There is no country that has more cultural influence on the rest of the world than France.
France has long been considered one of the most desirable places on the Earth to visit, and it continues to inspire and move people from all walks of life.
France is one of the oldest countries in the world, and its reach extends across the globe through science, politics, economics and, perhaps above all else, its citizens.
France has cultivated some of the globe’s most impressive talents, spanning multiple industries and areas of specialism including aerospace, technology, cosmetics, fashion, and hospitality, among others. However, it is France’s “Savoir-faire” that speaks loudly about its population and sets it firmly apart on the global landscape. France is undoubtedly home to a gifted community of people who know how to produce things, inspire others and, most importantly, value their most precious asset: Their “L’Art de Vivre.”
For this blog post, it is with great pleasure that I introduce you to a charming, elegant, and talented professional, Mr. François Delahaye, General Manager of Hotel Plaza Athénée and COO of Dorchester Collection. Mr. Delahaye has worked with some of the world’s leading luxury brands and has had the pleasure of serving the Duke of Westminster and Her Majesty the Queen of England.
We met Mr. Delahaye at 6 pm at 25 Avenue Montaigne in a suite of the Hotel Plaza Athenee and admired stunning views of the Eiffel Tower as we conducted the interview. Mr. Delahaye was attentive to detail and went to a great deal of effort to ensure we were comfortable and cared for during our meeting.
Looking at him so confident, sophisticated, and highly educated, you would never imagine that he was once so unconfident and apprehensive that he thought he would never amount to anything in life: “My results were not so good at school, I couldn’t write well and couldn’t express myself correctly; I couldn’t do anything,” he told us.
The course of our lives sometimes resembles that of a river as it flows along different paths but never stops. For Mr. Delahaye, everything started with passion and kindness after he lost his Father at 13 years of age. His first assignment was a summer job working as a cook in a restaurant. One morning, someone came to the kitchen and told him that the “eggs mayonnaise” he had prepared were excellent and the customers loved them. “For the first time, someone told me that I could do something well.” The praise of that man held some very important meaning for Mr. Delahaye as a young apprentice; it taught him that confidence is an important part of success and encouragement is key; a belief that proved itself to this day.
“It is important to say to people that they are good! When people feel good, they do better”
One of the greatest lessons Mr. Delahaye learned in life was to pursue excellence. He also shared his wisdom that, in addition to investing in our education and development, we should always remember to be ourselves. Early in his career, he learned a great deal working for His Grace The Duke of Westminster. One important element is to remain oneself. Despite finding himself serving Her Majesty the Queen, Princess Margaret, Princess Anne, and the Royals during the marriage of the daughter of the Duke of Westminster, Mr. Delahaye learned to not be overwhelmed and to remain focused and above all, keep his personnality. As important as people might be, they appreciate good service and genuineness.
“When you meet important people, you can feel in awe and may not act like yourself. This will not serve you well. You must exhibit your own personality; be normal, be yourself. When you put a “varnish” on, it will destroy your relationship and your chance to set yourself apart and stand out. If you are true to yourself, people will sense your genuineness, and things will become easy; you will stand out more in your personal and professional life.”
But the challenges will always exist, and you will always encounter difficult situations in life; however, it is the way you respond to these challenges that will determine what kind of professional you will be and how much success you can achieve in life. Experiences are what living is about.
In life, you encounter a lot of situations, and each one contributes to the development of your instincts. When you face a difficult situation, your instinct will tell you what to do, and you have to trust that instinct because it was formed over years of good situations and hard moments, Mr. Delahaye tells us: “I have all this data in my brain that helps me to react wisely in situations.”
When the time comes to talk about business and his professional relationships with his employers and partners, Mr. Delahaye becomes even more direct and professional: transparency and management by example are key.
“You need to tell the truth to people as a matter of respect. Sometimes, you will need to tell people things that make you or them feel uncomfortable. However, it is important to face these situations head-on. Sometimes, organizations don’t like confrontation. But to try to avoid it is to hinder the growth of the employee and prevent them from evolving on a personal and professional level. Leaders, directors, and managers are obliged to look people in the eye and tell them the truth. This is a mark that you respect and value the people who work for you.”
“I have learned that we can not correct weaknesses; you only can ameliorate the skills. You have to encourage those skills to grow because you will never dramatically change a person. In the hospitality industry, excellence is driven by management by example. Mentors are very important in life. When you exhibit exemplary behaviour and a positive appearance, people will follow you, will be inspired by you, and will follow your example. You have to be the image and lifestyle that your partners/coworkers want to be and have because they are the first clients of your company.”
The French excellence is driven by a love of enjoyment and appreciating the finer things in life. The French have the capacity to be authentic and attentive to detail. However, they also know when to stop and temporarily leave details aside. Enjoy the precious moments that emerge in life. The chance to dine with our families, sit down around the table, talk to our kids, and learn about one another’s day. Listen and share with people. Besides this undeniable heritage from the past and for future generations, this lifestyle (or Art de Vivre) is also a way to address the isolation and selfishness starting to prevail when, people become increasingly focused on themselves. Sitting around a dining table – as is still customery in France – is sharing and remaining connected in a real and more human way, with one’s family or among friends. Even professionally, it is important to share a meal from time to time. And to use one of Chef Ducasse’s quotes: ‘Cuisine is a diplomatic tool’; thus highlighting how the time spent talking with each other, over whatever food – even if preferably good – keeps us together and linked and happy.
Ana Paula Araujo Mendes
Many thanks to:
Mr. François Delahaye, General Manager of Hotel Plaza Athénée and COO of Dorchester Collection.
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Dorchester Collection is a portfolio of the world’s foremost luxury hotels in Europe and the USA, each of which reflects the distinctive culture of its destination. By applying its unrivalled experience and capability in owning and operating some of the greatest individual hotels, the company’s mission is to develop an impeccable group of the finest landmark hotels through acquisition as well as management of wholly-owned and part-owned hotels, and to enter into management agreements.
Interview Photos Nadjim Ait-Meddour