe Loves His Employees and Is Off the Clock for Dinner

Categories: Chef Interviews
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​We met former Club Med chef and restaurateur Hans Viertl at his lovely cafe, Sacha's, which is tucked quietly around the side of an office building in downtown Coral Gables. Like his other businesses, Fountain Bistro, La Ficelle Cafe, and Fountain Deli, the New York/European style eatery is open only for breakfast and lunch. They serve the office crowd delicious sandwiches and addictive soups.

Viertl's newest afternoon hotspot is opening at 1450 Brickell Avenue. We spoke with him about his first store, a wine shop, why the restaurants aren't open for dinner, and how much he appreciates his employees.

New Times: This is the first cafe you opened, Sacha's?

Hans Viertl: No. When I quit Club Med in 1994, I opened a small wine store on Miracle Mile. A hole in the wall, 800-square foot. It was a mom and pop operation, my wife in the front, and I'm in the back. So, a customer came in, she jumped on him, and I did basically the preparation. Very small, very minimal. We didn't have the financial means, you know.But we spoke different languages, so we had people from Europe, we had people from all over. We'd say hello in French, in German, in Italian. My wife, she is very knowledgeable about languages. So, you had this very unique ambiance. Estate Wine and Food, was the name of the place. I had this place 12 years.

The breakfast and lunch format works for you? Was it on purpose, does it fit into your lifestyle?

Exactly. I will tell you why. I'm not the youngest, as you can see. I'm thinking in a few years of retirement.What I learned from the age of 14 in Germany, in culinary school, I went to Paris Christmas and New Year's, and all your family is at home. I did this for many, many years, basically for all my life, but the idea was when I got married, and had a family, I wanted to have dinner with my family and to have Christmas with my family. Not coming home at one o'clock in the morning, eventually, my kids will grow up by themselves and have a totally different life. So, I said, if I quit this company and I do something for myself, I want to have a regular life, I want to have a life. I did 35 years of my life working every holiday, so I would have done anything, but I wanted to have holidays and weekends and dinner with my family.

So, since this is the only thing I know, food profession, of course I want to stay in this field. And I like it, and I think I'm pretty good at it. I said, I want to do this type of operation. I didn't have exactly this in mind.

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When we had meetings at the Club Med corporate offices and we had to have lunch come in from the outside, we didn't have many choices. It was basically, you got a pizza, or a pizza, or maybe another pizza. I maybe overdoing it, but it was very, very limited. When I started my first business on Miracle Mile, we also had in mind to do catering, but catering for offices and having a different product.

You were a chef. You're trained as a chef. Did you do primarily French cuisine?

worked in French restaurants in Paris, for the time being. From Paris, I went to Club Med, which is a French company, and so, of course, 18 years at Club Med, we did mostly French type of, you know, yes, we did Italian, yes we did international, but the base was French, my background is French.

And that influenced what you serve...

Of course. It somehow influenced, yes.

For instance, the soup recipes, are those yours?

Yes. I am very proud of something and I want to mention it. I am very proud of my employees, of my staff. You could never run an operation with four or five other operations being successful if you don't have very good employees, a reliable staff. I have employees here for 14 years with me. Twelve years, ten years. I don't have turnover. Very rarely somebody quits because they moved out, or because of family reasons.

So, all these people you see here or at the other store, they're here since years. This is the only way we can work like this. I have my manager here, is from Belgium. He's working with us 11 years. I have people from Peru, been here six, seven years, I have people from Colombia since seven, eight years. So, I want to really mention this, because I think we have a good relationship. I'm not always easy. I'm German, I could be a pain in the you know, and a chef, so very explosive sometimes, but besides that, I think I'm OK. So, we work good because I have very good employees.

When you say the recipes, mostly are mine, yes. My chef, for example, the head chef, he worked for Club Med, as well. I took him out from Club Med. So, we had worked in kitchens at Club Med. We know each other, we know our temperaments. Another manager, the guy from here, he worked for Club Med, as well. He got married, American girl, brought him to Miami, he's been here 11 years. This is about my employees. I'm proud of them.

People can tell that the work environment is pleasant, and they want to come back.

Exactly. It goes out to the customer, because if you work here, and you're not happy, it goes out, because you don't say hello, you don't say thank you.

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Sacha's Cafe

2525 Ponce De Leon Blvd., Coral Gables, FL

Category: Restaurant

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