‘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.”

'It really feels like a dream come true': working in a Paris palace hotel
Photo: Amel Ziani-Orus at Le Meurice, Paris

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. 

Amel Ziani-Orus at Le Meurice, the hotel bar, and a glimpse of its luxury interiors. Photos by Jesse Wallace for The Local.

Masked employees at Le Meurice during the pandemic and the hotel’s lobby (bottom left). Photos by Jesse Wallace for The Local.

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. 

Ornate interiors, high ceilings, and works of art at Paris’s original palace hotel Le Meurice. Photos by Jesse Wallace for The Local.

The hotel offers modern design and comforts, as well as tradition. Photos by Jesse Wallace for The Local.
The school’s vintage – in operation for over a century – doesn’t stop it from offering a top-class education for the digital age. “One of the greatest things the school gave me was the ability to use modern software tools to help operate the hotel,” says Amel. “Many hoteliers underestimate its importance, but it makes a huge difference.”

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.”

Want to pursue your own Parisian dream? Find out more about ESSEC’s MSc in Hospitality Management

All photos by Jesse Wallace for The Local.


5 things to do in Paris on Mother’s Day

Mother's Day in France falls on June 4th, here Lost in Frenchlation's Sequoia Alonso offers her five top tips for ways to celebrate in Paris.

5 things to do in Paris on Mother’s Day

Visit a flowery cafe for brunch

Nothing screams Mother’s Day more than springtime and nature. But, what if you want an even greater Parisian experience, and some food to go with it?

Paris is full of corner cafés bursting to the brim with flowers along the building walls and above awnings. Perhaps the cutest example of this is La Favorite – the pinkest café in Paris (and a well-known hangout for Instagram influencers). You can find La Favorite here.

See a stand-up comedy show

Sarah Donnelly is an American who has been living in Paris for a while now, and she knows both the American and Parisian ways of life.

She used to have a show called Becoming Maman, a comedy special about being an American Mom of French kids, which is available on YouTube. Her current show is called The Only American in Paris, in which she talks about her life and motherhood.

You can go see her on Saturday, June 3rd, at the Theatre Saint Bo Martin – tickets here.

View some antique jewellery

A new exhibition opens at L’École, the School of Jewellery Arts, on June 2nd, just in time for Mother’s Day. Called A New Art: Metamorphoses of Jewellery, 1880-1914, it explores and showcases amazing pieces from the era that aren’t regularly exhibited, including some from private collections.

This is a rare opportunity to see some fantastic antiques – tickets here.

Have a theatre trip

Theatres in Paris host numerous English-speaking shows, and there is no shortage of them on Mother’s Day weekend, as well as some opera that is performed with English subtitles in projection.

Shows on June 3rd and 4th include A Brilliant Idea, The Bald Soprano, The Lesson, La Bohème, La Traviata and The Lion King. You can find out more and buy tickets here.

Catch a Mother’s Day film screening

On Mother’s Day itself (June 4th, remember) you could take her to the cinema.

Lost in Frenchlation hosts a screening of Alexis Michalik’s Une Histoire d’Amour, a moving tale of love, family, and overcoming hardships in life. There will also be a special Ciné Balade tour starting at 5pm for a fun and informative new experience in the city, celebrating French and international movies that have been shot around Paris.

The screening will start at 8pm with the bar and pre-screening event opening at 7pm. Located at the unique boat-themed cinema Club de L’Etoile in the 8th arrondissement, this is one of the most interesting experiences you can give your mother for her special day. You can find tickets here.