Only a few months into the life of Ritz-Carlton’s first property in Saudi Arabia, general manager Jean-Francoise Laurent says that his staff are the key to success
It was at the tender age of five that Jean-Francoise Laurent started working in the “very high-end” chateaux his family ran in France. His father — and his father, before him — was a renowned French chef, sharing his kitchen with his young son, who was eager to learn.
“I was peeling vegetables and rolling chocolate truffles,” he explains. “I spent my weekends in there, though I was at school, and I was not yet professional, just learning and spending time with my dad.”
Becoming a chef was “very natural” for Laurent, but it was a logical step to becoming a GM. While working in Mauritius he was “lucky to meet” hotelier Philippe Requin: “He was my mentor, basically.
He helped me a lot and, at that time, I was a corporate chef for a small group. Then I had the opportunity to manage, at the same time, a 60-room hotel on the coast and I really enjoyed that.”
After 12 years in Mauritius, Laurent had his first taste of the Middle East, moving to Saudi Arabia to become general manager at the Court of H.R.H Prince Abdulaziz Bin Fahd for three years: “That’s one of the reasons why, when Saudi Arabia came up on the map, I didn’t hesitate one second. I embraced the challenge, because I know a lot of people here in Saudi Arabia.”
He adds: “It’s also nice to work in a multicultural environment with all different nationalities in our hotel — that was a key motivator.”
It is with his guests and staff which he spends most of his working day. “I spend 75% of my time out of the office, on the ground with the teams to ensure I visit every apartment every day.”
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