Stefan Fuchs, GM, Jumeirah at Etihad Towers spoke to UAE media recently. Excerpts from the interview as below:
How did you enter hospitality?
I am trained as a lawyer by profession and during my time at university I made ends meet by working as a waiter within a Michelin-starred restaurant. They bought me my first tuxedo as a uniform and I quickly became smitten with hospitality and service, which developed into a passion and then a career. Once I finished my law studies I completed an MBA in hospitality management summa cum laude and have not looked back since.
What are the changes you have seen OR how have you seen this industry evolving ?
Luxury hospitality remains bespoke but its formality is becoming more casual. It’s not so much about the bling and gold anymore, but more the use of quality crafted materials, unique design, thoughtfulness and guests feeling good. It’s more introverted and about personal wellbeing rather than extroverted ostentatiousness.
Dining too follows this trend in becoming more casual and comfortable with a focus on enjoyment rather than ritual. Elements of excitement are increasingly coming to the fore in terms of venue design and food presentation. Ingredients naturally have to be of the highest quality and guests are increasingly seeking traditional menu dishes reminiscent of what their grandmother might have prepared. It’s a very exciting time.
What makes UAE special for you?
The UAE must be one of, if not THE, most international place in the world. Other places might be multi-cultural, but the UAE is truly international. This achievement is the result of its quiet confidence to welcome international guests from all corners and from all walks of life in increasing numbers. This takes a unique mindset and is rare among the world’s populations and nations. As a result workplaces are incredibly culturally diverse. At the Jumeirah at Etihad Towers alone I work alongside colleagues representing over 60 nationalities, all of them bringing their own unique approaches, experiences and expertise to hospitality and service. This makes for a wonderfully dynamic and creative environment that I appreciate immensely and regularly draw from for inspiration. Cultural diversity is warmly welcomed here in the UAE. It’s a country that is consistently looking forward and to the future, with a confidence borne from a constant and strong connection to its heritage and past. The UAE’s visions and aspirations are rooted in connectedness and openness and are inclusive to all. It’s a very inspirational place to be.
Some of your distinguished works in past ?
I have had the very good fortune to be involved in many special projects that will always remain dear to me. In the past I have opened six hotels, been a member of the organizing committee for the Asian Games in Doha in 2006, was responsible for the catering of visiting royalty, presidents, heads of state and other dignitaries at the first Formula 1 race in Abu Dhabi, was Operations Director for the Islamic Conference held in Doha as well as responsible for the Ramadan Iftar Tent at Madinat Jumeirah in Dubai. All of these events were very special in their own unique way and a privilege to have been associated with. However it’s not necessarily exclusively the realm of large and grand events that remain the most distinguished. Equally memorable and deeply moving are also the smaller moments and events of preparing exclusive dining and hospitality experiences for guests and stakeholders for example, or those little historical moments, like walking in the hotel’s lobby the evening before opening, knowing that the hotel’s doors once opened are never to be locked.
What are the challenges in front of you in your new role?
I’m a great believer that excellence is not a skill but an attitude that must be constantly revisited and worked upon. Maintaining our market leadership within a challenging and growing market presents many challenges, but we are prepared for it with the right mindset, dedication and determination to succeed. Through creativity and innovation we have challenged ourselves to remain at the top of our field, seeking new ways to delight and provide elements of pleasant surprise for our guests. We have taken the challenge to maintain Jumeirah at Etihad Towers’ leading role as a culinary destination of excellence, not only within Abu Dhabi, but within the whole UAE and region as a whole. Our challenge is to now take our reputation and awareness from Abu Dhabi to the world. It is no small order but we are energised and ready.
What is your new objective?
To make Jumeirah at Etihad Towers the most innovative and well-regarded hotel in the region. In order to achieve this, exceptional guest satisfaction will be key, and this can only be achieved with happy colleagues performing at their best. As such my colleagues will remain an area of emphasis, engagement and importance, ensuring their training needs are well taken care of and their skill base is constantly expanded and polished.
What else interests you apart from work ?
For fitness I play Polo whenever the opportunity reveals itself, however one of my great passions is to take advantage of the fact that I live in Abu Dhabi with its amazing location on the Arabian Gulf and explore its hundreds of islands and islets with my motorboat. Abu Dhabi’s untouched nature and uninhabited islands are one of the emirate’s great secrets and offer wonderful scenic opportunities for solitude, rejuvenation, and special BBQs with friends.
What is the most memorable event of your life ?
What a difficult question! There are so many! One special moment however that I relive now each year is yachting with close friends around Valencia in Spain. We explore isolated beaches, set up bonfires under the open night skies, grill fish caught that day, as well as make paella. It’s rather simplistic, but very dear to me and something that I look forward to each year.