From drawing up the investment budget to a turnkey hotel delivery to its owner, Christophe Cogez manages hotel launches from A to Z! A consultant for nearly three years with Dehoux Conseils, Christophe is also the Ambassador of the Paris Ile de France Vatel Alumni Club.
Christophe, can you tell us a bit about starting at Vatel?
During my last year of high school, I decided to continue my studies in an area that I both liked and one where I would soon be able to start work. At that time, I was hesitating between the hospitality industry and computer sciences. So I did entry exams in both of these areas. As Vatel was the first school to have admitted me, I decided to go with the first ones who trusted me. I’ve only got fond memories of my time at Vatel: student life, the high quality of theoretical and practical courses, and of course, the professors we had.
Can you tell us about your internships and what you learned from them?
I did my first four-month internship in the Jean-Claude Ferrero Restaurant, in the 8th district of Paris. That introduced me to the basics required when running a gourmet restaurant.
After that, in my second year, I went to the USA, to the Novotel**** New York. The two months that I spent in the restaurant allowed me to perfect my “American” English and to understand the importance of being well organized. After just one month in the restaurant, I found myself alone in the room service department, replacing the manager, who was on vacation. The two months I spent in accommodations were also very valuable, and I had to learn how to manage people older than I was.
After that, I went to the banquets and seminars department in the Royal Monceau ***** for my third internship that lasted six months. That was at the end of 1995, at a time when a lot of people were on strike in France. This internship taught me the importance each department has so an event is a successful one. Cost control, kitchens, stewarding, administration and sales departments: we all had to work together to reach our goals. An experience that helped make me sure I had made the right choice while allowing me to meet a lot of great people!
You graduated second in your class. What kind of opportunities did you have upon graduating?
At that time, doing your military service was still an obligation. So when I finished my internship, I couldn’t stay at the Royal Monceau. Even though, when I only had a month left, the Royal Monceau Restaurant Manager and the Hotel Vernet General Manager both offered me great opportunities: management training in the restaurant at the Hilton Orlyfour-star Hotel, or a position as a management auditor at the four-star Hotel Vernet. I chose the latter. These 14 months of internships and the reputation Vatel has was the reason I stood out.
How did you get the job you are currently doing at Dehoux Conseils?
A headhunting agency contacted me at the very beginning of 2008 for an operational position. At the same time, I was doing a personal skills assessment program and was about to become a father. Consequently I decided to look into sales functions.
In 2011, because of my eclectic career so far, the same headhunters recontacted me to offer me the job of Consultant in Hotel Facilities at Dehoux Conseils.
What does that consist in?
My main activity is to assist the “Project Owner” in choosing furniture and equipment, when he or she is building or renovating a hotel or similar facility. We are four consultants who manage these projects from the beginning till the end. Each file includes:
- drawing up the budget with the investor,
- building a model room,
- managing bids with explanations and recommendations,
- production follow-up,
- cost control and
- coordinating on site facility installations up until the hotel is delivered turnkey to the owner.
Two days are never alike! Since I started, I’ve been in charge of files such as:
In addition to that, I work ad-hoc on other files my colleagues manage. Routine work is not for me. The only thing that never changes is change itself, and that’s what I like about this job.
What advice could you give to Vatel students who would also like to work as consultants?
A consultant is a specialized adviser who carries out missions where he formulates recommendations. These recommendations are based on experience and a sound diagnostic of the situation. In our branch, experience and analytical capacities both increase as time goes by.
So, young men and women, move around, travel, work in small, medium sized and large facilities for 10, 15 or 20 years! I’d also recommend working in the luxury goods sector as it is a booming market with very demanding customers. After that, it becomes much easier to adapt yourself to any other branch.
What do you think the future holds for you?
I just finished helping one of my colleagues supervise equipment and furniture being installed in the future three-star Holiday Inn Express Strasbourg Center, which will be opening at the beginning of May. At the same time, I just launched the Dehoux Conseils Facebook page, and I’m now working on our internet site.
In May, I’ll be consulting on a large file in Paris in a sports related field, but I can’t give you any more information about that as of now. In the mid-term, we’ve got the equipment of a five-star hotel in Paris as well as very interesting confidential files that are currently being validated. I’d also like to take some time out to prepare my Validation of Professional Experience file at Vatel. Finally, in the long term, why not do the same job, but on another continent?
What is your opinion today of the Hospitality and Tourism sectors? Can you do these jobs and still have a balanced family life? Why?
Hospitality and Tourism are and always will be, fields where there are jobs to be had. In particular, they allow you to travel. On the other hand, whether you work for a company or for yourself, in 80% of the cases you’re working when other people are on vacation. So it’s not always easy to have a good work/family life balance, especially when your spouse doesn’t work in the same field. That’s why it’s so important to do as much as possible when you’re young. Experience and career changes then allow you to have jobs with more flexible hours.
You’re also the Ambassador of the Paris IDF Vatel Alumni Club. What projects do you have for the Club, and in your opinion, what role should it play for Vateliens?
In close cooperation with Vatel Paris, the idea is to continue to propose events to students and alumni so that everyone can continue to expand their networks. You can’t forget that today’s students are tomorrow’s Vateliens. I’m looking forward to seeing my counterparts in Nimes during our next conference in the middle of May to discuss with them. In my opinion, the role an Ambassador plays is above all to federate Vateliens, whatever year they graduated in, by setting up networking events that are both relaxed and friendly.
How about a last word for the Ambassador?
For all Vateliens: go to thewww.vatelalumni.com site to create or update your profile. It’s thanks to each and every one of you that the Vatel network can live and expand all over the world. Just click on firstname.lastname@example.org for information.
And one last word for the consultant?
And for those of you who are working on hotel opening or renovation projects, I’d be happy to give you a helping hand: email@example.com.