OUR INTERVIEWS: TOM WOLFE
It was truly an honor for me to have interviewed our dear friend Tom Wolfe, Chef Concierge at Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco and 1^ Concierge in the United States. We always have something to learn from those who have a lot of experience in this job and Tom is definitely the perfect example to follow…
Tom, first of all I would like to thank you for sharing this beautiful memory taken in St. Mark’s Square, Venice. Which Italian cities have you visited in the past and which would you like to see in our country as soon as you return to travel?
Well, Marco, where do I begin? Of course I have to say that my favorite city in Italy has got to be Venice. We have visited several times, and the last time we did we went to Chioggia where we rented a houseboat for one week and cruised the lagoon. That was one of the most amazing experiences in all my life! We were actually scheduled to go there last October, and also do the houseboat experience again. Unfortunately, Covid-19 got in the way, and we were not able to fulfill that dream. Therefore, that will be the first city in Italy we go to when we travel there. We have also been in Rome, which is magnificent, and Naples, which was a lot of fun. We visited Tuscany, which was a feast for the senses, and we even went to the Amalfi coast not too long ago, which was wonderful too: we went by car and enjoyed the amazing driving in the hills. That look all of my driving skills to negotiate those hairpin turns and those narrow roads, but I was able to do it, and we had a marvelous time. We particularly liked the small town of Cetara, with absolutely delicious anchovy oil we bought and back with us to San Francisco. But anywhere we go in Italy will be amazing, you have an extraordinary country!
I know that your working career started in Washington, then you had the opportunity to move between London and Paris to move permanently to San Francisco. Can you tell us what prompted you to change different cities and what fascinated you about Europe?
I first traveled to Europe when I was just 23 years old, and I was fascinated by the different way of life. America, in those days, was still somewhat provincial when it came to world travel, which was mostly reserved for the very wealthy. I was able to see firsthand just how life was in England and lived there for almost 3 years, working at the very luxurious Ritz hotel in London. However, I knew that my curriculum vitae would not be complete if I did not have experience on the continent as well, so I sent out numerous enquiries to different places, although Paris was my first choice. I was hired sight unseen at the delightful Hotel Lancaster, which is still one of the finest hotels in Paris. At that time, The Lancaster was operated by The Savoy Group of London, so I had a very good learning experience as well. I was able to visit other countries, and learned about how different a place can be by just crossing the border. I even visited the (then) USSR which was an eye-opening experience. By visiting so many places, and meeting so many people, I was able to increase and hone my cultural sensitivity; this has helped me so much as I have gone through life! I recommend it for everyone (much easier to do it these days!).
In December 2008 you were elected as 1st Concierge of the USA by Les Clefs d’Or. How proud does this title make you today?
I don’t have too much of an ego, although I am very proud of my accomplishments in bringing Concierge service to the USA, and starting the Section Americaine of our esteemed organization. My proudest moment was when I was called up to the stage in Vienna in 1978 as President of the brand new 19th section of Les Clefs d’Or. This was the culmination of 5 years of hard work, and it was a very emotional moment for me! Later in my career, I would introduce Concierge service as the first Clefs d’Or Concierge in Japan, at Hotel New Otani in 1985. I am also very honored to have been involved in that wonderful country as well. To this day I consider Japan my second home. I do feel that our profession is still a vital and valid one, as people need to be able to say “I have a friend there who is helping me” when they travel to parts unknown. As Ambassadors of good will for our hotel, our Cities and our Countries, we are still in the unique position to be able to help people change their experiences from good to unforgettable.
Thank you to everyone who was helped me along my pathway in life; I treasure my vocation…