'It really feels like a dream come true': working in a Paris palace hotel
"It's a huge source of pride for me to work at a Parisian palace hotel," says Amel Ziani-Orus. The Director of Talent and Culture at the 5-star Le Meurice has hotels in her blood. “I moved with my family from Algeria to France when I was 18. My parents owned a boutique hotel.”
Amel says she did not always plan to go into hotel work herself and first worked in project management. But eventually she changed course to study for an MSc in Hospitality Management at ESSEC Business School. Now, she is the head of HR at one of France’s most luxurious and prestigious hotels – and one with an integral place in Parisian society and culture.
“Thinking of my ambitions during the time I spent at ESSEC, it really feels like a dream come true to be working here now,” she says. "I'm very happy."
Here, The Local kicks off a series of articles on the theme of #MyParisianLife by speaking to her about the joy of working in such a place and how she got there.
Luxury and a rare artistic history
“Le Meurice is one of the first ‘palace hotels’,” she says. “This is a unique designation to France. It means beyond five stars, and describes a hotel with the highest standards of service.“
Opening its current location in 1835, Le Meurice is the oldest Paris hotel awarded the palace distinction and has hosted many luminaries. “It was the hotel used by European royalty, but perhaps our most famous guest was Salvador Dalí."
The surrealist painter was a frequent guest, staying at the hotel for one month every Spring for 30 years. Pablo Picasso also hosted his wedding lunch at the hotel in 1918, and to this day the hotel has a close association with art.
For the last 20 years, the hotel has had a prize for contemporary artists,” Amel tells us. The winning artist receives a grant of €10,000, with another €10,000 for the gallery involved in the project. The luxurious interiors of the hotel are filled with previous prize winners, making it a highly desirable location for magazine photography shoots.
It’s not just art that Le Meurice is famous for, however. Amel is also very proud of the hospitality offered – in particular the gourmet cuisine. “Cédric Grolet, one of the greatest pastry chefs in the world, has a patisserie at the hotel – La Pâtisserie du Meurice par Cédric Grolet”.
The award-winning pastries and cakes on offer are a major drawcard for the hotel. Indeed, even during the Covid-19 pandemic, the patisserie remains open, with Parisians flocking for their daily fix of Grolet’s amazing creations. Despite the pandemic, hotels and luxury establishments continue to survive. "There are of course challenges, but we're able to overcome them," says Amel.
The value of problem-solving networks
So how did she find herself in such an esteemed role? “I did my MSc in Hotel Management at ESSEC!” One of the ‘trois Parisiennes’ of management schools, the École Supérieure des Sciences Economiques et Commerciales has been producing some of the world’s most celebrated hoteliers since 1907.
It’s not just the application of modern technology that distinguishes ESSEC from other management schools. Amel credits ESSEC’s alumni networks and expert teachers as being hugely useful even today.
“I can still ask questions of the networks that I made while at ESSEC if I have a problem that needs solving. I can also contact my teachers for their point of view. ESSEC also organises student visits, so students can see how a luxury hotel works from the inside”.
From her beginnings working in her parents' boutique hotel, Amel now finds herself at the top of her profession – and able to enjoy some of the most enviable views in the world. “One of my favourite places is the Belle Etoile Suite terrace of the hotel, with amazing views across the iconic Paris cityscape, towards the Eiffel Tower," she says.
Studying hotel management has taken Amel from a family business to the penthouse suite of one of the world's premiere luxury hotels. As she tells us: "ESSEC was a huge step for me in order to get where I am today."
All photos by Jesse Wallace for The Local.
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