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DESTINADAS Customer Service Consulting Agency
After meeting at high school in 2005, Maria Ines Coma Cobar and Gabriela Gonzalez Rubio bonded over a shared passion for hotels and travelling. That passion took them to Les Roches and then on to start their own business together, Destinadas.
“We are a customer service consulting agency focused on helping any type of businesses improve their care for their employees and the customer service given to their clients.”
“We realized in Guatemala customer service is not a priority, owners tend to forget about their employees and their service and just focus on green numbers. We saw a big opportunity.”
Maria and Gabriela clearly understand the power and importance of the ‘experience’ in creating lasting stakeholder relationships. “We strongly believe that service is what matters most, it does not matter how nice your store is and how beautiful the products you sell are, if you do not have good customer service, clients will not be loyal and will not come back.”
Armed with the entrepreneurial expertise and ability she gained at Les Roches, Thanyathorn Pear Chatlaong took her mother’s ‘Sun-soaked banana coins’ recipe and turned it into a 21st century business. “We started Chew Green with a promise to make and source tasty food products that are healthy and worry-free.”
With a focus on natural, local ingredients, Chew Green is supporting small-scale cultivation at a community level. “Going local with our ingredients allows us to support and promote more environmentally-friendly farming practices, but it also means developing a better livelihood for local growers.”
Thanyathorn firmly believes that the key to entrepreneurial success is remembering your ‘why’. “For me, what will keep you and your business going as an entrepreneur is the passion and vision you have when you first started your business. I think you have to be honest with yourself in whatever you do.”
M Chiappo Luxury Destinations Hospitality Consultancy Firm
For Massimo Chiappo, luxury is firmly at the core of the service he provides through M Chiappo Luxury Destinations Hospitality Consulting Firm. “Luxury means a state-of-the-art service that goes beyond fulfilling the needs of the customer, they want to be in a glamorous place where everything is possible.”
Massimo founded his consulting firm alongside fellow Les Roches alumnus, Steve Tsai, after they met in Asia. “I was working at the Sherwood Hotel, where Steve had a senior management position, we would meet and talk about old times. From that, we decided to set up this venture. It happened quite spontaneously.”
The China market is currently a focus for Massimo, with the ever-growing middle class looking to explore the world in style. “Chinese travellers seek customised high services, the kind they normally receive in hotels.” Massimo attributes his success to the power of collaboration and connections. “I’d advise students to stay in touch with their school friends, a friendship can turn into a cooperation, a business opportunity or a contact in another country.”
Marriage Maestros, Wedding Maestros
Growing up in the family restaurant and catering business, Evelyn developed an interest in hospitality at a young age. Following in her uncle’s footsteps, she graduated from Les Roches in 1991 and worked in hotels and embassies, before moving into events and ultimately becoming an entrepreneur.
“A friend of mine worked as a travel agent, building up a successful agency in Hong Kong, she was planning on leaving the country and wanted to sell the company to someone she trusted.”
After her foray in real estate, Evelyn moved into the wedding industry, creating Marriage Maestros – Hong Kong’s first luxury wedding planning service for high net-worth couples – and Wedding Maestros – specialising in packaged weddings services.
Working with brands such as The Four Seasons and The Bulgari, Evelyn has created exclusive multi-million-dollar wedding experiences, and now shares her expertise at international wedding summits and through workshops for hotels and industry specialists.
“Les Roches ensured I was ready. I became a student of the world who is constantly learning and paying it forward. I’m so thankful that I studied there.”
Rosewood Hotels and Resorts
From a young age Radha Arora was always around people and staying in wonderful hotels. “I just loved the smell of them and I became passionate about them at a very early age, I felt in my heart of hearts that I loved hotels and wanted to be a part of it.”
Now President of Rosewood Hotels and Resorts, Radha is in charge of what is considered one of the most innovative hotel operators in the ultra-luxury travel sector. “The phrase ‘life-enriching experiences’ encapsulates it, we want to create destinations that are mystical, which you wouldn’t always think of, and you have to see them with your own eyes.”
Radha grew up in Great Britain and graduated from Les Roches in 1983. Before Rosewood, he worked at Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts for 16 years and is based mostly between Los Angeles and Hong Kong.
Radha has a true appreciation for the education he received at Les Roches. “I loved the fact that they were very particular, very detailed, and paid homage to the traditional aspect of hospitality.”
“It’s very important to learn the craft, and skills, of the trade – today, more than ever. We talk about ‘asset management’ and ‘business acumen’, but that comes later on in life as you go through your career. Right now, it’s time to learn the art of hospitality. Understanding those fundamentals is really important.”
Read Radha’s full story
Black Sheep Bistro
After graduation, Sabreen and Prahlad entered the hospitality industry, travelling the world and learning from the best while working for premium brands including Four Seasons and Shangri-La. They put all this knowledge – not to mention their life savings – on the line to establish Black Sheep Bistro in their home city of Panaji, Goa.
