Pirata Group | Co-founder
Pirata Group | Co-founder and Chairman
Pirata Group co-founder Manuel Palacio has a deep rooted passion for quality service. He began his career in hospitality at age 13 in his native Madrid before travelling to both England and the United States to develop his skills at a number of noteworthy establishments. Throughout his service tenure, Manuel has worked at some of the most coveted international hot spots in London, New York, Ibiza and Hong Kong including Floridita and Armani Aqua.
Whilst working in Hong Kong, Manuel noticed a gap in the market in terms of service – Western dining, including Italian cuisine, had become almost an intimidating experience for Hong Kong diners due to impersonal and unapproachable service. Committed to providing a deeply personal yet approachable hospitality experience, Manuel decided to open his own concept with a focus on exceptional service and traditional values. Thus Pirata Group was born.
Pirata Group | Chief Executive Officer
Steen Puggaard was appointed CEO of Pirata Group in July 2022, bringing more than 25 years of experience in the F&B sector with leading blue-chip brands as well as local and regional start-ups in Asia. Puggaard, who has lived and worked across Asia since 1999, is based in Hong Kong and responsible for managing the restaurant group’s day-to-day operations as well as its local and international expansion efforts.
Prior to joining Pirata Group, the Denmark native was CEO of King Food Scandinavia with responsibility for expanding the Burger King master franchisee’s portfolio across Denmark, Norway and Sweden.
A strategic thinker with a strong track record of creating enduring profitable growth, Puggaard has leadership experience across the entire industry from individual mid-market and fine-dining restaurant concepts to brand-driven QSR/multi-outlet chains. He began his F&B career in 1996 as marketing director for McDonald’s and Burger King in Europe and Asia-Pacific before moving on to managing director at Singapore-based Les Amis Group. After four years overseeing the privately owned restaurant group’s chain of artisanal patisseries, Puggaard joined CT Corpora in Indonesia as CEO of its F&B division with responsibility for the development, growth and profitability of 250 Baskin Robbins stores and 55 The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf cafes as well as the acquisition of a Wendy’s franchise with an existing network of 27 stores.
Upon his return to Singapore in 2012, where he remained until joining King Food Scandinavia in January 2021, Puggaard focused on launching and expanding a range of brands throughout Southeast Asia for The Robinsons Group, 4Fingers Crispy Chicken and Archipelago Capital Partners. In addition to managing acquisitions and investments, he led the turnaround of two struggling businesses with one achieving positive EBITDA after 10 years of losses and the other posting more than 20-fold revenue growth after a change of ownership.
Puggaard has been widely recognised for his ability to drive growth while fostering a culture that puts people first and foremost. Among his many professional accolades, he has been the recipient of several industry awards as well as serving as a mentor under the Restaurant Association of Singapore’s mentorship program.
Puggaard earned his BA from Copenhagen Business School. He enjoys endurance sports and has his private pilot’s licence.
Pirata Group | Chief People Officer
Originally from Australia, Rob is a highly seasoned HR professional with extensive global experience, particularly in the areas of Employee Relations, Learning and Development and high volume Recruitment. Having worked for multinational hospitality groups in Singapore, Vietnam and afar for decades, Rob’s other professional strengths include introducing HR “Best Practice” into organisations, from online recruitment platforms, online induction and compliance, and workforce management systems, which all focus on improving company profitability. A down to earth, flexible and commercially focused HR professional who balances the practical with ‘big picture’ strategies , Rob brings tremendous value to Pirata Group through a straightforward, honest approach to Human Resources issues, balancing the goals of the company with the needs of its pirates.
Pirata Group | Chief Financial Officer
Ludivine Barre is the Chief Financial Officer of Pirata Group, where she oversees the financial, legal and administrative department for the group. A global finance leader with decades’ experience across APAC and Europe in retail, luxury, fmcg, travel and tech sectors, Ludivine brings her hands-on expertise across all areas of financial management and change transformation to the Group.
Pirata Group | Director of Marketing & Communications
James drives Pirata Group’s high-performing Marketing team. Launching head-turning, responsive and high impact campaigns through some of the most challenging times for the F&B industry has cemented Pirata Group’s presence as an innovator and champion of unconditional hospitality.
James is a seasoned Digital Marketer, having launched award-winning apps in his previous roles with South China Morning Post and global lifestyle perks brand, The ENTERTAINER. In 2012 he nabbed a Gourmand World Cookbook Award for ‘Multisensory Mixology,’ co-authored with Antonio Lai.
