general manager of the newly opened Mandarin Oriental Dhara
Dhevi Resort is Patrick-Denis Finet. He is French, as you could
probably deduce from his name. Listen to him speaking and he is
so French you can practically see the Grand Palace of
Versailles, in whose shadow he was born.
He came from a well-to-do and well-connected
family, with his father working for UNESCO in Paris; however, he
did not fit into the mould that Finet the elder imagined for his
son. He had an urge to travel overseas, but Finet Senior said,
“Know your own country first,” so Patrick-Denis bought a
Eurail ticket and covered 15,000 km visiting Switzerland, Italy,
Greece and Yugoslavia. He also ran out of money on this trip and
rang his father reverse charges to ask for subsidy, as he had to
return to Paris for his studies. Pere Finet refused and it took
him several days to get back and four days late.
Patrick-Denis also showed from an early age
that he had a very strong artistic streak in his make-up. As a
career he felt that he would like to be an art conservator, and
chose the ‘Ecole de Louvre’ to study the history of art.
To counteract this, his father sent him to
enrol in a boxing school in Paris, perhaps hoping that pugilism
would beat it out of him. Unfortunately (for father) there was a
ballet school in the same building, and 17-year-old
Patrick-Denis used his father’s money to pay for ballet
classes. “I was a bit too eccentric for my Versailles family.
It was time for me to go,” said Patrick-Denis, who then left
the security of the family home. In retrospect this was to be
the turning point in his career path. However, he did say, “My
parents gave me the old values - respect and pride. These values
help you a lot in life.”
He continued with his study at the Ecole du
Louvre, paying for his education and his ballet and jazz dancing
classes by working as a part-time model in the day and working
in a hotel at night.
As he progressed at the Ecole he began to
look at the employment opportunities that being an art
conservator offered for him. The future looked progressively
bleak as there were no real jobs in the offing. He then felt
that he should go into the hospitality industry, to be again met
with little parental encouragement. “Do you think that being
an ‘aubergist’ is fun?” said his father, but Patrick-Denis
thought that it would, and went to hotel school for the next two
He began at the bottom, as we are all
destined to do, and became an assistant manager and then manager
of a small hotel in the Latin Quarter of Paris, an area that
spawned many artistic careers, including that of singer Charles
Aznavour (more later).
It was here that he was offered a job in the
Caribbean, to which his family (predictably) said no.
Patrick-Denis on the other hand had already found out that if he
stayed in Paris he would have to be more than 50 years old
before he would be offered a good position, so he accepted the
overseas posting. He did want to travel and see the world, but
claimed that this was not a move to fuel ambition. “It was a
French island, and I was curious, more than ambitious.”
So the curious Patrick-Denis moved away from
La Belle France and began his life’s adventure. “I used to
think I didn’t like adventure, but I liked the challenge.”
He also believes that his training as a dancer has helped him
rise to the various challenges that young hoteliers face on the
way up. “Having been a dancer, you have to go ‘deeper’ and
‘higher’ and find in yourself the energy to do it.”
He continued deeper and higher, the
hospitality industry being good at recognizing potential, and
while working in a prestigious island resort in Mauritius was
offered the posting to the Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi Resort.
He took it, to meet the challenge that the new project offered
him. He had already opened beach resorts, but this Chiang Mai
property was something quite different.
Another challenge that he has to meet in his
profession is to recognize and foster potential talent in his
staff, just as he himself was fostered. “This is one of my
highest joys,” said Patrick-Denis. He also has other
challenges that he has to meet, or wants to meet. His life is so
busy these days that he does not have the time to sculpt or
paint, previous artistic hobbies, but he would like to go to
photography school and immerse himself in another art. He has
met many famous photographers, including the late Helmut Newton,
from whom he purchased a signed original print, at a price that
makes Patrick-Denis still wince.
Another challenge also undoubtedly results
from his artistic ‘feeling’ nature - he does admit that he
can become depressed if he were to allow it. “This is my
personal challenge,” he said simply. As ways to meet this, he
reads and listens to music. “Perhaps I am ready for yoga and
meditation,” he said. “This is a time of change for me.”
It sounds that perhaps the Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi
Resort’s spa area may even have its GM as a client!
Comparisons with the previously mentioned Charles Aznavour,
another well known artistic Frenchman, are in order. Aznavour
once wrote, “My shortcomings are my voice, my height, my
gestures, my lack of culture and education, my frankness and my
lack of personality.” He is the antithesis to Patrick-Denis
Finet, who is tall, personable with an obvious culture and
education, a soft lilting voice and the epitome of politeness.
However, I did not enquire as to whether Patrick-Denis could
sing! He is certainly one of France’s more interesting
exports, and enjoying his stay here at Chiang Mai’s Mandarin
Oriental Dhara Dhevi Resort.