Black Sheep Bistro has since gone from strength to strength, being included in the last two editions of Condé Nast Traveller’s Top 50 Indian restaurants, alongside a host of other awards. The restaurant has also helped to pioneer the local sourcing ‘farm to table’ concept within the Indian market. Now Sabreen and Prahlad are aiming to build on their success with the lunch of a new restaurant concept, Blackmarket, which aims to bring innovative recipes to Panaji’s food lovers.
Read Sabreen’s and Prahlad’s full story
Hooklabs and KaizenVC, Switzerland
Alessandro was one of the driving forces behind Les Roches’ entrepreneurship club, known as Startup Mountain. And he helped to organize the first Future of Hospitality Summit (FHS) at the school back in 2015.
Having discovered a passion for entrepreneurship while studying at Les Roches, Alessandro formed experimental advisory and investment firm Hooklabs together with fellow student Akanshu Jain. He has since become a serial investor in disruptive travel start-ups, in particular those which are harnessing artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain to target under-served segments of the industry.
His newest venture, KaizenVC, is a digital asset management fund which he has established with entrepreneur Jan Valentin, who helped make travel metasearch site Kayak a household name across Europe.
Read Alessandro‘s full story
Four Seasons, Maldives
From bustling cities to tropical islands, Les Roches Alumnus Nitin Abbi has done it all in seven short years since graduating.
Although Nitin’s first job was in Shanghai, he firmly believes that his career started at Les Roches. “It helped me tremendously. The skills and knowledge that I gained at Les Roches were sort of a base which helped me to climb quickly the ladder”, he said. “Moreover, it helped me in interviews, since Les Roches is known for quality in our industry. Even nowadays, I bump into many Alumni who are holding top positions.”
“In our industry it’s all about attitude. Once this is right any goal can be achieved. I also benefited a lot from my previous and current GMs or Hotel Managers. It is very important to listen and learn from them and sometimes ask for direction, since they have been in the game for years”, Nitin said.
Since graduating with a Postgraduate Diploma in 2015, Paolo Borgiallo has gone on to become Head of Hotel Operations for one of the fastest growing hospitality companies in Southeast Asia, ZEN Rooms. We caught up with him to find out more.
“I’ve been living in Asia for most of the past 10 years. Actually I was based in Shanghai when I first heard about Les Roches. I started my Postgraduate Diploma experience with one semester at the school’s campus in China before moving to Switzerland, so it only made sense to go back to Asia after graduation!”, Paolo said.
“For ZEN Rooms, a person’s actual skills and drive for success matter more than, say, their age or what their business card said at their last job. I believe this is what allows us to perform so well in a very dynamic, competitive market where it is necessary to stay adaptable and figure out solutions as you go. This is exactly the kind of company that I want to work for.”
Moving from the world of air and space engineering into the hotel industry may not be the natural career path for some. For Philip Kuchelmeister, however, it made sense – he used his technological background to boost his hospitality career, and now combines the two via his own established company, Hotellistat.
Hotellistat was launched in October 2016. “Hotellistat is made for hoteliers by hoteliers, with a great focus on what a hotel really needs – easy access to interpreted data,” Philip said. “Business intelligence is not large spreadsheets – it’s the solution and result of data processing. This is what we do for hotels to optimise their market positioning, show opportunities and save cost, all while using an all-in-one system.
“Hotellistat shows a totally new approach,” he said. “Holistic data combination offers more insights. Our customers all around Europe have realised this already and are trusting us and spread the news. This makes Hotellistat unique.”
Read Philip’s full story
Since graduating from Les Roches in 1996, Zanine has built a career in events management that has seen her named one of the Most Influential People in Meetings and Events. First heading to Paris, she then moved to Endicott College, Boston, USA, working as an Associate Professor and gaining a BSc in International Hospitality. New York followed and her glittering career in event management began in earnest at the Regent Wall Street Hotel (now Cipriani Wall Street).
A move to London in 2001 saw her organise unique events around the globe, culminating in the 2012 London Olympic & Paralympic Games. While head of the Business Development and Event Solutions team at London & Partners, she also chaired the International Live Events Association and was regularly featured in the top five of the Conference & Incentive Travel Power 50.
Now, Zanine works as a Freelance Strategic Event Consultant in the UK capital. “For a tremendous work/life balance – I wholeheartedly recommend going freelance. However, you do need to always be thinking about the next project and where it might come from. You need to network as often as you can.”
Read Zanine’s full story
Grupo Trigo, Brazil
Eduardo Ourivio used the power of the Les Roches name to secure a job with Intercontinental Hotels upon graduation. But the entrepreneurial spirit was strong inside him, and two years later he joined forces with his best friend to enter the restaurant business.
