Last month, W Taipei launched its third Farmers Market – Formosa Foodland at its kitchen table outdoor sky garden featuring locally sourced vegetables, seasonal plants, homemade breads and pastries and more. Guests could also check out work from up-and-coming Taiwan artists and musicians.
This was wasn’t the first locally inspired event at the hotel. Since Cary Gray joined W Taipei as general manager in 2009, he has brought a variety of unique programs including the launch of its first exclusive beer, an eco-designed jewelry holder and beekeeping.
HOTELS spoke with Gray about his passion for unique local offerings as well as future programming ideas at W Taipei.
HOTELS: What inspires you to incorporate local programs at W Taipei?
Cary Gray: Taiwan is a hidden gem and has long been under the tourism radar in Asia Pacific. This place has so much to offer with its abundant natural resources, hospitality and creative minds.
Taiwan has been influenced deeply by Chinese, Japanese and American cultures. I am an American — I moved to Asia in 1985, lived in Japan for 10 years, China for nine years and arrived in Taiwan in 2009. I believe that I have been preparing my entire life to come to this lovely place of Taiwan. The most beautiful thing in this country are the friendly and helpful people plus the incredibly delicious food and the amazing natural resources and scenery. I feel that I have the obligation to promote this place through the channels I have.
H: From where do you draw your ideas?
CG: Some ideas came from my meetings with W Hotels general managers all over the world, while others I grab during my journey while traveling around. A lot of them were inspired by my staff, my family and friends from Taiwan.
H: Aside from the Farmers Market, what other programs stand out as especially unique and successful?
CG: Taiwan is famous for its tea, and therefore our mixologists played with different kind of Taiwanese tea and made tea-infused cocktails, such as an Oolong Tea Martini, Green Tea Mojito and Tieh Kuan Yin Mojito, and served them at our Yen Chinese Restaurant and Bar. Our executive chef also sources local produce when designing dishes.
Last year, we also launched 5BEER, the first beer served exclusively at our bar and restaurant, Woobar. It was produced by a brewery called Northern Taipei, and the taste reflects the region — flavorsome yet mild with a hint of sweetness.
H: How have guests responded to the programs?
CG: W guests love to and dare to be different. They are always looking for what’s beyond their expectations. The local experience is also what makes international guests feel that they are blended in. Local guests also love our ideas because they feel they are respected by our initiatives.
H: What other future programs are you planning?
CG: We are working on a project called The Liquid Lab. This is being conceptualized by W Taipei’s mixologists, a group of professional bartenders who not only design the cocktail menus but also tailor-make special drinks for guests. We will continue our commitment to incorporating local ingredients into the new cocktail menus.