25 years Bellevue Bar, Berne

Franco Federico

For 25 years, Franco Federico was the friendly face behind the Bellevue Bar, Bern. He dedicated his entire career to the bar. BAR NEWS met the old-school master a few weeks before his retirement.

April 1996, a sunny spring day. The terrace is open and so the wonderful Alpine panorama with the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau is the backdrop to Franco Federico's first day at work in the time-honoured Bellevue Bar. The Italian-born chef de bar will be behind the bar of the 5-star hotel, located directly next to the Federal Palace, for a full 25 years.

On 25 July 2021, the 65-year-old had his last working day. 25 years at the same place of work. A quarter of a century. This is an impressive number not only for the catering industry, and even more so behind the bar. Franco Federico's professional career began on the Italian holiday island of Capri, his birthplace.

After his apprenticeship in the hotel industry, his boss at the time advised him that if he wanted to learn more and improve his language skills, he would have to pack his bags.

"That convinced me, of course. My idea was to look at different places and gain experience. But I also thought that I would then go back to Capri. The island, which is popular with tourists, would certainly have been very exciting professionally. Things turned out a bit differently (laughs)," says Franco Federico, who still has very good memories of his first job in Capri.

Franco Federico's professional career began on the Italian holiday island of Capri, his birthplace.

His first position abroad takes him to Switzerland. He switches from winter to summer season, stopping off at establishments in Arosa, Lucerne, Montreux and Crans-Montana. But he also spends some time in Germany, Belgium and England before settling in Crans-Montana.

He will work at the 5-star Rhodania for 16 years before taking up the position of Chef de Bar at the Bellevue Bar in 1996. "The Bellevue Palace was always a wish and a goal for me. Here you work in a business with history," says Franco Federico.

From holiday to city hotel

It is obvious that Federico was confronted with a different guest structure and needs in Bern than he was used to at the holiday hotel in the Valais Alps. "We also have holiday guests, but primarily guests from politics and business come to us. However, our core business is the Bernese. And I have to say, there are guests who still come to me today, ever since I started," says Franco Federico.

In 1998, Franco Federico won the Swiss Cocktail Championship in the After Dinner category with his creation "Papillon". Afterwards, he also took part in the World Championship in Portugal. "I used to take part in many competitions. I always recommend it to new bar staff. It's not primarily about the first place. More important are the opportunities for the industry to meet."

During 25 years, he was able to observe how not only the needs in the Bellevue Bar, but the bar scene in general had developed. "What I like is that, especially in hotel bars, the classics are still ordered - even by young people. You should have a handle on classic cocktails. They are the foundation, the basis," Franco Federico is convinced.

Today, significantly more cocktails would be mixed in the Bellevue Bar than 25 years ago. Champagne and wine are doing very well, single malt and rum are also very popular, especially in the fumoir during the winter months. Due to the space available, the Bellevue Bar focuses on a rather small, but nevertheless as broad a range of spirits as possible. Not only the needs and the assortment, but also the bar itself has changed its face a few times over the past decades.

"Since the smoking ban, we now have the fumoir, which has already been renovated twice. Before, people smoked in the whole bar. The entrance to the bar was still a bit smaller and I may remember that we still had our telephone booths there," says Franco Federico.

The festive season and the weeks leading up to it were always a special time for him: "Many guests come because of the beautiful Christmas decorations. We do a lot at Bellevue to keep that atmosphere."

"First and foremost, guests from politics and business come to us. However, our core business is the Bernese"

Franco Federico

There is also a lot to do during the session, when Parliament meets in the neighbouring Federal Palace. Especially during the Night of the Long Knives, the evening before the Federal Council elections, the atmosphere is unique. Franco Federico compares it to the atmosphere of a football World Cup.

Of course, as bar manager at the Bellevue, you should know if there are Federal Council elections or what big issues are being discussed in the councils. But in a bar like the Bellevue, a certain restraint is a particularly valuable virtue. "Discretion has always been my credo. This is more than important for long-term trust with the guests," says Federico.

He denies when asked if he ever wanted to quit his job behind the bar, for example because of late working hours. "This job is almost like a drug. It's a bit addictive. Of course, it's different from working in an office. You have to find a balance, also with your family," says the father of two children.

But especially when they are still young, one can also benefit from the working hours in the bar: "Small children go to bed at nine o'clock in the evening. But in the afternoon I have always found the opportunity to spend time with my children."

For Franco Federico, a new chapter in his life is about to begin, in which he will now be found more often on the other side of the bar. He is looking forward to the newly gained free time, which will allow him to visit professional colleagues.

And yet - he reveals - it can't be ruled out that he won't be standing behind a bar mixing cocktails again at some point...

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