The global network of Les Rochians includes over 12,000 alumni in more than 130 countries. Graduates of Les Roches go on to lead and launch businesses in a wide range of industries. Whether they studied a hospitality management degree, a diploma in hotel management or a masters degree in hospitality management, they have gone on to excel in careers that establish them as leading lights of the hospitality and service industries in which they work. Where do you see yourself in one year, five years, or ten years?
Here are some of our alumni and information about their professional journeys to date.
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Series of Intentions
From the age of 11, Javier dreamed of working in F&B and owning his own restaurant — an ambition inspired by the joy of bringing people together, and seeing how people feel in good restaurants.
Javier completed his Postgraduate Diploma at Les Roches Switzerland, where he also met his wife, Sharon. After graduating, he moved to Thailand to work in the Mandarin Oriental in Bangkok, before moving to Singapore with Sharon. The couple got their first taste of the local F&B scene by taking over a small café, Banh Mi, in the Central Business District.
Two years later, the pair opened Raw Kitchen Bar in Bukit Timah, which became the basis of the Kilo restaurants today. “Kilo began with an idea to offer ‘refined comfort food.’ We wanted to organize pig roasts, art parties — anything that involves the community.” Javier and Sharon opened Kilo Kallang in 2011, and now their company, Series of Intentions (SOI), also runs Kilo Lounge, Kilo Bali, Camp Kilo Charcoal Club and two Grain Traders outlets.
Of his time at Les Roches, Javier says, “I always tell people that Switzerland changed my life. It exposed me to so much in such a short amount of time.”
When Sharon came to Les Roches for her Postgraduate Diploma, she was looking for a change from her previous desk jobs. “My first degree was in accounting, and I really wanted to get into an industry where I could interact more with people. I’ve always been interested in tourism and traveling; Les Roches gave me the chance to try something different.”
After graduating, Sharon left Switzerland for the Philippines, taking on a management training position at The Peninsula Manila. But the desire to start her own restaurant — “something different from the corporate world, more personal and more fun” — led her to Singapore in 2006. There, together with her husband and fellow Les Roches alumnus Javier, Sharon took over a small café in Singapore’s Central Business District. Two years later, the pair opened Kilo Kallang, the first of several restaurants in Singapore and Bali that today make up the Series of Intentions (SOI) group. The group also runs Kilo Lounge, Kilo Bali, Camp Kilo Charcoal Club and two Grain Traders outlets.
Sharon credits Les Roches with giving her a strong network and confidence for her career. “Funnily enough, I’ve done a full 360 and gone back to accounting, but it’s still very different. I handle a payroll for more than 120 employees; I’ve gone from opening restaurants to running a holding company and figuring out how it all ties together. I enjoyed working in operations, but it’s good to be in the back end, building up our office and developing our marketing, accounting, operations management — a bit of everything!”
Swiss Medical Network
Just a year after graduating, alumna Seraina Stadelmann became a training manager for over 3,000 employees at Swiss Medical Network: the second largest network of private clinics in Switzerland. Originally hired as an HR project manager, Seraina was soon promoted and given the opportunity to create a new department responsible for organizing trainings across the company’s 16 clinics.
As a training manager, Seraina works with many different departments, including healthcare and food and beverage. Fluent in French and Swiss German, Seraina is particularly well suited to the task of coordinating cross-company trainings in multiple languages. In addition, Seraina also manages recruitment visits at career fairs and hospitality schools across Switzerland.
For Seraina, hospitality plays a vital role in providing excellent healthcare service. She believes that patients should feel satisfied not only with the medical treatment they receive, but with their overall experience. “Our goal is to have patients leave and remember how great the food was, or how helpful and friendly the receptionist was. Those are the experiences that can make the difference.”
