IT started with a simple phone call. A person wanting to book their “guests” into Pt Leo Estate’s fine dining restaurant, Laura. Nothing that would alert the venue’s general manager, Roger Lancia, that anything was out of the ordinary.
Until it was mentioned that before these “guests” could visit, a team would need to attend to inspect the property.
The inspection happened and the team loved what they saw. It would be a perfect place for their “guests” to come for lunch and a wander in the sculpture park.
“Still no names had been mentioned at this point, but I had my suspicions,” said Lancia.
It was only a couple of days before the lunch on Friday 31 March that he was finally told who their “guests” would be. The 44th president of the United States, Barack Obama, and his wife Michelle.
“My first emotion when I found out was pride in our staff,” said Lancia.
“It was only that we’d made a great impression with a member of Obama’s Australian team during a summer visit that they’d recommended it as the place to come.
“It reinforces my belief that we always have to be on our A-game.”
Lancia wasn’t sure what to expect. How big would the “footprint” be when one of the most recognised couples in the world came for lunch? Would other booking have to be moved?
“The Obama’s were very respectful of what we already had booked. They didn’t want to disrupt or displace anyone else’s plans. We just sectioned off a discreet corner of the restaurant for them.”
Other diners were initially none the wiser, but would have known something was different, as a visit to Pt Leo Estate doesn’t usually involve seeing local and federal police, and a contingent of secret service agents.
“Surprisingly, they blended in very well. They were even opening the doors for our other diners,” said Lancia.
The Obamas settled in for what Lancia described as “a great little lunch”. Keen to immerse themselves in the Mornington Peninsula experience.
“We were so fortunate to be able to show them everything our region excels in,” Lancia said.
“The Obamas were very impressed with the aperitif martinis, prepared at the table.
“Mr Obama even asked for the recipe.”
Then came a chef’s dream as Pt Leo Estate’s culinary director Josep Espusa finished locally caught lobster at the table for the Obamas.
“How wonderful that this dish could be finished for them in sight of where the lobsters were caught in Western Port,” Lancia said.
After the lunch Lancia and Pt Leo Estate’s project administrator, Dermot Molly, walked the Obamas around the sculpture park.
“They were in no rush. After a hectic round of speaking engagements in Australia, we were their opportunity to relax and unwind.
“They also put on quite the show for other diners who discovered the identity of the mystery guests were once they headed out into the sculpture park.”
After they left, Lancia was left to dwell on what was a “surreal and amazing experience”.
“Our take was that you can be incredibly successful on the world stage, but still be nice people.
“We were honoured we could showcase our business to them, and give them a wonderful experience on the Mornington Peninsula.”