The concept he co-founded, Spoleto, has changed the face of casual dining in Brazil. Today, Spoleto is a nationwide restaurant business that has now expanded into the United States. Eduardo’s recipe for success is all about ‘food democratization’ – offering quality casual food at prices competitive with the fast food sector.
“Les Roches contributed a lot to what we have achieved so far, because it has brought respect for our operation,” he said. “To become a chef is pretty easy; but to become a leader you need to respect everyone. And I think that at Les Roches this practical element to the studies shows how important it is for the future.”
Read Eduardo’s full story
Loop Tonic, Mexico
After graduating from Les Roches in 2005, Gerardo has gone on to become a successful restaurant entrepreneur, running four very different F&B brands in Mexico, including Butcher & Sons, Biergarten and Basico. From the multicultural exposure, to the knowledge, experience of foreign countries and global business network, he firmly believes Les Roches played a key role in transforming him from a student into an entrepreneur.
“While I was in Les Roches, I acquired the necessary skills to do whatever I wanted to do and I felt as if the world was in my hands”, he said. “Today I am the founder and Chief Operating Officer (COO) of my company, Loop Tonic, creating, developing and operating restaurants in Mexico City.” Read Gerardo’s full story on the blog.
Read Gerardo’s full story
WeWork Latin America
WeWork is among the leading lights in the fast-growing coworking sector, which offers flexible office space to entrepreneurs and freelancers. Les Roches Marbella alumnus Alvaro Villar is helping to spearhead the company’s expansion into a number of key Latin American markets, including Mexico, Brazil and Argentina.
As Director of Operations for WeWork Latin America, Alvaro’s role involves managing the administrative work of different offices and countries, taking care of members’ needs, administrating the operating costs that affect the business, and managing occupancy rates.
For Alvaro, the immersive combination of practical studies and real-world internships at Les Roches has been key to his success. “You can imagine how complex the operation gets and how qualified we are after a school like Les Roches,” he said. “You get experience in all kinds of areas. They exhort you to make your internships in different countries and that prepares you for the world.”
Read Alvaro’s full story
The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong
Nicholas Liang chose Les Roches as he wanted a career in hospitality, “the most exciting industry in the world.” Since graduating from Les Roches Bluche in 2003, Nicholas has worked in a range of luxury hotels, and is currently Hotel Manager of The Ritz-Carlton in Hong Kong.
Nicholas studied Hospitality Management at Les Roches Bluche, and while here he forged friendships with fellow alumni that last to this day. Nicholas’ career has seen him work in world-renowned hotels in London, Dubai and Tokyo, something he is eternally grateful for. “To be given such opportunities in luxury hotels has been the best award I could have ever been presented with,” Nicholas said. “The experiences I’ve had are irreplaceable.”
Ivan Maminta’s journey has been an exciting and unpredictable one, and it all began at Les Roches Global Hospitality Education. Since learning key culinary and management skills at the school, he’s enjoyed managerial positions with a four-star hotel and, in his current role, works as Culinary Director for German restaurant Brotzeit Philippines.
One of the leading franchises of German dining, Brotzeit has a particularly strong footprint in Asia. Ivan enjoys his role as it gives both the team and himself the chance to be creative. “I wanted my team to be able to enjoy themselves and be very efficient in their operations,” he said. “Cooking has always been my passion, so every day I try to learn something new. I have collected numerous cookbooks over the years, but I treat the recipes within as guides rather than rules.”
Read Ivan’s full story
Charles He’s biggest passion is working with people, while his best piece of advice is to keep learning. It is these two mantras that have served Charles well during his career – after graduating from Les Roches in 2000, his people skills and desire to keep progressing have seen him work in a variety of roles, before becoming Managing Director at Alliance Advisory and Hospitality Management (Alliance Hospitality).
Charles and his team continue to create new innovative products. “We have recently developed some new concepts that could be a breakthrough in hospitality,” he said. “The Comm family of products, from CommBiz, a social business club that caters to both business and entertainment needs, to CommHome, an apartment designed by and for millennials.”
Read Charle’s full story
Erik’s slogan is ‘live your brand’. It is a motto that has served him well, helping him enjoy a successful career as an inspirational speaker and entrepreneur.
Born in Colombia but raised in Sweden, Erik chose Les Roches due to its mix of practical learning, internships and theoretical studies. “Les Roches facilitated an inspiring, hands-on learning environment,” he said. “It challenged me to gain skills and confidence.”
A global career in hospitality has followed, with Erik working for the likes of Shangri-La Hotels (China) and Louis Vuitton (Belgium). He is now focused on his own successful inspirational speaking career. “I embrace people for who they are,” Erik said. “I welcome them and care for them so they can go out and care for others.”