Seraina credits her education at Les Roches with preparing her for her current career. Leadership, project management skills and an eye for detail have all been vital to her success on the job. “I enjoy helping people. For me, healthcare and hospitality is a natural combination — the two share a common goal of customer care.”
limeSHIFT, Brooklyn, NY, USA
A degree in hospitality may be an unusual background for an artist, but alumnus Tahir Carl Karmali shows that there’s more linking the two fields than meets the eye. Named to Forbes 30 Under 30: Art & Style list in 2017, Tahir has developed a successful career as a mixed-media artist. The Kenyan-born, Brooklyn-based Les Roches graduate is also Artistic Director at limeSHIFT, a creative agency that provides art innovation consulting.
Working at limeSHIFT has been a perfect fit for Tahir’s background in art and marketing — his first major project as Artistic Director was the rebranding of the agency. “Though hospitality management, you learn how to deal with people,” he says. “At limeSHIFT, I work to connect artists with clients and to manage expectations.” The agency uses art as a catalyst for organizations to become more creative, productive and connected.
“There is something very entrepreneurial about being an artist,” Tahir says. “It’s about taking risks. You try things. You might take new material to embed in glass, and it might melt or turn into gold.” To current Les Roches students, he has the following words of advice: “Remember who you are in public and at work. Don’t lose yourself as an individual, and stay true to who you are.”
Tahir has won multiple awards and grants for his artwork, and he has completed several artist residencies, including the MacDowell and BRIC Visual Artist Residency. His works have been exhibited in Africa, Europe, North America and South America.
Loews Hotel 1000, Seattle, WA, USA
Since graduating from Les Roches Switzerland in 2007, Dhruv has enjoyed a successful career at luxury hotels across the US. Before becoming Director of Food and Beverage at Loews Hotel 1000 Seattle, Dhruv held roles in food and beverage management at Loews Regency San Francisco, Park Hyatt Washington D.C. and Trump International Hotel and Tower Chicago.
Dhruv credits Les Roches with shaping his business approach and entrepreneurial mindset. “All those hours spent on projects and practical learning made you think about how you can do each task better and more efficiently. When working at a hotel, you must find ways to be efficient, strong and profitable. And to me, this is the core of being an entrepreneur.”
From Chicago to Seattle, Dhruv has also worked alongside fellow Les Roches alumni — and hired Les Rochians for internships and full-time roles. “It gives me a sense of family and pride when I can hire or work with Les Roches alumni. When I collaborate with fellow Les Roches alumni, I know to expect nothing but the best!”
InterContinental London Park Lane, UK
A true hotelier from the outset, Alvaro Rey graduated from Les Roches, Switzerland in 1983 and began his career at the InterContinental Medellin in his native country, Colombia. He quickly climbed the ladder within the group from Assistant F&B Manager to Resident Manager at the Hotel Del Lago InterContinental, Maracaibo, Venezuela and at the InterContinental Jordan, Amman, Jordan. He then returned to South America as General Manager of the Hotel Las Lomas Forum, Medellin, and went on to serve as General Manager of the InterContinental Cali, the InterContinental Sao Paulo, Brazil, and the InterContinental Buenos Aires, Argentina. From 2006 to 2009, Alvaro worked in Australia, serving as General Manager of the InterContinental Sydney, and since January 2009, he has held the role of General Manager of the InterContinental London Park Lane.
In January 2017 Alvaro Rey took on the new role of Area General Manager London & InterContinental Franchise Hotels Europe. He is now responsible for the flagship InterContinental London Park Lane and the entire franchise portfolio across the continent.
His sustainable approach to business, which rewards staffing development and community involvement, has increased RevPAR, reduced staff turnover, and won multiple awards. Alvaro’s exemplary commitment was recognized in 2012 when he was honored with the award for Best General Manager (upscale/luxury) at the Worldwide Hospitality Awards.
Kwadrys, Maisons-Laffitte, France
Eric Bouf graduated from Les Roches Switzerland in 1990 and spent the first part of his career in food and beverage management positions among leading hospitality and theme park operators spanning Asia to France. In the second part of his professional ventures, he joined major hotel companies to subsequently become Director of Food & Beverage and General Manager for medium and large properties within Marriott International Hotels.
