Country / City: Malaysia
Profession / Occupation: Hospitality
After finishing his studies at the Ecole Hoteliere de St Quentin en Yvelines with a BTS, Arnaud Girodon started to work in London for four years at various hotels (Dorchester, Hilton Park Lane, Accor) at various positions starting from a waiter to a Beverage Manager. He then moved to Dubai in early 1999 where he stayed for years and worked for various Hotels and Resorts (Jebel Ali Hotel and Golf Resort, Al Busan Rotana Al Murooj Rotana) mainly as a Food and Beverage Director up to Resident Manager.
Girodon then moved to Thailand in 2006 as the General Manager for the Indigo Pearl in Phuket and was then asked to open a property in Koh Samui (Thailand) for InterContinental where he stayed a further two years. Girodon was then asked by InterContinental to open their flagship property resort in Danang (Vietnam) where he stayed for a year and a half.
From Vietnam, he was head hunted to take the General Manager role at the legendary Datai Resort in Langkawi, Malaysia where has now been for the past year.
Why did you decide to live in this country? What aspect of these two cultures do you find most enriching?
I generally love Asia as a whole as I have now been in this part of the world for 10 years, working in Thailand, Vietnam and now Malaysia. The culture, sense of hospitality, genuine care and legendary warmth makes Asia a very attractive destination to live and work in. Also, the luxurious nature and tropical climate surely add to the balance!
There is surely a world apart between France and Asia but we can see few similarities specifically when it comes to meal time! Asian people love to eat as we do in France and the proverb “we don’t eat to live but live to eat” certainly also applies to Malaysia!
Moreover, Malaysian people love certain parts of the French culture – especially when it comes to fashion, luxury products and gastronomy. There are also a few festivals in Kuala Lumpur and Penang contributing to re-enforcing our presence in this country. Malaysians, like the French, love cultural activities in general and appreciate the values of things.
What French touch do you pass on there? What French Art de Vivre are you sharing with others in the country?
The Datai Resort, being one of the top luxury Resorts in Asia but located in a very remote area in the middle of one of the oldest rainforests on the plane, has frankly limited ‘French things’. However, I certainly made it a point to place at the fore our culinary French touches - especially bakery and wine!
I have re-established the wine menu to ensure the maximum presence of French “primeur” labels as I am lucky enough to be working at one of the only Hotels in Malaysia that enjoys a direct import license, which means I do not have to go through a “middle-man” based in Langkawi. I can therefore buy wines that I want and thanks to a good Exporter and the help of good Sommeliers in France, we probably have one of the best wine lists in Malaysia and I have made sure French wines have good representation! We also have a good stock of old Cognac and Armagnac which is appreciated by our guests.
I have ensured as well that we probably have there again some of the best croissants and bread in Malaysia. I have recruited both a Pastry Chef and a Baker who have worked with top French Chefs and Bakers and therefore are now able to reproduce the French Touch at its best!
Which experience epitomising French Art de Vivre in your country and/or city would you recommend?
As Langkawi is a very remote island, Unesco protected, I’d recommend exploring the natural wonders… for French culture, it’s mainly our wines and baked goods at the Datai!
However, Penang and Kuala Lumpur are quite active on this front. The French Art and Film Festival in Penang and Kuala Lumpur are held every year for 10 days in each city and promote French culture at various levels: cinema, music, dance, gastronomy, visual arts, theatre, fashion, including the presence of some French Artists. It’s a very popular gathering attended by over 10,000 people in Penang and over 20,000 in KL.
Also the Alliance Francaise in Kuala Lumpur is very active in promoting French culture in Kuala Lumpur though various activities.
Finally, Kuala Lumpur or Penang being vibrant cities, French fashion, French gastronomy, French bakeries and Café-style coffee shops are very well represented there!