‘If at first you
Millionaire Steve Perez is perfectly at home sipping freshly
brewed coffee in the elegant but comfortable lounge of
Chesterfield’s four-star Casa hotel. And so he should be.
Not only does the hotel belong to him, but as Leonie Martin
discovers, it’s also the culmination of a long-held dream…
TEVE PEREZ, often Steve was born in Chicken Kiev,” says Steve.
referred to locally Manchester in 1956 to a “The restaurant was quite
as ‘the VK man’ Spanish father and British innovative in its day.”
still lives in his home town mother. The family moved
of Chesterfield – albeit in to Derbyshire when While his father was
a regency-style mansion Steve was a toddler and building a successful
his father, Santiago, ran business, Steve attended
at Walton. But behind
the Devonshire Arms at school at Mount St Mary’s
his millionaire lifestyle,
Beeley for several years. College. He achieved a
there’s a fascinating and
When Steve was nine, respectable number of
topical back story. It’s a his father took over the GCSE passes, but by the
classic tale of an ordinary Red Lion at Stanedge and time sixth form arrived,
Above: A family going places: Steve Perez man who refused to give
as a young child (standing in front of bonnet) opened it as a restaurant. he’d lost interest. “Jane
with his family while his father Santiago up on his dream, and a “Those were the days Eyre really didn’t do it
was running the Devonshire Arms at Beeley.
lesson for our troubled when people had never for me,” he recalls, “I
economic times. heard of Steak Diane, or grew my hair, played
16 Reflections November 2011 To advertise call 01246 550488
A new icon on the
Above: The young entrepreneur:
Steve Perez, selling beer to clubs
and pubs from his old van in
guitar in a band and became ‘I decided university wasn’t for me…’
a bit of a rebel.” At 16, his
father asked about his career.
“I said I wanted a record Steve’s plan was to study hotel in Sheffield – he was only
shop with a café on top; my management in Switzerland, 48.” This episode was clearly
mother burst into tears.” renowned for its top-class hotel a watershed moment for the
schools, but first he worked in 19-year-old Steve. Not only
Was there anything at school Barcelona, where his father had had he lost a parent, but there
he excelled in? “I was the cross friends in the hotel business. followed an acrimonious
country captain for a while.” “I actually went back there a dispute with his late father’s
But this alone wasn’t sufficient couple of years ago,” he says. business partner. He had
to keep him in education. “It was really strange being to watch, powerless, while
Deciding that university wasn’t a guest in the same exclusive the family business folded,
for him, he left school at 18 hotel where I’d once been an along with his future career.
and worked in his father’s employee serving food...”
restaurant as a trainee chef It was time to pick himself
and waiter. “The cocktail bar He returned home to the Red up and look elsewhere. Steve
was like being on stage, but Lion six months later to the moved to Leeds and joined
the hours were difficult, as I tragic news of his father’s Tetley’s as a nightclub manager,
was working for my father, cancer diagnosis. “My father but became frustrated when
who pushed me hard.” died at Weston Park hospital he was told that despite his
elegant: A view across part of
one of the Casa Hotel suites.
Visit www.reflections-magazine.com 17 Reflections November 2011
day and I remember thinking, for the latter – a decision that
what am I going to do now? would turn his life around.
Fortunately, the bank didn’t
declare me bankrupt, which In 1997, Steve formed GBL
would have stopped me International, with a focus
starting a new business.” on owning his own brands.
He’d noticed the popularity of
“I was now a failed products such as Hooch and
businessman. Money was really Bacardi Breezer so came up
tight,” he says. It was during with something different - a
this time that he managed Vodka based product – and VK
to purchase a small-holding was born. VK proved to be a
and began to grow his own great success and the business
vegetables and keep a few hens. grew rapidly. Steve’s business
Above: A great place to dine: The Cocina restaurant at the Casa Hotel.