Today, as founder and associate at Kwadrys, Eric facilitates and shares his rich operational experience in order to activate people and services development among hospitality and tourism properties. Taking hospitality as a model of guest interaction and people management, Eric help businesses — including those outside of hospitality, such as banks, dental cabinets and retailers — to enhance the guest experience. He also provides personalized coaching, often to young hospitality managers, on how to achieve career goals.
As guest speaker at the Winter 2016 Graduation Ceremony for Les Roches master and postgraduate students, Eric shared these words of advice: “Success doesn’t happen by accident. It’s the result of hard work, proper planning — and a great network. Your first network is right here in this room.”
The Slow, Bali, Indonesia
“I left the corporate world and came to The Slow wondering: How can we do things differently?” says Jose. “It’s like what Picasso said — ‘Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.’” A graduate of both Les Roches Marbella and Les Roches Bluche, Jose has had plenty of opportunities to learn the rules like a pro.
Jose’s international career includes positions at Franklyn Hotels & Resorts in London, Gansevoort Hotel Group in New York, COMO Hotels and Resorts in the Turks and Caicos Islands and Alila Hotels and Resorts in Bali. As General Manager of The Slow in Bali, Jose brings his ability to create personalized, exclusive experiences to this boutique hotel with bohemian flair. Jose has particularly enjoyed the challenges of overseeing the pre-opening and launch of The Slow, an eclectic island retreat that combines boutique accommodation with dining and drinks, art, local culture and interactive retail.
In Bali, Jose has also found an active community of fellow Les Roches alumni in the hospitality business. “It’s incredible the way the Les Roches network works,” Jose says. “All of my previous positions were related to Les Roches. It’s a great community.”
Elegant Events, Belgium
After completing a master’s degree in economics, Eline came to Les Roches to pursue her true passion: hospitality. Graduating as Class Valedictorian from the Postgraduate Diploma program, Eline began her journey into hospitality working at Renaissance Hotel Brussels as a Front Office Trainee. From there, she took on positions as Sales Manager at TRYP by Wyndham Antwerp, and as Conventions and Events Executive at Metropole Hotel in Brussels. After several years working in the hotel industry and organizing corporate events, Eline launched her own business, Elegant Events. As a weddings and events planner, Eline’s goal is to “turn every event into a memorable moment.” She works with clients to help them celebrate special occasions and create personalized experiences. It is a job that Eline finds particularly fulfilling: “What I love about the event industry is that it’s a people business. It also encompasses diverse tasks involving organization, creative styling and giving advice.” For Eline, the value of an education in hospitality is clear: “I believe that hospitality is needed in every industry. Making your clients feel at home, no matter what business you are in, is key to having clients who are happy and loyal. Why not go the extra mile?”
La Mar San Francisco, USA
Since graduating from Les Roches in 2006, Thomas’s career in food and beverage has taken him all over the United States. He has worked at the Hyatt Regency in Baltimore, Washington D.C. and Chicago, the Waldorf Astoria in Chicago, Rivers Casino in Des Plaines, IL, and the Hermitage Hotel in Nashville.
Now in California, Thomas is general manager at La Mar, an innovative, global restaurant and bar bringing Peruvian cuisine to San Francisco’s waterfront. Passionate about his profession, Thomas says, “No day is like another. I have 130 employees, and every day there is something new. One day I’ll spend more time in the kitchen, another day in front-of-house. In one day, we take care of up to 1,000 covers. Cranking that out, making it all work, gives you an amazing sense of accomplishment.”
Thomas credits his education with giving him a head start in the restaurant industry. Reflecting on his time at Les Roches, he says, “The thing I loved the most was the international community. Practicing your language skills, learning about different cultures, opening up your mind — that’s truly a unique opportunity.”
