Looking to send someone special flowers, get tickets to the hottest show, or nab a reservation at the most sought after restaurant? Chances are Stéphane Mouttet can help. Chief concierge at the Shangri-La Hotel, Mouttet has been providing top-notch service to visiting dignitaries and hotel guests for 25 years.
Having spent his childhood and youth in Grenoble, France and his adult life in Canada, Mouttet is the perfect embodiment of Old World meets New World. He possesses the easy charm and warmth of North American hospitality while having been trained in traditional European sensibilities. He graduated from the International Concierge Institute in Paris in 1990.
Mouttet made his way to Vancouver after completing one year of mandatory military service in the French army. With two suitcases, a duffle bag and $500 in his pocket, Mouttet landed his first concierge job at the Four Seasons Hotel. He has been attending to the needs of guests ever since. The 44-year-old will be the first to tell you being a concierge is more than simply answering questions. It requires discretion, knowledge and resourcefulness to make the seemingly impossible possible.
He would also say it's important to stay connected. When not taking care of his guests, Mouttet can be scouring newspapers, exploring the city and attending events and openings. Mouttet is the current director of the B.C. Region of Les Clefs d'Or Canada, an organization that represents the country's top concierges.
What is Les Clefs d'Or?
Les Clefs d'Or Canada is part of an international association, Union Internationale des Concierges d'Hôtels or Les Clefs d'Or, which has more than 3,500 members worldwide. It's the benchmark for excellence in guest service and currently there are some 130 Canadian members from coast to coast. You can recognize Clefs d'Or concierges by the keys on the lapels of their uniforms. These gold crossed keys are more than just the symbol of the organization- they represent guaranteed, quality service.
What's required to be a top concierge?
To be eligible to apply for membership in Les Clefs d'Or, a concierge must have worked in a hotel for five years, with three years as fulltime concierge. The application process involves examinations by email, telephone calls, mystery shopper visits, a comprehensive written test and an oral presentation. In addition the concierge must actively volunteer in the various charitable events and participate at many concierge social gatherings.
Biggest misconception about concierges?
Movies have a tendency to perpetuate the myth that we can and will secure anything on behalf of a guest: simply untrue. Les Clefs d'Or has its "Code of Ethics" to which all members must adhere.
Biggest misconception people have of Vancouver?
It's cold and snows a lot like most of Canada.
Stupidest question asked?
There are no stupid questions. My guests are from all over the world and I am happy to answer any questions they may have about our city and people.
Least favourite question?
Where is Victoria "island"? Craziest request?
Arrange for a Champagne bubble bath.
Most asked about person?
People do tend to ask about celebrities in Vancouver, but that is a "no go" topic for many hotel brands and our profession. Discretion is key.
Toughest part of the job?
To stay calm and collected while trying to solve a hundred things at once, or to look fresh after 10 hours of work.
It was to be asked by Mr. Stephen Darling, former general manager of the Shangri-La Vancouver, to unlock the hotel doors and welcome the very first guests to the Shangri-La Vancouver on opening day.
The Japanese tourists are the nicest and most polite people to serve.
Most difficult tourists?
There are no "difficult" guests- perhaps challenging, but here I will invoke discretion and decline to be specific.
Most memorable celebrity encounter?
The Aga Khan. I was his private butler during one of his visits to Vancouver. I felt very privileged and honoured to be able to stay close to him while knowing that there are so many people outside wanting to have just a glimpse of him.
Best place for coffee?
A quaint little coffee shop called Le Marché St. George.
Best kept secret?
Clayburn Village in Abbotsford. It is a lovely store with very passionate owners who travelled around Europe discovering some delightful products. Otherwise, I love going to the Farmers Market to have a crêpe at Café la Bohême.
Local person you most admire?
Carole Taylor. She is intelligent, elegant, distinguished and yet very humble about what she has done for our province.