“I really enjoyed it – and was took the title of the Sunday
successful results, without a time we were selling trendy amazed how much money it Times’ 3rd fastest-growing
degree he would never progress imported beers. Over 10 years saved us.” One of his next big UK company in 2003, and in
to area manager. “I handed I built up the business to sales ideas was to set up a business 2005, the renamed Global
in my notice and for a while of £10m.” But in 1993, when supplying prepared vegetables. Brands turned over £72m.
didn’t know what I was going the law changed in terms of
to do.” In 1983, at the age of bringing alcohol into the UK, Steve now leads a busy life
27 he found himself living back Steve was unable to compete ‘At the age of 37, with many interests outside
with his mum in Chesterfield. with much larger breweries. it was back to the his business. He is a successful
Three years later, Global rally driver, being the 2010
This further setback in Steve’s Beers folded. He nearly lost
drawing board…’ BTRDA Rally Champion, and
professional life clearly all his personal property, too. he competes all over the
galvanised his entrepreneurial “I kept my home by the skin It was either that or ‘ready world with his Kick Energy
spirit. In 1986, he bought a of my teeth but I had to hand to drink’ products, where he rally team. “I’ve always loved
small van and began selling over the keys to my BMW. I had also spotted a gap in the driving – ever since my teens
beer to pubs and clubs. “In no had to take the bus home that market. In the event, he opted when I used to come down
18 Reflections November 2011 To advertise call 01246 550488
to Chesterfield car auctions idea, from the outset, was to
for a burger, a Bovril and to build a hotel which would be
buy myself an old banger.” both luxurious and stylish, and
which the local community
He’s been a member of Matlock and businesses would use for
Motor Club for many years and both pleasure and corporate
used to take part in rallies as functions.” Steve takes an
a co-driver/navigator before active role in the running
moving behind the wheel of the hotel and restaurant.
himself. His eleven-year-old Last year, the hotel won the
son, Sebastian, looks like he’ll most innovative building in
be following in his father’s Chesterfield award and has
footsteps. “He’s a petrol head,” created over 100 jobs - filled
says Steve, “he loves anything mainly by local people.
Above: Relaxing at his home in Walton – Steve Perez.
with an engine!” Steve pilots
his own helicopter to and from All the meat for Casa’s are really valuable – it’s when from being the person that
rallies all over the country. restaurant, Cocina, is sourced you develop your personality, drives the Transit van and the
“It saves time,” he explains, from Walton Lodge Farm, as create your interests and fork-lift to being the kind of
“but I have to take a test well as the latest seasonal develop your relationships. person who can trust other
every year for my licence.” vegetables. On Sundays, Steve It’s also when your sense people to get on with things.
is in his element as head chef at of determination is set.
Just as he’s been able to home – cooking an enormous “For those brave enough to
combine his love of motor Sunday roast for family and “The determination to keep take the leap, this is a good
sports with the drinks business, friends. “I love the cooking – going and to win is essential. time to start a business,” says
Steve now blends his passion but I don’t do the washing up!” You can’t expect to work nine Steve, draining his coffee cup
for fresh food with his acumen to five. You have to work and casting an approving
in the hospitality industry. In So what keeps Steve in hard to create opportunity gaze across the foyer of this
late 2010, his dream of building Chesterfield? “On top of for yourself. You also have latest, and much prized,
Chesterfield’s first four-star my family connections, to be able to metamorphose addition to his empire.
hotel came to fruition. “The
‘Chesterfield has It’s true – Casa has the comfiest beds!
a lot going for it Casa Hotel has taken the coveted ‘Comfiest Bed’ title
– and everything in the annual Best Kept Secret Awards by the discount
I need for the hotels specialist, LateRooms.com.
businesses I run.’ The LateRooms.com judge said: “Casa Hotel’s reviews were
glowing for the beds (and the hotel in general) – the fact that
they’re King Size was an added bonus!”
Chesterfield has everything
Steve Perez said: “Our Hypnos beds are always the hot
I need for the businesses I
topic of conversation at breakfast time and we constantly
run. Fantastic road and rail
receive positive comments about it being the best night’s
networks – London is only
sleep our guests have ever had. To have an official award to
one hour fifty minutes away.
celebrate that Casa has the best beds in the UK is a fantastic
I also like the fact that living
achievement and one I hope will bring many more visitors
at Walton, I’m virtually in the
through the door to try them out.”
countryside yet still only five
minutes from a supermarket.” As well as the UK’s top beds, the 96 deluxe bedrooms at Casa
each features air conditioning, rainshowers, flatscreen TV,
“Since opening the hotel, Wifi, floor-to-ceiling windows, laptop safes and minibars.
I’ve also been impressed by
the range of local businesses
on the doorstep – from the
pharmaceutical industry to oil
exploration. The old firms such
as Robinson’s and the Tube
Works may have gone, but the
town still has a lot going for it.”
Does he have any pearls
of wisdom for budding
entrepreneurs? “Get some
experience in a trade and then
stick with what you know.
The years between 18 and 23
Visit www.reflections-magazine.com 19 Reflections November 2011