Xocoa Petritxol, Spain
Ignasi’s career has taken him from the bustle of China’s urban hubs to the Mediterranean warmth of Barcelona, Spain. After working at the Four Seasons, JW Marriott and the Renaissance in Shanghai, Ignasi went to Xian for a new adventure: the opening of the first Spanish restaurant in the city. Together with Spanish hotel chain Gran Melia, Igansi worked on the pre-opening and successful launch of DUO Spanish Authentic Cuisine, now one of the hottest restaurants in Xian.
Today, Ignasi is the owner of Xocoa Petritxol, a Barcelona cafe and shop specialized in gourmet chocolate products. Running the outlet keeps him busy, but as Ignasi says, “People just walk through the door with a wide smile from seeing so much chocolate on show — it is very satisfying to work in an environment where both the staff and customers are pleased.”
As a graduate of both Les Roches Jin Jiang and Les Roches Switzerland, Ignasi made lifelong friends and gained international experience during his degree. In particular, he is thankful for the high level of education he received: “Not everything you study might make sense at the beginning, but when you are one or two years into your career, things that you learned at Les Roches start popping up in your mind. That is when you really understand what it was for.”
The Haciendas Company, Spain
Since graduating from Les Roches in 2006, Duarte has worked all over the world. His career includes five years with Aman Resorts, including an experience managing the opening of the Aman Sveti Stefan in Montenegro, and two years working as general manager of L’AND Vineyards in Portugal. Now the General Manager for Hospitality Operations at The Haciendas Company, Duarte is dedicated to providing unique experiences for his guests in Salamanca and the nearby Duero Valley, Spain. Duarte’s knowledge of both the hotel and food & beverage side of operations is key to his success — at The Haciendas Company, Duarte oversees luxury accommodations in historical buildings, gourmet food production and local dining experiences. As Duarte says, “People are no longer just looking for a place to sleep — they are looking for an experience.”
Duarte cites exposure to the hospitality industry as the most important experience he had as a student. “Even if you are prepared academically and through practical experience, you learn more when you work. Internships in great hotels set a tone on the direction you want to take in your career. That training is also a seal of quality for employers; they know you have a strong foundation.”
Club Managers Association of East Africa, Kenya
Grace has more than 15 years of global experience working in the club management industry. Her dedication to the industry led her to undergo the years of intense professional training required to become a Certified Club Manager (CCM) through the Club Managers Association of America (CMAA). Today, Grace is operations manager at the prestigious Karen Country Club. On being a club manager, she says: “I love it — you’re constantly challenged. You’re trying to satisfy 5,000 members who want 20 different cuisines. You’re constantly thinking outside the box as to how to keep them satisfied.”
Today, Grace is committed to sharing her experience and creating development opportunities for ambitious club management professionals. For this reason, she has established the Club Managers Association of East Africa (CMAEA), an association in partnership with the CMAA that is the first of its kind in the region and the second in Africa. Grace says, “Once you find where your passion lies, that’s the greatest gift you can receive. First, you’ll be successful, and second, you won’t feel like you’re working; you’ll wake up every morning to do something you love.”
Mayakoba Resort, Mexico
Carl Emberson’s career in luxury hospitality has taken him all over the world. He has worked in places like Fiji (his home country), Switzerland, Belgium, England, Uruguay, Brazil and Argentina. He is now Vice President of Operations and Marketing at Mayakoba: a unique, eco-friendly luxury development on Mexico’s Riviera Maya.
An entrepreneur from the start, Carl opened his first restaurant in Punta del Este, Uruguay while still a student at Les Roches. Since then, Carl has enjoyed a diverse and highly successful career. Notably, he has opened 6 restaurants, run a corporate hospitality company and an events company, and acted as GM for hotels and resorts across Latin America.
