A year ago this week modern Spanish cuisine concept Klima made its much anticipated debut on South Beach. The brainchild of founders, Pablo Fernández-Valdés and Yago Giner, it brought their native cuisine of Barcelona to South Florida. Now 12-months in and with a new chef, Ilde J. Ferrer, Fernández-Valdés sat down with Eater to discuss the challenges of opening a restaurant on this side of the Atlantic and what's next for Klima.
Overall how was the first year at Klima?
It's been an amazing year. It's been a very intense learning year, coming from Spain and their hospitality world, and then coming to United States. Learning the business in this country. It has proven to me that we hardly know anything and that we have to keep learning everyday. You need to be humble. You need to have all the attention on what's going on around you and your business to do the right thing for your company, and for your employees, and to make it prosperous and to keep growing.
Now what would you say was the biggest challenge you faced this year?
Understanding the way you have to do business here. From the first day that I landed my foot in this country, learning how you negotiate, how you execute, how you hire people, how you train them, and how you approach the customer. I'm coming from Barcelona and it's totally another business. So everything is absolutely different from where I come from. The way you promote our business, the way market it, the way your relationship is with the media, and so on, it's amazing, because you keep learning every day, and that keeps you alive. But the main thing is to be humble, realize what your limitations are, and try to reinforce them by getting around the right people for your business. That will help you grow and achieve your goals.
And what has been the biggest accomplishment at Klima this year?
I believe my biggest satisfaction is that I see that I now know what I need to do on a daily basis, and how ignorant I was when I just got here, when I opened my business, concerning that I didn't know exactly the way I had to run my business. I've been very successful in the past managing restaurants and hotels for other companies and when you come here and open up your business, which is a big challenge also, to be able to build out a business like this, in this city, and to comply with the codes, in order to be able to open. So, I look at my business everyday like different goals, goal by goal. My first goal was to be able to find the right venue in the right location, then start the build out, and being able to open up my business, and now, to make it sustainable and, the good thing, is that my business is growing consistently.
How has the restaurant evolved in the past year?
Since I got here, my biggest goal was to be attractive to the locals. So what I've seen is that, coming here and not having a flagship because I come from Spain, I am getting very loyal, local customers that keep coming back to Klima more frequently, every week, and that's, I think, the biggest achievement so far. Because if we are able to capture the attention of the locals, that will help my business to be sustainable for many years and avoid seasonality and establish my business like a local business for a long time.
And what should we expect from Klima for year number two?
Now my biggest goal is to deliver consistent quality, keep being very open to what needs to be changed, to what needs to be adjusted in my business on a daily basis and the most important thing is that I need to be very smart by who I'm going to related to, who is going to be in my team, to help me to get to that next level. I think, now, that we have the fundamentals just to start growing the business and take it to the next state, and, now, I have some brief experience here, so I think, now, I'm more capable to select and choose the right people help me grow my business and to develop new projects.
Does it feel like it has been a year?
You know what? I got here two years ago. I opened up my business a year ago and I haven't gone back to Spain. So, for me, it's like, I've always been here. I hardly have memories of what I've done in the past in the other 25 years in the industry. So, my reality is today and this last year, and the challenge that it has been for me to understand, basically, what I needed to do. Basically it has reinforced the way I approach my business that you have to be humble, very demanding with yourself, very demanding on a daily basis, and be able to create things, human things that will help you to create a family that will help you to take your business to the next state and develop new projects. So, basically, the answer to your question is, it's like I've never worked before, and this is my only last year, or this is my last year, for this last year.