Aman after our own heart
It may seem too much of a coincidence that Olivier Jolivet’s life very much mirrors Aman Resorts’ mantra, where simplicity and consistency are keys to success. One may even mistake him for putting on a farce, singing high praises of his brand. But once you’ve taken a step back, you’ll realise that it’s not by chance that he has found a home in Aman. Jolivet not only breathes the Aman spirit at work, he lives it in his daily live.
I moved back to Singapore on 21 September 2008 to join Aman. (Jolivet first came to Singapore in 1999). I remember the day, because it was during the financial crisis, where Lehman Brothers collapsed. It was a total chaos then, but it was very peaceful in Aman. It reflected the lifestyle that we sell, where everyone is at ease and happy.
A must-have during every flight is a good book, along with my computer for reading emails. It’s the only time where I feel completely at ease. I’m currently reading a book on French politics, as there’s a presidential election next year.
My second home is actually on the plane. I fly about two to three times a week. I took 192 flights last year. I usually fly with Singapore Airlines. Its service is consistent, and that’s something that’s very important to me.
My earliest and fondest memory of hotels was funnily enough, in Amanpuri. This was before I joined the company. The hotel was 25 years old then, but it looked so well maintained and new, that I thought the hotel was lying to me.
I enjoy living simply. I had a great time with my family when we went back to France during my recent summer vacation. I wasn’t at any Aman resort, but I still led the Aman lifestyle, which is all about simplicity. We trekked through mountains and sat by the lake. We also spent one full day in the blueberry fields. We went blueberry hunting, and plucked seven kilos. The best part, it was free! To find something free in Singapore, that’ll be really unique.
The one thing I really dislike about hotels is the reception counter. I’m very tired after my flight. The staff at the reception always says the same thing. “Welcome, what’s your name? Can I have your passport? Can I have your credit card?" It’s standardised, but it’s boring. You know what they’re going to ask. And no one will tell you something different. I’d like them to surprise me instead of repeating what they’ve memorised as part of the standard operating procedure. Sometimes I wonder what’s the reception for. Just give me my room key. Being in the service industry is about having situational intelligence. It’s something you don’t learn in school. You have to evaluate what the people in front of you want, and adapt your speech accordingly. It’s bringing empathy into your service.
I like to order cheeseburgers when I visit hotels. It’s easy to make but the results can swing both extremes. It immediately tells you the quality of the kitchen, the freshness of the ingredients, and the hotel’s attention to detail. Another thing I look at in a hotel is the quality of its mattresses. I actually remove the bed sheets to check the quality of each bed I’m sleeping in.
I enjoy collecting contemporary artwork. I have works by two Chinese artists, Zhu Jinshi and Su Xiaobai. I have three paintings in Singapore, and two in France. They’re all in my living room. I don’t buy art to keep it in a warehouse. I don’t believe in that. I love looking at the art I’ve purchased. Each piece speaks to me. Apart from having a connection with the artwork, price does matter. I wouldn’t spend hundreds of thousands on it. I set a budget and stick to it. It has worked well for me so far.
I love Katong Laksa. But I can’t have it too often because I’m told it’s not healthy. I love the black pepper crab too, and Nasi Padang on Killiney Road. It’s fantastic. They have the best beef rendang ever. I love a good glass of Côte-Rôtie wine with a cheese platter. It’s a simple but great way to enjoy life.
The most meaningful gift I’ve ever received is a book given to me by my mum on my 40th birthday. It was a book that depicted 40 years of my life. She had been working on it throughout the years. It was amazing. All the souvenirs, pictures, people from my childhood resurfaced. I was very emotional.
I’m a taxi driver on weekends, driving my two daughters, aged seven and nine, from birthday party to birthday party. When I’m in Singapore, I spend a lot of time with them. We play tennis, cycle at East Coast Park or Resort World Sentosa, and jog. Of course, we go to contemporary art exhibitions. My daughters love drawing. I have their drawings on the wall in my office. It’s their version of contemporary art.
I think it’s important for kids to be bored. I don’t pack my children’s schedule with things. When they’re bored, they have time to think and be creative. They’ll learn to fill their time with something.