He attributes this variety to the education that he received at Les Roches: “Our studies at Les Roches effectively prepared us for a wide range of opportunities since they were based on excellence in service, attention to detail and creating experiences – all key factors in the service industry, especially in the luxury segment. So the opportunities are numerous and diverse, and the wonderful thing is that Les Roches prepares you more than adequately to succeed.”
The Peninsula Chicago, USA
Meeting a recruiter from The Peninsula Chicago at Les Roches was a decisive moment for Jan. He had never even visited the USA, but that Career Day changed everything. Chicago has been home to Jan during the last nine years, and in that same time he has risen through the ranks at The Peninsula to become Director of Front Office. He began his career at the five-star hotel as a Management Trainee and took on roles such as Interim Spa Manager and Front Desk Manager before reaching his current position. “I didn’t plan to stay in one place for 9 years, but the opportunities kept coming, I was able to grow, and it never became dull.”
Innovation has played a major role in Jan’s career, and he credits Les Roches with encouraging him to trust his instincts and ideas. “I believe Les Roches allows you to be a thinker,” he observes. “Academically and in life they promote new ideas, and this enabled me to use my creativity to succeed. In my experience, Les Roches graduates are creative thinkers with can-do, hard-working attitudes. And that’s the reason I like to hire Les Roches graduates myself.”
Erga Group E-Hospitality, Dubai
Bridging cultural differences is Lama’s area of expertise. Keen to travel and work abroad after graduating, she chose Dubai for its opportunities for growth. As a Consultant for Erga Group, Lama opens businesses in other countries, adapting each franchise to the region’s distinct needs, culture and business regulations.
Lama’s accomplishments include the launch of a 400-seat restaurant on one of the most fashionable streets of Jeddarh, Saudi Arabia — no small feat, as she says: “I knew this was a country where females have very limited authority, and logistically it is much easier for gents than for ladies. But as a female I had to grab the chance — to prove that I could still achieve it.”
Lama says Les Roches gave her the confidence to succeed in a fast, unpredictable industry. “Les Roches management has the foresight to enlist the best gurus in the industry to serve as full-time teachers or frequent lecturers. Holding this diploma will open a lot of doors for any graduate.”
Nutristrength (London, UK)
Having specialized in Entrepreneurship during his BBA at Les Roches, naturally Chris was keen to start his own company. Together with his brother, Chris launched Nutristrength, a premium lifestyle nutrition brand. Within a few months of its opening, the business had already won awards for its products and presentations at events.
As co-founder, Chris wears many hats in his company, overseeing everything from marketing to product development and event management.
For Chris, entrepreneurial life is tough but well worth it: “I work long hours, my brain never switches off, and I have a hard time sleeping at night on particular occasions — but I absolutely love it and believe [opening a business] was the best decision I’ve ever made.”
The Nourishing Seed, USA
Since graduating from Les Roches Bluche in 1994, Francesca’s career has taken her from Beijing to New York, and from Barbados to Brazil.
After first working as a Sales Manager for Swissotel Beijing, Francesca built up a busy career as a Marketing Executive in the luxury lifestyle sector. She has held past roles at the Muse Hotel and the Core Club in New York and has worked extensively as an independent consultant. Since then, Francesca has found entrepreneurial success as a health and wellness coach. Through her business, The Nourishing Seed, Francesca coaches clients all across the world and organizes wellness retreats in destinations like Barbados and Brazil.
Four Seasons Los Angeles
It was a long standing desire of Esteban’s to study at Les Roches once he had graduated from college, however he first went to learn his trade behind the stoves in the kitchen waiting for the right occasion to come when he could follow his dream to become a Les Roches student.
At 26 years old when the opportunity came up to upgrade and enhance his learning with an MBA at Les Roches he jumped at the chance. A move that he is still thankful for as his studies at Les Roches where for him the best times and have changed his life. “Les Roches gave me the chance to met the best hotel companies in the world in the school and interview with them allowing me to find the best fit for my personality and career aspirations”. He adds “I am very proud to have come from and represent the Les Roches family within the hospitality industry”.
