Good afternoon and thank you for your kind and humbling introduction Sonia, members of the faculty, family and friends and most importantly, the Winter class of 2015. Congratulations on your achievement.

It is indeed a pleasure and an honor to stand here in front of you today as a Les Roches Alumni – it was here as the Valedictorian some 28 years ago that I addressed my fellow graduates as we embarked on our journey.

I remember a lot of things about that day. I remember I had throbbing headache from a party the night before like a few you today. I remember I had a serious girlfriend Sabine, whom I later married —that’s important to remember by the way— and she is here today as is our youngest daughter Chiara.

I also remember the 3 key messages to my graduate speech —the ability to say— I Don’t Know, I Need Help and Sorry I Was Wrong.

But of all the things I remember, I don’t have a clue who the commencement speaker was that afternoon of June 1987 and I certainly don’t remember anything he or she said.

So… acknowledging that fact —if I can’t make this commencement speech memorable— I will at least try to make it short.

As we were flying over earlier this week I said to Sabine whom I met here in Bluche some 30 years ago!!! Would you ever had imagined in your wildest dreams that we would be returning to Bluche to address Les Roche Graduates?? Sabine looked at me and said –Carl, you have not been in my wildest dreams for a long time!!!

Today you Graduates of Winter Bacth 2015 begin your journey… on a road called ‘Go For It’… A path that can turn years of dreams into a lifetime of reality.

Les Roches has not been just a school; it’s been a way of life; for many it changed your life (look at me – it certainly did!)

When I came to Bluche in 1985, I didn’t even know where Uruguay was and here I am married for over 28 years to a Les Roches Alumini Uruguayan and having spent a large part of my career in a part of the world I never dreamt of – not even in my wildest dreams!

Les Roches has surely, like it did to us back then and will c ontinue to do, inspired in you the spirit of teamwork, the spirit of solidarity, the spirit of service, new friends and memorable moments. In my case, memorable moments included being in Les Roches the night it burnt down in 1985 and (along with my roommate Eric de Manny) helping evacuate all our fellow boarders from the building – that’s pretty hard to forget I promise you.

You have all gone through long days of scraping dishes and serving water, you have learnt how to carry more than 3 plates at once and how to balance a glass of Fendant on a round tray without dropping it down someone’s back. You have survived long hours in the kitchen with Chefs breathing down our necks and you have learned how to love a nice Swiss Cheese. You have learnt that and a lot more but most of all you leave today prepared for the journey ahead.

Graduation is not the end but a commencement of another stage in your Journey – you are in charge of that Journey and you may not have a lot of experience yet, but you still have a story to tell , your own story – your family, Les Roches, your stages, your travels – this makes you valuable and ready!

I’ve traveled a very non-traditional path on my own Journey and it’s taken me over 10 countries and places I never could have imagined. But, on my way I found 3 keys to success and if you remember little else from my visit today, please adopt these 3 letters to help you navigate your road map to the future.

P-F and G Let me say it again P-F and G

P for Passion – always follow your passion.

F for Failure – because failure is not fatal, and

G for Giving – through selfless acts of kindness

Some of the colleagues I’ve worked with over the years believed P-F-G

stood for Party, Fun and Good-times. They weren’t completely WRONG because if you…

  • honestly follow your PASSION, and
  • truly accept that FAILURE is not fatal, and
  • always GIVE through selfless acts of kindness

You will find incredible fulfillment and fun in everything you do.

Please allow me, I’d like to share 3 short stories to help fill this out and enlighten you to the importance of P-F and G.

I was born and bought up in the Fiji Islands – Paradise, educated in Australia in a good catholic school, and began law school as you do upon finishing high school – my MUM upon seeing that all I was doing at 18 was playing rugby and partying while not having PASSED 1 exam in my 6mths at Law school suggested I take a job as a Barman in a restaurant up the road. As always I listened to MUM – that JOB changed my life – I had found my PASSION – the world of hospitality , serving, making people happy, delivering unforgettable experiences and most all having fun – this was ME! I was over the moon and quickly gave up the LAW which wasn’t very hard by the way! What was hard was giving up Rugby my no 1 Passion until that day – (I should have given up anyway I had 2 broken shoulders and concussion every 2nd week!!)

My Passion for this new found profession was awakened by accident by Mum which me on my Journey AND it is THAT PASSION that has got me where I am today – that LOVE I have for this profession – I mean PROFESSION in a Global sense of all Hospitality has to offer – as I’ve had the privlege to have covered most of the possible Career Paths since I left Les Roches all in one in a very UNCONVENTIAL way .

Today I am GM at The St Regis Punta Mita, Mexico. I spent 15 wonderful years with Hyatt International & and now 5yrs with Starwood, Lived & worked in 10 countries  I have Owned or Managed 6 restaurants with Sabine, ran a Catering and a Corporate Hospitalty Company, Hosted a Cooking Show on TV, been a Restaurant Consultant, ran a ski resort and also ran an Events Company.

This is certainly NOT YOUR STANDARD HOSPITALITY CAREER Path!

AMIGOS – There is no RIGHT or WRONG PATH as LONG as you FOLLOW your HEART YOUR stomach & your passion

So my first 1st STORY is about the P.

PASSION and identifying YOUR PASSION – it’s not a passing interest or a hobby – it’s something intensely meaningful to you – it is part of your DNA – The only way to have a great career is to do what you LOVE – not for money (I promise you our industry is not famous for multi million dollar packages !!

NEITHER Do it for the status – FIND and USE your Passion – WHAT Is it you love and have the COURAGE to follow?

The hospitality industry is full of different options where you can find your PASSION – if you don’t find it soon keep looking and looking – you’ll know when you find it and like any good relationship it only gets better with time.

