Espen Harbitz grew up in his parents’ resort hotel near the small town of Bø, in the mountainous Telemark region of Norway. After leaving school, he went to hotel school in Switzerland, at the prestigious Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne, graduating at the end of a four year course with a Diplôme d’Etudes Supérieures en Hotelerie et Restauration.
Shortly after graduating, Espen moved to Hong Kong, and began a run of almost 30 years working in the hotel and restaurant industry there and in China. He managed several restaurants in Hong Kong, culminating in 6 years as general manager of Australian Michelle Garnaut’s legendary M at the Fringe, the M Restaurant Group’s first restaurant. Espen then relocated to China, developing new business for the M Restaurant Group, in Guangzhou and then Beijing. He set up and managed, for its first 4 years, the acclaimed Capital M Restaurant on the edge of Tiananmen Square, Beijing.
In addition to his restaurant work, from 1993 until 2016 Espen worked with Ted Marr on the annual Bela Vista Balls in Macau, and the glamorous China Coast Ball luxury travel programs, run over a period of 5 to 15 days each year in different international locations, including Russia, South Africa & Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka, Cuba, China & Hong Kong, Beirut & Istanbul, Australia, Argentina & Uruguay, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania & Kaliningrad, Hungary & Romania, Vietnam, Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia & Armenia, Norway, and Cambodia & Laos.
From when he was first a student in Switzerland, and during his many years in Hong Kong and China, Espen has travelled extensively all over the world, learning about and enjoying the best and most diverse food and wine. In the course of that (and especially while operating the China Coast Ball programs), Espen has, like Ted, become a very experienced and discerning consumer of hotel and restaurant services.
Espen and Ted recently moved to the Orange area. After first settling in to an old farmhouse on 12 acres where they grow vegetables and roses and raise chickens, turkeys and guinea fowl, they took over the Oriana, Orange, where they have commenced a major upgrade program to offer first rate accommodation and food to both visitors and locals.