Pirata Group | Development Director
Originally from France, Gil started his career in the food & beverage industry in London at the age of 20 years old. He developed his craft through experiencing some of London’s top hot spots such as Momo by Mourad Mazouz (Sketch). Gil worked his way into management within the D&D group, looking after Floridita, a 250 seater vibrant live music venue in Soho. Throughout his time with D&D, Gil was also entrusted with the opening of Floridita Madrid (Spain).
Gil diversified his skills through integrating the events team at the 5stars Soho Hotel (Firmdale) and specialised in luxury events design & production for several years with prestigious boutique events specialist Bespoke London. Creative by nature, Gil also established Unico UK & Cyprus in 2018, specialising in modern marketing tools for the hospitality, tourism & property development sector.
Gil joined Pirata Group in HK in 2019 focusing primarily on the flagship outlet Pirata as well as the group’s second restaurant The Optimist, and now he heads of development of all new future restaurants, both in Hong Kong and abroad.
Pirata Group | Director of Operations
Justin’s life motto is #maximumeffort. He is an enthusiastic Hongkongee who injects his positive vibes into everyone he meets. After studying Screen Acting for Film, Justin decided to swap the stage for the hospitality industry. Moving his way his way up, he spent years with an international restaurant brand opening branches in both Hong Kong & Taiwan.
Touched by a fantastic dining experience as a guest at Pirata, Justin proceeded to enter the world of Pirata Group, joining the force as a Training Manager before becoming the Multi-Site General Manager for all Pici Pasta Bar restaurants on the Kowloon side. Bouncing around with a big smile, Justin can be found infusing the team with energy to work towards legendary hospitality.
Pirata Group | Director of Operations
Pirata Group | Corporate Chef
Andrea’s love for cooking began in Turin at a very young age with a passionate love for the nature of fresh ingredients. Shunning traditional culinary school in favour of real-life experience, Andrea began his professional career cooking in and around Turin at the age of sixteen, focusing predominantly on cuisine from the Piedmont region.
Before long, he opened his own place – part restaurant, part bookshop. After a successful and exciting experience in Italy, he felt the pull of opportunities and unexplored lands. In 2014, he moved to Hong Kong to help Pirata Group launch a new pasta bar concept. Bringing his vast experience to Pici, The Pizza Project and Italian concepts, Andrea lights up the kitchen with his fresh approach and warm energy.
Pirata Group | Peruvian Culinary Director
Hailing from Peru, Chef Arturo’s love of cooking began at an early age when he spent his days with his Grandmother helping her around the kitchen.
With a passion for the complexities and multiculturalism of Peruvian cuisine, Arturo was eager to bring the country’s unique recipes, flavours and culture to the world.His travels have brought him to South Africa, Hong Hong, Singapore and finally back to Hong Kong again where he has helmed the kitchen at TokyoLima since March 2017. In 2019, he was made Peruvian Culinary Director at Pirata Group and has since taken his talents to MEATS in redesigning the culinary experience for the Soho meat bar.
Arturo respects the traditional techniques and history behind each recipe, adding his own personal flair for food that makes each dish unforgettable.
Pirata Group | Executive Chef
Destined for life in the kitchen, Davide spent much of his childhood in a family-run restaurant in his hometown, Treviso, Italy. His passion for Italian food grew alongside his dedication to bring his country’s delicious flavours to the rest of the world. Davide respects traditional techniques and the history behind each dish he creates, as he adds his own spin to keep guests coming back for more.
Having graduated from the Culinary and Hospitality Institute ‘Giuseppe Maffioli’, Davide worked in multiple restaurants in Italy and Dubai before moving to Hong Kong for his next adventure. His role at Pici and The Pizza Project ensures Davide can showcase the culinary fundamentals that he gleaned from his international experience, enabling him to cook with the integrity and honesty that has been passed on through generations.
Chaiwala | Executive Chef
Chef Prabir Banerjee was born and raised in India with a passion for food instilled in him following years of exploring new flavours and ingredients. With more than 18 years of experience in the culinary arts, Chef Prabir is a veteran chef with a unique perspective on food.
Through experience gained at celebrated establishments in Bangalore and formal training from the Vidyasagar Institute of Hotel Management in West Bengal, Chef Prabir has spent immense effort and time honing his craft. He possesses top-notch skills in managing talented teams, sourcing top-quality produce and ensuring smooth operations within the kitchen. With a flair for experimentation and innovation, Chef Prabir never fails to impress with delectable dishes plated beautifully. Specializing in Indian cuisine, Chef Prabir has also had a hand in crafting menus showcasing dishes from various global cuisine types. As a part of the Pirata Group team, Chef Prabir injects a creative ingenuity into the dishes at Chaiwala, a modern Indian restaurant located in the heart of Central.
