A LIVING LEGACY
THE ST. REGIS HERITAGE BEGAN NOT JUST WITH A HOTEL, BUT ALSO WITH THE ASTOR FAMILY. THE ASTORS DEFINED THE HEIGHT OF AMERICAN ARISTOCRACY; A LIFE LIVED “BEYOND” DURING THE GILDED AGE IN NEW YORK.
Building on this family legacy, John Jacob Astor IV was personally responsible for creating The St. Regis New York in 1904, the tallest, most advanced hotel of its time. It was here that the signature St. Regis Butler Service was introduced and the hotel quickly attracted the world’s most renowned guests, visitors and residents, who regarded it as “the” place to see and be seen in New York. Ensuring that unique preferences are known and understood in every detail, the St. Regis Butler Service continues to be a treasured hallmark of the St. Regis experience at every St. Regis location worldwide.
The St. Regis Bali Resort takes Astor’s original concept even higher as the hotel’s chief butler happens to be Carlos Constanzo, widely recognised as one of the world’s most sought after personal butlers. With clients that range from prominent Hollywood A-listers to international heads of state, Carlos chats with our editor in chief during a rare interview in the resort’s palatial Grande Astor Suite about what it takes to serve the St. Regis clientele.
ASIA DREAMS: You were born in Chile and raised in Melbourne. How did you make your way to the top of the hospitality industry as Asia Pacific Butler Lead for St. Regis Hotels & Resorts?
Carlos: It has taken me over twenty years to train myself. I have always wanted a career in service and I have dedicated my life to this profession. After attending a proper butler school in Melbourne, our final examination at the Windsor lasted two weeks; and included every aspect of taking care of a guest; from how to iron, pack and unpack to cooking and knowing how to prepare over 30 cocktail recipes from memory. As a personal butler to the elite, one must learn how to wear several hats. In one 24-hour period, it’s possible for me to act as chef, restaurant manager, sommelier, personal assistant, event coordinator, and so on. You never know when a guest will decide to host a last minute, thirty-person formal cocktail party, and it’s up to the butler to make sure it all runs smoothly. From my time spent with many great people, from Oprah Winfrey to Nelson Mandela, I am constantly humbled and taught to accept humility. Mandela is such a beautiful person who has done so much for the world; he is the only person with whom I could not utter a word.
ASIA DREAMS: The original St. Regis Butler Service concept began in 1904 in New York City. How does the concept work in contemporary Asia today?
Carlos: The original concept came from the medieval era in Europe. Asia is originally a service culture, starting several thousand years before Europe. I feel the concept has come full circle, now perfectly polished and fine-tuned after being adopted in America over one hundred years ago. Here in Asia, most personal butlers don’t have to attend school in order to understand the essence of service; they are born with it. As the Asia Pacific Butler Lead, I train the St. Regis Butler Service staff from Bali to Bangkok to Japan and China. I empower them to walk tall, even training individuals by balancing books on his or her head. One cannot serve the type of world travellers we have at St. Regis if a butler lacks confidence. I also empower our staff to handle mistakes and to provide solutions with heart, soul and passion. We serve people from every corner of the globe who often don’t speak the same language, so our only common denominator is the consistency of experience enhanced with the essence of each unique St. Regis location. Service is an international language and language should not be a barrier. We must be able to read and act on body language. The St. Regis reputation rests on our service.
ASIA DREAMS: Being part of the St. Regis Personal Butler team is a very prestigious position in the hospitality industry. How do you select your staff in Bali?
Carlos: We want the flavour of Bali. I am looking for people who already live in Bali and understand the spiritual essence of the island. The Balinese work from their souls; you can’t demand the radiance you see in their eyes through training. They are able to bring the formalities of worship into their work and can learn quickly how to anticipate guests’ needs. One needs to be ‘aware’ in this position, to look for signs without making it obvious. I am also breaking through barriers. In the past, being a personal butler was a sort of men’s club, not open to women. Royal families from around the world love The St. Regis Bali and we often have princesses from the Middle East staying right here in the Grande Astor Suite who require absolute discretion; a personal butler can barely even be seen. I am training women to handle these special guests. Of course, all of our butlers must have international experience outside of Bali in order to understand what a well-travelled guest may need. All ‘front of house’ staff members must be authentic as well as worldly.
ASIA DREAMS: How does The St. Regis Bali Resort meet and exceed the expectations of loyal St. Regis guests?
Carlos: We make a difference in people’s lives; our entire resort is service oriented from the moment a guest lands at the airport and enjoys the chocolates and cold water stocked in the Mercedes-Benz. From the moment they exit the car and enter the lobby; we know their name; welcoming them to their home; we want to create an experience they will be speaking about for their entire lives. Our main job here is to relate the essence of our brand to every guest along with the wonderful sweetness of Bali and Indonesia. We have many families who visit us regularly, and treat the hotel as if it were their own personal vacation home. I am Uncle Carlos to many families and I have seen their children grow from toddlers to young ladies and gents. With many of our families who require specialised attention during their stay, we communicate personally for weeks before arrival to ensure perfection.
This communication is not through the hotel’s general email, but to my personal email. We know their personal dietary requirements; we have the refrigerator stocked with their favourite food and drinks. Many families store personal items of furniture or children’s toys that we place in their holiday villa to create an illusion of never having left. Not everyone wants the stressful upkeep of a third or fourth home, so we maintain the essence of a home-away-from-home experience whether a guest is here with us for a full month every summer or twice a year over the holidays. Often times our return guests ask us to donate items to the local orphanages we work with when they no longer require them. We work together like a family would, creating a relationship through service.