In his current position as Assistant Manager of Room Service, Four Seasons Los Angeles, Esteban manages a team of 76 employees within 3 different departments (Room Service, Mini Bar and Pool). When reflecting on what his masters at Les Roches taught him and contributed to his ability to be successful in this managerial position, he lists thinking out of the box and looking for the best opportunities as key lessons from his studies. “Les Roches has provided me with the best tools to surpass every obstacle in life”. The similarities he has found between Les Roches and Four Seasons? “To always give the best of yourself with a smile and to treat others as you would like to be treated”.
Le Méridien & Westin at Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide
When talking to Stefan about why he chose to study at Les Roches he evokes the impression of community spirit and the sense of a strong family bond that reassured him and his parents in their decision that this was the best place to optimise his learning. That and the cultural diversity that Les Roches offered by way of its student body, faculty and career opportunities. “I still appreciate this decision today. I am truly grateful to Les Roches for giving me a great preparation for the industry”.
The most valuable and relevant lesson that Stefan learnt at Les Roches that has remained with him through his career in the industry is the importance of practical experience “to be a manager of people you need to have a sound understanding of their job. This only comes from experience”. Thus Stefan places great important on the need of a hospitality education in order to be successful in the hotel industry.
After graduating in 2004, Stefan joined the Starwood management training programme “Vita Futura” providing him with the platform to explore and confirm his passion for marketing. Once his training completed he rapidly progressed in his career with Starwood building a solid and varied expertise in Marketing, starting as Online Marketing Manager in the Arabella Golf and Spa Resort, progressing to Marketing Manager and subsequently Director of Marketing at the W, Barcelona. He has reached the goal of his 10 year plan which was to obtain a position in Starwood’s corporate office.
His advice to graduates looking to follow in his footsteps and achieve his success, “Make sure to be consistent in your approach and career goal. Always look for a role thinking two steps ahead. Ask yourself how will this job help you prepare for the next and ultimately your dream job”.
Since his graduation from Les Roches, Igor has carved out a very successful career in the luxury hotel business, leading him to his current role is as the hotel manager of the Knickerbocker in New York, lifestyle hotel.
Having been on the pre-opening team for three different hotels; as the Assistant In-Room Dining Manager for the Mandarin Oriental, New York in 2003, as the Rooms Division Manager, for the Mandarin Oriental, Shanghai in 2012 and now as the Hotel Manager for The Knickerbocker in 2013, it can be said that Igor is a pro at hotel openings.
What he has to say about the experience? “Everyone (he has actively encouraged his own employees and interns during his career) should have at least one hotel preopening experience in their life and stay with that hotel until it stabilizes. Not only will it show you the length and breadths of your mental capacities but it will also bring out the entrepreneur and creative mind in you”.
Igor’s advice to Les Roches students starting out in their career is to “never give up, everyone fails once in their career but it is how you pick yourself up and keep going that matters”. He credits his attitude and the great theoretical back ground that Les Roches gave him for facilitating his career in the luxury hotel market. Igor notes that the reputation of Les Roches opens many doors for employment within the luxury business.
Holiday Inn Express and Suites, Ontario, Canada
After graduating Shaheena worked for Six Senses Sanctuary Wellness Resort & Spa in Thailand, as Resort Operations Executive. When the group became Soneva, she was promoted to Soneva Group Operations Executive, responsible for properties in Thailand and the Maldives. Two years later, she relocated to Canada and was hired by FANS International Hospitality Group as Vice President and Director of Operations. In 2015 she won Who’s Who Professional of the Year.
Speaking about her time at Les Roches she says: “Les Roches MBA Program is unique as it helps its students to develop the capacity to strategically solve hospitality issues at a real-world level rather than using only scenarios. We had opportunities to work with hotels in Switzerland that were facing various problems and the process challenged students to work together as a team by using each of the team member’s strengths to determine the most successful outcome.”