Pirata | Executive Chef
Hailing originally from Piedmont, Northern Italy, Chef Emanuele Canuto’s genuine passion for cuisine was sparked from a young age, influenced by his family and particularly his grandmother.
Chef Canuto began his international culinary career from the age of 17 and has spent over 15 years honing his craft across a number of Michelin starred restaurants in England, Italy, Australian and Switzerland before settling in Hangzhou, China as the Head Instructor of the Chefinary International Culinary School in 2017. With deep experience and a traditional philosophy of using the freshest market-ready ingredients, Emanuele now brings his Italian culinary passion to Pirata.
A keen traveler and action sports fan, when Emanuele is not cooking up Italian delights and leading the team in the kitchen, you can find him snowboarding, scuba diving or more likely just cruising around on his motorbike.
Honjo | Executive Chef
Leading the culinary team at modern Japanese restaurant Honjo, Stephan is a chef with more than 10 years experience in high end kitchens across both international, Asian and Peruvian cuisines. A creative in the kitchen, Stephan is constantly creating new and exciting dishes using local products, putting his unique twist and interpretation on contemporary dishes. A South African who relishes new challenges and high pressure environments, Stephan brings out the best in his team in delivering extraordianry memorable experiences. For him, food is love.
Pici | Executive Chef
Executive Chef Allan is a longtime Pici and Pirata Group champion, whose commitment and dedication has kept the standards high and the results great for our central Pici restaurant for many years. A passionate leader in the kitchen, Allan brings out the best in the culinary staff and ensures delicious pasta experiences are served to many across the Hong Kong dining community.
Víctor C. Molina
The Optimist & Calle Ocho | Executive Chef
Celebrated Chef Víctor Caballé Molina was brought up in the hospitality trade, his passion for cooking ignited at a young age while working summers for his family friend’s bakery in the small village of Ulldecona, Spain. From there, he ventured to Barcelona to obtain his Diploma in Culinary Arts, learning classic Catalan and Spanish cuisines while working for esteemed local restaurants.
Chef Víctor then moved to London, UK, where he soon had the opportunity to work for some of the world’s finest restaurants, including Fino and Quo Vadis, under the tutelage of critically acclaimed Chef Jean Phillipe Patruno. After six years Asia then came calling, and off to Singapore Victor went, leading kitchens at a variety or restaurants and hospitality groups throughout Singapore.
During all this time, travel has been a consistent and keen interest, one that has broadened Víctor’s culinary horizons and skill set the further he goes throughout Latin America and Asia. In addition to his extensive experience in Catalan, Spanish, French, British and Mexican cuisines, Víctor has developed a deep affinity for Japanese cooking and culture, as seen in his collection of handmade Japanese knives.
Chef Víctor’s cuisine offers modern twists on old classics and showcases globally minded Spanish cooking at its finest. He now joins the Pirata Group team as the Executive Chef of The Optimist and Calle Ocho, restaurants that showcase Spanish cuisine.
Paul van Rotterdam
Pirata Group | Head of Learning & Development
Living most of his life in Amsterdam, Paul made the move to Hong Kong in January 2017. With a background in education, training and sales, combined with a passion for cooking and beer, the move to the F&B industry was a comfortable pick.
Being the opening manager of a restaurant in Hong Kong gave him a lot of experience and insights into how the industry works in Hong Kong.
Having had the pleasure to try some Pirata Group venues and thoroughly enjoying the overall experiences, it was clear that he wanted to join the team.
Tokyolima & Meats | General Manager
General Manager Brian Marlien is a tried and true hospitality globetrotter, having worked professionally in leading hotels and restaurants across Europe, Africa, North and South Asia. Having grown up in Hong Kong originally, Brian’s most recent experience was managing the dining programme at Kempinski Hotels. Guided by his genuine passion for food & beverage, Brian gladly shares his knowledge with team members and guests alike, in the never-ending quest of delivering extraordinarily memorable experiences for everyone in Tokyolima and Meats.
Pici | Multi-Unit General Manager
From Venice, Italy, Leonardo’s dream as a typical Italian kid was to become a professional football player. At one point Leonardo was very close to making it a permanent career, however after high school he decided to leave Italy for London. His aim was to learn English so he began working in a coffee shop. It was then that he realised how much he enjoyed the hospitality industry and that he should pursue a career in that direction. He then had the opportunity to join a high-end restaurant, Quaglino’s, and work with excellent professionals with years of experience.
