Food meets finance at elite Swiss hospitality school

Right now Clementine Dupraz is busy slicing a chocolate cake, but soon she may be running a luxury hotel, or crunching numbers in a bank.

For this Swiss school trains the elite of world hospitality, teaching them to talk both food and money.

Photos courtesy L’Ecole Hoteliere de Lausanne (EHL)

“Finance has become a more and more important part of the industry,” explained Fabien Fresnel, dean of Lausanne’s Hospitality Management School, an ultra-modern facility set on the hills above the city.

“Back in the old days, a hotel manager would usually own the premises. Today you typically have on the one hand a manager, on the other his investors, plus asset managers etc.

“So the new generation of managers need to speak the language of finance, to be able to track down wasteful spending and keep shareholders happy.”

The world’s first hospitality school, founded in 1893, the L’Ecole Hoteliere de Lausanne (EHL) trains the elite of the global catering and hospitality sector — and is generally viewed as the best hotel school in the world.

High-flying alumni include the likes of Christopher Norton, general manager of the George V luxury hotel in Paris, who compared the school to a kind of Saint Cyr — the elite French military academy — for the sector.

Tuition rests on two pillars, professional and academic. In other words, students learn both how to chop up a vegetable julienne and to carry out an audit of a hotel.

“After 36 years, there are few jobs in the industry I haven’t done,” said Norton.

Since the start of the school year, entry-level students have been juggling a host of new classes alongside the classic cookery and table service, with lessons in food anthropology, or the geopolitics of tourism and hospitality.

The beefed-up curriculum is part of a drive to turn the EHL into an “ideas laboratory”, to make it less of a training school and more of a university and ensure it holds on to its world-class ranking.

— “Students of 90 nationalities” —

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