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INTERVIEW: Cyrielle Castelli, director of human resources, Cheval Blanc Paris


The opening of a new venue, Cheval Blanc, inevitably marks the demanding environment of luxury accommodation. Indeed, each opening appears like a universe of its own, in perfect symbiosis with its positioning and its hosts’ expectations. Cheval Blanc Paris seems to be one of the most promising openings for 2020.

First and foremost, because this project is the rebirth of a mythical building in the heart of Paris: a tribute to the Art Deco legacy and to the French know-how and handicraft. But also because it conveys a new contemporary spirit within the authentic city of Paris.

In this regard, the resurgence of this historical setting was orchestrated by a variety of talents working hand in hand for the new opening: architect Peter Marino, three-star chef Arnaud Donckele, in charge of the gourmet restaurant, the House of Dior, honouring a singular promise at the Dior Spa Cheval Blanc Paris, and many other talents.

Cyrielle Castelli, director of human resources at Cheval Blanc Paris, agreed to open the backstage of this new destination which will undoubtedly mark the beginning of an urban story for the Maisons of the Cheval Blanc collection. – How is the setting up of teams organized when opening an establishment such as Cheval Blanc Paris?

Cyrielle Castelli – We implemented a staged recruitment strategy: the hiring process initially started directly on our networks and through recruitment agencies, namely for our managerial and directional teams. Then, a second phase focused on the accuracy of our values and of those linked to the behavioural and technical competencies we were looking for. This method enabled us to define the job profiles required and to determine where to find our future Ambassadeurs (the name given to our collaborators). A second recruitment strategy was developed later, this time in terms of volume, and has just begun, thanks to dedicated recruitment days.

V.J. – What social skills and expertise do you seek in your future collaborators?

C. C. – We give priority to talents, of course, but also to candidates showing interpersonal skills and presenting qualities such as sincerity, authenticity and humility. In our view, it is of primary importance to have the humility of always reassessing ourselves, to seek excellence and to never take for granted the fact that we are one of the major actors in luxury. Generosity, the will to share and be nice to others are also highly valued qualities. Therefore, our desire is to recruit people who are naturally curious, who have a will to learn and grow, with the aim of creating tailored and original experiences for our hosts but also among Ambassadeurs.

As for managing positions, we seek benevolent skilled leaders to guide, supervise and coach teams, make them grow, but also inspire and energise them, and instil in them the will to please others on a daily basis. In a word, we value responsible people, concerned with their working environment.

V.J. – Human resources jargon seems to evolve and become more diverse. Nowadays, we speak of “human wealth” or “talent manager”. In your view, what is responsible for that change? The evolution of the position of HR Manager or the relations within the company?

C. C. – In our work, a high degree of technical expertise is required in many fields, particularly legal. Nevertheless, the priority of a HR service is to detect talents and support their evolution inside or outside the company. Therefore, the human aspect is essential. Our responsibility also lies towards the business sector in which we are evolving, as we know how high the tensions related to the recruitment process can be. Our fundamental role is to transmit our passion and convert professionals, making them love luxury accommodation, but also to make them evolve within it. In this regard, HR management at Cheval Blanc Paris is handled by five persons only: a recruitment manager, a training manager and two assistants, focused on talent-spotting outside as well as inside our collection. The HR team is indeed organized to allow mobility within the LVMH Group, but also to allow our Ambassadeurs to evolve in their profession, or in other professions, for that matter, sometimes even off hotel grounds, as they need to enrich their experience through our contact but also through our colleagues’. This is often the case in the kitchens, where, from one season to another, we recommend our talents to our colleagues for the duration of one season, after which these talents come back to us, enriched with another experience.

Arnaud Donckele ©Matias Indjic 

V.J. – What are the benefits of your employees?

C. C. – We are working, of course, on attractivity in terms of salary, but also of social benefits. We mainly decided to focus on visible monthly benefits, not necessarily conditioned by seniority. Nowadays, this approach is increasingly sought after and valued by very mobile professionals. We mainly invest in the support of our teams. For the opening, a dedicated training programme was developed for everyone according to their profile and competences. That way, our Ambassadors are offered individualised training paths, both to get a grip of their new position and integrate the company, and also to have the possibility to evolve in it.

They are also granted a privileged access to certain offers like advantages, preferential rates or even the possibility to get in touch with some of the personalities working with us (chef, pastry chef).

V.J. – All Cheval Blanc venues have become emblematic ever since their opening. In your view, what is the strength of this collection in the landscape of luxury accommodation in France and in other countries?

C. C. – In each destination, our Maisons have stood out, not only thanks to a service of excellence, but also and mainly thanks to ultra-customization. A limited number of keys allows us to anticipate our guests’ expectations to offer them truly customized experiences. The implementation of all Cheval Blanc venues is also an important factor: they are all exceptional environments allowing our hosts to fully enjoy their destination. That is exactly the case with Cheval Blanc Paris, nestled in the heart of the historical Paris, facing the Seine.

Maxime Frederic ©Matias Indjic

V.J. – Transforming a mythical place such as La Samaritaine into a luxury hotel is an huge challenge. Can you unveil a few exclusive features about the opening?

C. C. – We already revealed many novelties… The hotel’s culinary offer will also be exceptional with a gourmet restaurant run by chef Arnaud Donckele, and sweet delicacies imagined by pastry chef Maxime Frédéric (previously Four Seasons George V).

The venue was imagined to highlight their respective savoir-faire, but also the creations they will develop for Cheval Blanc Paris and its hosts. Four points of sale will compose the restoration offer: as we said, a gourmet restaurant, but also an Italian restaurant, a revisited French brasserie and a coffee-lounge-bar. The House of Dior and the teams of Cheval Blanc are working on our well-being and spa universe and are developing for us an exclusive expertise, both on the treatment selection and on the exclusive Cheval Blanc Paris products. Lastly, we will open a remarkably unique area in Paris: L’Appartement. Unique not only in terms of size, 1,000 m2 (10,700 sq ft) distributed over the last floors of our Maison, but also because of its unprecedented view over the Seine and the most famous Paris monuments, from the Eiffel Tower to Notre-Dame-de-Paris. Naturally, L’Appartement comes with a tailored service and a 41 ft-private swimming pool.

V. J. – What is your personal luxury?

C. C. – I would say the possibility to allow time for my great passion, which I am very fond of, apart from the accommodation and gastronomy universes: reading. Being able to treat myself with an evening with a book... that is my private luxury.


Cheval Blanc Paris

8 Quai du Louvre

75001 Paris - France