After 4 years in London, Leonardo decided to move to Ibiza in Spain to join the famous Nikki Beach, one of the best known hospitality groups in the world. He spent 3 years with them training and improving his skills in managing restaurants in Ibiza, Dubai and Barcelona.
After his last summer in Ibiza, Leonardo decided to go back to London where he rejoined the team at Quaglino’s. Looking to broaden his F&B horizons, Leonardo made the decision to move to Asia for more opportunities after meeting Manuel Palacio in London, as he believed it would be a great platform for learning and to develop a deeper focus on “people”, one of Pirata Group’s core values. Leonardo is now leading Tsim Sha Tsui team as the restaurant manager and hoping to give more memorable experiences to his beloved guests.
Pici | Multi-Unit General Manager
An experienced restauranteur and purveyor of Italy’s culinary culture across Vietnam, The Philippines and now Hong Kong for over a decade, Mathias has brought his hospitality knowledge and skill to the Pici Central team and delights in giving the best of Italian service to the neighbourhood. Now serving as Multi-unit GM for Pirata Group restaurants in Central, Mathias’ expanded scope allows him to elevate the dining experiences of more guests daily through effective operations control and team leadership.
Japanese Concepts | Operations Manager
The ever-affable Donal is the man about house at Honjo as well as the noisy downstairs neighbour TMK. Hailing from Ireland, Donal studied Hotel Management at the Commence Shannon College and began working at 4 and 5 star hotels in his home country before heading to London, UK to gain further experience. From there he realized his true passion for F&B and travel, a calling that eventually took him out to Hong Kong and Pirata Group. Part of the founding team at Honjo, Donal has risen quickly due to his friendly attitude and sterling work ethic to become GM of both restaurants in the building. Driven by his love of people and sharing great stories over a meal, Donal brings his all everyday and looks forward to hosting you all for years to come.
Bryan Van Den Berg
Pirata Group | Multi-Unit General Manager
With over 20 years hospitality experience, Bryan started his career back in his home country, South Africa. He continued within the hospitality industry managing high end venues in Dubai, Macau, Hong Kong and the Philippines. Some of the venues include, Zuma, roka, Buddha Bar, Maiden Shanghai and club cubic.
Bryan takes pride in his team and spends his time bring out the best in each individual.
Pirata Group | Art Director
Norton, a Senior Art and Creative Director from Paris, has been passionate about art and creativity since his childhood. Art direction and design came naturally to him while growing up. Ever since he purchased his first computer, Norton has been designing graphics and other pieces of art, as both a hobby and part of his work. As an action sport and BMX rider, he decided to start a clothing brand called LOGO CLOTHING to organise a trip for him and his team across Europe. This very first experience with design and computers pushed him to go further. Having had this experience made him realise that visual communication and design was going to be his career.
After 5 years of studying communication and design in Paris, he had the pleasure of working for many prestigious brands such as Melco Resorts, Armani, Dior, Lalique, Elie Saab, Microsoft, Ubisoft, Mumm, Nike, Adidas, PSG, Lenovo, Publicis, Marcel, Heineken, and Lacoste. Norton resides and works in Asia mainly between Ho Chi Minh City and Hong Kong.
Pirata Group | Senior Interior Designer
British designer Jonny Moreland works passionately and creatively to deliver unique projects across the globe. Growing to play a leading role in his family’s Hong Kong based design firm, we curate brand experience and exhibitions for esteemed clients: notably HSBC’s global heritage, Kerry Hotels, URA Singapore and crazy tattoo parlours in Las Vegas.
Pirata Group | Head of Talent Aquisition
A highly experienced HR professional, John serves as Head of Talent Acquisition for Pirata Group, driving the company’s strategy for executive and management level recruitment.
Pirata Group | Head of Digital Marketing
Pirata Group | Marketing Manager
A quick-thinking, fast-rising star in marketing and social media, Orla has occupied many roles across Pirata Group’s diverse restaurant communications and guest services eco-system, all leading to excellent results while keeping a wide smile on her face. A Hong Kong kid with her finger on the pulse of the city, a keen eye, and masterful copywriting, Orla is responsible for delivering many of the marketing campaigns and seasonal promotions that attract guests to our restaurants. From ideation to execution, she brings together teams to make the impossible possible. Go Orla Go!