The one thing Erik values the most from his Les Roches studies is the global alumni network. “The network of friends I created was outstanding,” he said. “It’s a family, and now I have someone I know all over the world.”
Read Erik’s full story
Proctor & Gamble, Geneva
After securing a role with multinational company Procter & Gamble, Diana Casalis found herself missing regular contact with the hospitality business. To solve this, she created her own blog, Livingeneva.com, which is now a widely acclaimed website boasting over 80,000 page views every month.
Since creating Livingeneva.com in September 2014, it has become one of the city’s most popular websites. It has seen Diana converse with five-star restaurants, Michelin-starred chefs and international entrepreneurs. She has given interviews in a range of leading magazines, including National Geographic, and her writing has been featured in EasyJet’s Traveller magazine.
While studying at Les Roches, Diana was inducted into the Eta Sigma Delta honor society, which recognizes students achieving excellent grades. She would highly recommend Les Roches to those with global outlook. “Les Roches is not just for people who love the hospitality industry,” she said. “It’s for people ready to be open to the world around them, people that want to have international friends and experiences.”
Read Diana’s full story
Since graduating from Les Roches in 2004, Peter Meyer’s career has taken many exciting and unpredictable paths.
Peter grew up on a South African reserve dubbed the ‘Valley of Heaven’, which enjoyed success as a villa, adventure park and luxury hotel. After spending most of his childhood involved in hospitality, it was a natural choice to attend Les Roches. While here, he had an enriching experience, both professionally and personally. “The biggest lesson I learnt was the way of life,” Peter said. “The life lessons I have taken from Les Roches have been just as valuable as the academic ones.”
Peter then progressed into a range of global hospitality roles, but the passing of his father prompted him to go in a different direction. Now, Peter is a successful actor, appearing in Hollywood films The Commuter and Transformers: The Last Knight. Alongside his acting, he is also an acclaimed author, penning the book The Boy from the Wild about his time growing up in South Africa, the relationship with his father and life at Les Roches.
Read Peter’s full story
Hotel Eden, Rome
Luca Virgilio believes if you enjoy what you do, hard work shouldn’t feel hard. It’s this mindset that has seen Luca go on to manage a range of luxury five-star hotels across the globe.
Now managing the iconic Hotel Eden in Rome, Luca believes happiness is key to achieving success. “I run a guest-centric operation, but it starts with the employees – if they’re happy, the guests will be happy. That means the business will be successful and the owners will also be happy.”
Luca chose Les Roches upon hearing of its reputation. “I heard it would be a great education, plus I liked the idea of the school’s intimacy. It meant there’d be a great opportunity to be really nurtured by the teachers. It was a great schooling and at the same time great fun.”
Since graduating in 1991, Luca has maintained a close relationship with Les Roches – in December 2017, he was asked to be a guest speaker at the graduation ceremony, providing key insight and guidance.
Read Luca’s full story
Barceló Sevilla Renacimiento
Marta’s time at Les Roches has helped her rise to the role of Deputy Manager at leading hotel Barceló Sevilla Renacimiento. She conducts regular operations and team meetings, reviewing guests’ satisfaction and supporting the Hotel General Manager. Her aim is to become a GM within four years’ time, preferably at her current workplace. “Barceló Hotels invest in people,” she said. “They have hotels around the world, and the possibilities to move from one to another are infinite.”
Marta recommends Les Roches to anyone looking to succeed in hospitality. “Les Roches taught me the basic knowledge I needed to face the real hospitality world,” she said. “It gives students the chance to meet people from around the world and build an important network. It was the place where I discovered my passion for hospitality.”
Read Marta’s full story
Shagun’s hunger for creativity saw her demonstrate her culinary skills on her own YouTube channel. From that, her passion and flair has resulted in her becoming a judge on Indian television show Femme Foodies, advocating women working as professional chefs.
Being on the show is a real thrill for Shagun, as it provides a platform to a gender still underrepresented in the industry.
Shagun also works as a chef and sommelier at Coco Shambhala, a collection of luxury villas in the Indian state Goa. “I love the platform I’m standing on. It does not tie me down, and allows me to create freely. It’s very fulfilling,” she said. “I love going out of my way to create memories through food and dining.”
Read Shagun’s full story
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.”
Read Javier’s full story
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!”
Read Sharon’s full story
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.”
Read Seraina‘s full story
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.
Read Tahir’s full story
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!”
Read Dhruv’s full story
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.”
Read Eric ‘s full story
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.”
Read Jose’s full story
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, which got awarded as Best Wedding Planner 2019 during the first Belgian Wedding Industry Awards.
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?”.
Read Eline’s full story
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.”
Read Thomas’s full story
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.”
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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.”
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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.”
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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.”
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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.”
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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.”
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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.”
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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.
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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”.
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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”.
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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.
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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.”
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