5 QUESTIONS, 5 ANSWERS
Q&A with Sandrine Julen
Sandrine Julen has been the owner of the former Hotel Admiral in Zermatt since 2017. She grew up in a traditional "Zermatt hotelier family". After graduating from École Hotelière de Lausanne and working abroad, Sandrine returned to Zermatt in 2017 to join the family business. Time for a small question and answer session with the dedicated lateral thinker.
1. How was growing up in a hotelier's family?
Very normal and still very cool! From an early age you are familiarized with everyday hotel life and learn a lot of helpful things for life such as impeccable appearance and behavior. Growing up in a hotelier's family also means enjoying certain privileges. When I was 8 years old, my family started to develop my wine tasting by tasting wine. Actually, I was only allowed to dip my tongue into the glass, but every now and then I may have had a very small sip. By the age of 10, I had started helping out in my parent’s hotel and restaurant as a summer job, step by step I got to know the company and gained valuable insights into my future professional life. I loved speaking with guests from all over the world, thanks to which I now speak 8 languages.
2. Was being a hotelier always your dream job?
Yes, definitely! It is an incredibly versatile and exciting profession. I think it's nice to welcome people and make their stay enjoyable. At the age of 4 I discovered the fun of cooking and experimenting with food. I preferred cooking my own creations at home, which did not always turn out to be an enjoyable meal. Because my whole family and many of those in our immediate surroundings are hosts, as a girl, I didn’t really get an insight into other professions. Only later did I realize the diversity of the professional world and how interesting other professions are, such as Interior design or event planning. However, I quickly realized that these also play an important role in the life of a hotelier and endless occupations are incorporated in hospitality.
3. How high is the pressure when building a new hotel at a young age?
From the family itself, there is no pressure at all. I really appreciate the support the family provide and I have a lot of freedom in implementing my own visions and ideas. I do tend, however, to put pressure on myself, I have high expectations. The older generations think that the third generation will destroy what has been built up, to alter this thought is my incentive. Amongst close friends, where I can just be ‘Sandrine’, are moments I treasure, when the pressure is off and business is never the main topic.
4. At home with a hotelier: what is that like?
For me, authenticity is so essential, to feel relaxed, comfortable and just "like at home". This is also the core idea of Hotel Zermama, we would like all our guests to experience ‘home from home’ starting in December 19. It doesn’t have to be smart, but still I have some habits that I find hard to put off. At a dinner party at my house, you will find a lovingly set table for my guests, globally inspired dishes with local produce and of course always a fine bottle of red wine. My brother and father are both skilled chefs, so to counterbalance to their gourmet food, I normally cook something hearty ... the family often calls me "the omelet queen". I love discovering new creations by freestyling with my cooking. It gets very amusing when friends then stage a 5-star operation to impress, however for me, the conversations and good times are of most importance.
5. Is Zermatt for you ...?
Zermatt is my home; I live here, I feel good here. As a teenager, of course, I had the rebellious urge to get away, wanting to travel and broaden my horizons. Exciting challenges in Chile, Dubai and Moscow have given me the opportunity to gain experience and try my hand at every job in a hotel. It gave me the opportunity to see the big picture and this growing love for the hotel industry finally brought me back to Zermatt. What did I take with me from my trip? The insight into different cultures and, however different they may be, all have the same values at heart.
I hope Hotel Zermama can expand the already very diverse local offerings in terms of hospitality, and will appeal to the right people. It is the love for Zermatt that keeps our destination growing, because anyone who is committed to the continual improvement of the destination is an integral part of it.