TRAVEL - INTERVIEW
Christophe Thomas, General Manager at the SLS Hotel, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Beverly Hills
TRAVEL - INTERVIEW
by Melisa Kaya
Beverly Hills is a city of luxury. Beverly Hills stands out with renowned art galleries, magnificent mansions, and a luxurious lifestyle. Rodeo Drive, one of the world's most famous shopping streets, is also a reflection of Beverly Hills's identity, and it undisputedly has the world's best-known postal code. Beverly Hills is a place where high-end service is offered in every aspect, and luxury accommodation is part of this vivid and electric city. The SLS Hotel, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Beverly Hills promises a unique Beverly Hills experience with its exceptional location, just one block from Beverly Center and a few blocks from Rodeo Drive. Recently renovated rooms and suites welcome guests with custom-made furnishings and the hotel, designed by Philippe Starck, is an oasis of modernity, art, comfort, and culinary experience. The progressive culinary program from Chef José Andrés offers robust dining options spanning The Bazaar, Tres, Altitude, and Somni, a two Michelin-starred 10-seat chef’s counter serving an ever-evolving 20-course tasting menu by Chef Aitor Zabala.
General Manager Christophe Thomas leads the team at the hotel, which was just recently named as the #1 hotel in the world, and subsequently #1 hotel in Los Angeles by Condé Nast Traveler’s annual 2019 Readers’ Choice Awards. I was able to speak with him regarding the property’s recent multi-million dollar renovation and award-winning guest programming offered to its guests.
SLS Hotel, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Beverly Hills, is one of the representatives of Marriott in one of the world's most famous destinations, Beverly Hills. What values does the SLS Hotel, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Beverly Hills represent? How does it feel to be responsible for accurately reflecting these values?
Our core values are being indigenous to the destination, embodying the location, and offering rare and captivating experiences. Every seasoned traveler wants unique experiences, especially in the realm of luxury travel. This begins the moment our guests arrive via our red carpet entrance and continues through the distinct programming and memories we help curate for our guests.
How would you describe Beverly Hills in one sentence? How would you describe the hotel in one sentence?
Beverly Hills is a world-renowned luxury destination exuding elegance and sophistication. SLS Beverly Hills is the modern luxury destination where we deliver extraordinary experiences.
You have completed a 22 million-dollar renovation. What has changed at the SLS Hotel, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Beverly Hills?
In celebration of our milestone 10th anniversary, we conducted a comprehensive redesign, which included a newly imagined look for all 236 guestrooms and 61 suites. Our remodeled rooms exude a lighter palette with warm tones and soft textures throughout the room, reflecting the natural warmth and sunshine of the destination. We kept the whimsical touches that are part of the hotel's DNA, including our signature monkeys that continue to add mischief and playfulness to the guest experience, as well as Philippe Starck's distinct use of mirrors and abstract art.
Additionally, we updated our guest programming to include interactive experiences like a guided tour of The Bazaar as well as West 3rd Street and a complimentary cocktail tasting which takes place every Friday at Bar Centro inside The Bazaar by José Andrés. Both of these have become very popular with our guests as they offer an opportunity to discover the neighborhood through the eyes of a local and enjoy unparalleled access to our signature cocktail program.
One of the most exciting components of the hotel's renovation was the highly anticipated debut of Somni, which received Two Michelin stars this past June.
While the official renovation is now over, we are constantly looking to evolve and improve our offerings. For example, our new ticketed cocktail experience – Gate: Bar Centro. The new bar concept takes ten guests per night on a global adventure through 12 distinct cocktails and destinations. Additionally, our fitness-focused guests can enjoy a gym outfitted with the latest state of the art Technogym equipment following a total upgrade of all machines, free weights and gym facilities.
It is not easy to find a place to experience 2 Michelin-Star dining. Please tell us about your team's inspiration for Somni and how this concept came to fruition?
Well, it started with SAAM - our classic fine dining restaurant. We felt the time had come to make a twist to the concept and create something that would be relevant in the modern culinary landscape. The idea was to create an experience revolving around the interaction between chefs and their guests without any barriers between them. With the incredible creativity from Chef Aitor Zabala, the new concept came to life as Somni.
SLS Hotel, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Beverly Hills, has won many prestigious awards. Achievements are the work of good managers and teams. Could you tell us your management philosophy and the secrets of providing quality service?
My management philosophy is to let every single personality shine. Through the years, you realize that everyone has their own strengths and talents. The secret is to surround yourself with people who complement one another while all are working toward the same goal of uncompromising excellence. Another one of my secrets is to inspect what you expect as sometimes things can get lost in translation. Ultimately, passion is contagious. After 30 years in this wonderful industry, I am as passionate today as I was at the beginning of my professional journey. I have been very fortunate to work with some incredible teams. I cannot thank our 420 SLS team members enough for their kindness and commitment to our success.
