Great news came out of the Annual Conference of the Leading Hotels of the World held in Shanghai earlier this month: a distinguished hotelman was picked by the membership and the board to be given the 2018 Leading Legends Award. Congratulations PAUL ZUEST.

Four words best characterize him: expertise, integrity, generosity and humor. He is also what I refer to as an "owner whisperer". While less calm operators cannot deal with angry (or offensive) owners, Paul can listen with a half-smile, implying that things could be a lot worse without him. And indeed, they could.

There are so many ways to describe Paul Zuest and his career:

  • He takes personal interest in his employees' welfare
  • He is the consummate front of the house man: the Lausanne alumnus with the double-breasted suit and the discreet cufflinks.
  • You often find him in the kitchen, tasting sauces or even in the walk-in refrigerator, checking on the freshness of ingredients.

Who would not envy his résumé?

A graduate of the Ecole Hoteliere de Lausanne, he spent 9 years as Managing Director of the Chatham Bars Inn, 7 years as Managing Director of Campton Place, 3 years as President of the super-exclusive Jumby Bay, and no less than 10 years with Rosewood, including 5 years as Managing Director of the Hotel Bel-Air.

Ever heard of Daniel Humm? As Chef-Partner of New York's Eleven Madison Park, he is universally considered one of the top chefs in the world. How did he get there? Paul Zuest naturally. A gourmet and a gourmand (an incredible cook himself with a weakness for wild game) Zuest was the Managing Director of Campton Place when he was confronted with the delicate task of finding a successor to his Chef Laurent Manrique (whose predecessors included Brad Ogden, Todd Humphries and the late Jan Birnbaum). He could have had his pick of San Francisco's many outstanding chefs. Instead, he traveled to his native Switzerland and extensively tasted the food of a very young and shy Sous Chef at the award-winning Gasthaus zum Gumpf in the Swiss Alps. No matter which way you choose to look at it, Zuest "made" Humm who he is today. And he did so with more successful chefs and hoteliers I can think of. There ought to be a plaque on his desk, reading 'MENTOR"

Zuest, however, did not go it alone: he has been married for 43 years to his delightful and supportive British wife Jacki. They recently relocated to England, the land of meat pies. He enjoys a good Cuban cigar after walking their Golden Retriever.

By the way, should you need someone to come into your operation or your pre-opening for some well-directed advice, management-team motivation or to sharpen the overall attitude toward guests, Paul still accepts interim assignments, providing they do not exceed 90 days. And certainly no more than 30 days without Jacki.

Congratulations Paul Zuest.

Benoit Gateau-Cumin
The Boutique Search Firm