IDENTIFYING your PASSION is ONE THING but REMEMBER you must share it with your colleagues as it’s CONTAGIOUS and most of all link yourself with others who share your Passions – it is not enough for you to be passionate – surround yourself with people who are as passionate as you are about what ever party of this business you are in.

I was a lucky guy — I survived Les Roches burning down & met the love of my life at Les Roches , survived a potentially fatal helicopter accicdent in Argentina , and a frigtening car accident in Fiji just to name a few !!! But the real luck was finding what I loved to do early in my life. I worked hard in diverse and fun environments and was able to reach my CAREER GOAL of being a GM of a Luxury Hotel by the time I was 40. My passion and a little luck made it possible.

This leads my to my 2nd Story – the F for Failure.Remember Failure is not Fatal

Graduates, I promise you there will be a few tough times ahead – one of the 6 restaurants Sabine & I had over the years did go bankrupt and along my Journey YES I have been fired – that is LIFE. I always recall my Maths teacher in Sydney saying to me – Carl – life is a mystery to be lived not a puzzle to be solved

On both occasions I felt devastated however no matter what happened much like being hit by a huge tackle in rugby I still loved what I did and kept following my DREAM. The turn of both events in my life (going bust and losing my job) had not changed that one bit. I had failed and been rejected, but I was still in love. I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that both experiences weren’t that bad after all – Sabine says it was perhaps the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, I was less sure about everything.

It freed me to enter some of the most creative periods of my life which is what the last 5 years for example have been at The St Regis Punta Mita. We turned a hotel in serious trouble into one of the best performing Luxury Resort Properties in the world and became a leading contributor in the Starwood portfolio.

Your work is going to fill a large part of your life and you’ll face many disappointments, frustrations, losses, and injustices. The best way to deal with most difficulties and challenges is to see them as opportunities to grow—lessons presented to help us go further than we’ve ever gone before.

I’ve never found it useful to see myself as a victim of either circumstances or of other people.

Remember the F. FAILURE IS NOT FATAL, it’s just a detour on the JOURNEY.

My last story is about the G – Giving of yourself which in so many ways can be rewarding.

Many stories come to mind however my real message it that it would be difficult to exaggerate the value of practicing generosity. The virtue of generosity does not merely apply to giving money, but primarily to the gift of ourselves—our time and our service to others. It is an extension of love from our own hearts, taking genuine delight in the flourishing of other people. You will have many opportunities to show generosity in the years to come especially in a business like ours. Never let the opportunity pass – be it a colleague, a client or the community – GIVE & Give More Than You ever Expect To Receive. The rewards are immeasurable.

I remember reading a book called Never Eat Alone which effectively talks about the power of relationships – the power of networking – Do you want to climb the ladder to personal success? I am sure you do !!

Well, one thing is for certain: You can’t get there alone.

The secret to accomplishing your personal career objectives is found in connecting, reaching out and giving to others. What distinguishes highly successful people is the way they use the power of relationships.

Over and over again I have found that the power of Networking has reaped benefits – it was the power of relationships that allowed me to be at work that following Monday after selling our restaurant. The post I have today is thanks to the Giving and resulting Networking I did during my time in Brazil golfing with Starwood colleagues in charity golf tournaments. By the way, golf is the GREATEST networking sport there is.

It’s also likely the ONLY Sport you can call WORK !!

So I recommend learning GOLF !! We have many stories of how GOLF has made dear friends and helped us do lots of business – RULE no 1 when Golfing NEVER TALK Business !!! Just be there and give yourself to others. The business will follow – winning also helps !

Giving will allow you to Tell your STORY, it will help you Build Your OWN Brand and most important it will help you find Mentors and Mentees.

I am lucky enough to have 2 of my mentors here today Xavier Destribats President of Kempinksi Europe & Exequiel Oteiza VP Hyatt EAME – I thank you from the bottom of my heart AMIGOS – your guidance and friendship will ALWAYS be cherished. I must say one thing as life goes on the line between Mentor & Mentee Narrows so we as once Mentees become Mentors – it all goes around and comes around we live and learn from each other Merci GRACIAS.

And now I’m almost finished and you are just beginning a great journey….

commencing your life’s work.

At last night´s graduation dinner your fellow graduate Javier from Uruguay asked me what I would have done differently. Would I skip opening restaurants or a catering company? Would I have stayed in law school? Would I have become a Rugby Player? Would I have preferred to live in Australia? The answer to all of these questions is, no. I believe everything I did had a purpose, even if the purpose was to tell me I was going the wrong way. Every lesson life taught prepared me for what I do today.

I’d say this today : see your life as a journey, pause at moments like today to observe life’s markers, be true to yourself and engage in everything you do. Remember that leadership is not in fact about you, but about the people you are trying to inspire by unleashing their talents, their hopes, their aspirations. And last, if hospitality is your passion, then make sure people are at the heart of your endeavors.

Throughout your journey, the only limits that really matter are the ones you put on yourself. So know yourself, trust your whole self, and don’t detour from your path.

What counts in the end is making the most of every moment and opportunity you have. P-F and G. Follow your PASSION, accept that FAILURE is not Fatal and GIVE of yourself selflessly.

SABRAGE – The END – the last salute

Before I finish today in honor of the LES ROCHES 2015 Winter Batch Graduates I’d like to perform this RITUAL which perhaps can be a LES ROCHES Graduation Ritual going forward. A TRADITION that goes back to the times of Napoleon and that we practice in all ST REGIS properties around the GLOBE on a daily basis – Napoleon said “ In Victory it was well deserved and in defeat it was well needed “ TODAY you are Victors.

So congratulations on your accomplishment, the best of luck, Bon Voyage on your Journey and may God Bless You All.