SLS Hotel, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Beverly Hills is a hotel intertwined with art. Could you tell us about the design details of the hotel and the artworks that your guest can observe?
There's a whimsical sense of storytelling that's told throughout the hotel, and depicted in various art forms from oversized animal statues that great each guest in the lobby to lightboxes illuminating the hallways, to the dessert graffiti in the Patisserie. The artpieces and installations throughout the property are playful, yet thought-provoking elements that speak to the personality of the hotel. A few important details to note:
As part of the renovation, we added custom-made light boxes that illuminate the hallways,with three distinct narratives that represent the hotel's irreverent style and personality: Monkeys in the Wild, depicting carefree monkeys in an uninhabited Southern California landscape; Classics, Revisited, with monkeys popping up in traditional Renaissance paintings capturing a playful yet sophisticated exuberance; and Book Cases, representing the simple idea that behind each door, a story awaits to be told.
Inside each room are handmade needlepoint pillows with classic Picasso prints that mirror the chalk art found in The Bazaar's Rojo dining room.
Speaking of Picasso, the entire Bar Blanca Terrace was inspired by the décor and art found at La Colombe D'Or, a historic hotel in the French Riviera town of St Paul de Vence. What started as a sidewalk café, La Colombe D'Or became an enclave for artists including Matisse, Chagall, and even Picasso himself. Replicas of their works hang throughout the Blanca Terrace, and their art books can be found throughout the hotel.
At Altitude Pool, the inspiration for the unique decor - large picture frames lining the perimeter of the pool – is the city itself. Always a visionary, Philippe Starck wanted to create a living gallery with views of Beverly Hills and beyond as the focal point.
Back again in The Bazaar, each dish is plated with artistic mastery. And our signature dessert – the Dessert Graffiti – is a confectionary masterpiece created before the guests' eyes. Instead of a canvas, our pastry team uses a large mirror. In place of paint, there's macarons, edible pearls, tarts, and mousse cakes that once arranged create a themed composition tied to a specific non-profit organization which our chefs select every month.
SLS Hotel, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Beverly Hills has meticulously renovated rooms. What type of different rooms and suites do you offer to your guests? What are their signature design details and features?
Our room renovation resulted in updated room categories, including two new suites types – the One Bedroom and the One Bedroom Deluxe. Prior to the renovation, all of our suites featured an open floor layout. While many enjoyed this design, we received a lot of feedback, especially from business travelers and families with children, wishing there were more options for private sleeping areas. As a result, we created two new suite categories and updated the design of our SLS Suite to do just that – offer a distinct separation between the bedroom and the foyer.
Total, we offer 15 different room types to accommodate travelers of all kinds, ranging from superior rooms with king or 2 double beds to a range of spacious suites including the most luxurious, our 1,900 square foot Presidential Suite with an expansive master bedroom, a book-lined parlor, grand dining room, living room and kitchen as well as sprawling views of Beverly Hills. Additionally, catering to our guests who want to take advantage of the California weather, we have Terrace Rooms with a large outdoor patio perfect for enjoying early morning yoga or an al fresco meal from our in-room-dining selection by Chef José Andrés. No matter the design, each room features: floating beds with pillow-top mattresses, movable bathroom dividers, infinity sinks, butterscotch banquettes, Carrera marble top bed stands, and 300 Thread Count D. Porthault Linens. Our rooms also feature state-of-the-art technology, including 55-inch Samsung HD SMART TVs with streaming services, charging ports built into bed stands, and dedicated Wi-Fi routers in each room to ensure high-speed connectivity across multiple devices.
Do you have any perks or loyalty programs that you offer to your regular and long-term guests?
As part of Marriott International, many of our guests are Marriott Bonvoy members. All Marriott Bonvoy members earn points toward free hotel stays and nights toward Elite status recognition, which in turn offers its own range of benefits, including complimentary room upgrades, late check-out, and breakfast in Tres. Members can also redeem points for Marriot Bonvoy Moments. Just last month we curated a "Behind the Scenes" culinary adventure which included a two night stay, dinner in the Two Michelin-starred Somni, a chocolate bon bon making class with our pastry team, and unparalleled dining experience in The Bazaar by Jose Andres which included a cooking demo with our Chef de Cuisine and a mixology session with our bar team. The Marriott Bonvoy Moment was redeemed by a loyal member with a love for unique culinary adventures as well as Chef José Andrés.
Thank you Christophe for your time.