There are three attributes vital for being a top chalet host: flexibility, efficiency and hard work. The fact that there are no specified hours for the job means that with a good attitude to the work, between five and six hours skiing time every day is perfectly achievable.
A typical day usually starts at seven o’clock in the morning, when making it into work early always pays dividends. Breakfast usually starts at eight (unless an earlier sitting is requested by the guests), and is the meal with the highest number of different components – especially in the premium service where a full English breakfast is offered every day. This means that at any one time it is likely that all four hobs and all three oven shelves are in use, requiring constant monitoring and attention.
Yet the job extends to much more than just breakfast cook during morning service, for it is at this time that guests will be planning their day’s activities and will always be grateful for any advice or useful local information from the eternally knowledgeable host.
This is often juggled with doing as much preparation for evening service as possible, so the ability to multitask becomes essential to getting things done in reasonable time. When it is possible to read and work through a recipe whilst advising a group of guests on the snow conditions in a certain part of the ski area and filling in a food order form you know you have cracked it. And the sooner this is done, the sooner the next task can be begin.
Due to the intense nature of providing a cooked breakfast for up to twelve hungry guests it is worth baking the day’s cake prior to the guests coming down for breakfast. After a few weeks practice this takes little more than ten minutes to prepare and forms the centrepiece of afternoon tea, which must be laid out before leaving the chalet in the morning. The more inventive the cakes, and particularly the icing, the more they are appreciated by the guests, and an offering of bread, butter and spreads will keep them going from the time they return from being on the mountain until dinner service.
Once breakfast has been cleared away and dinner preparation completed, all that remains to be done is the cleaning. This is often viewed as the most tiresome aspect of being a chalet host, but it has no need to be. It is possible to clean the entirety of a five bedroom chalet in less than forty-five minutes, just by working swiftly and efficiently – but most importantly, to do it regularly.
Cleaning is done every day, and providing a high standard is kept it becomes very easy to stay on top of it. Forming a routine is always the best way to do it: enter a room, make the beds, fold any clothes and pick up any rubbish on the floor. Then move into the bathroom, rinse out and wipe down the bath, clean and bleach the toilet seat and bowl before wiping down the sink. Then ensure toiletries and toilet rolls are topped up, before emptying the bin, spraying some air freshener and leaving the room – after a small amount of practice it takes no more than five minutes.
Then a hoover and tidy of the communal areas and it is time to leave the chalet. The five or six hours before going in for dinner service make all the morning’s hard work worthwhile. With any luck the sun will just be peeking out from between the clouds after a significant amount of snowfall the night before, and the fresh powder is just too inviting to be missed. The exhilaration and enjoyment of hitting the slopes in such a tailored environment can be found nowhere else, and forms the raison d’etre for most seasonaires.
But chalet hosts work split shifts, and it is always worth remembering there are canapés and a three course meal to be cooked later - so it is always worth getting off the hill in plenty of time to allow a smooth and relaxed evening service. Spending the first few minutes back in the chalet clearing away afternoon tea and laying the table is never a fruitless task, for it immediately gives the impression of infinite preparedness to the expectant guests.
Providing the right amount of preparation has been done in the morning, dinner service is mainly a case of good timing and keeping a close eye on the food being cooked. But a good host must never forget that he or she is exactly that – a host, not simply a chalet cook. It is vital to always be engaging and informative, as well as occasionally amusing and entertaining, for it is the injection of one’s personality on a dinner service which can really make the difference to the guests’ holiday. Getting to know and befriending the guests is the most enjoyable aspect of the job, and the stronger the bond, the easier the job will become.
Guests are usually both ravenous and tired after a long day’s skiing, so get through their meal reasonably quickly. And after they have finished there is the choice of whether to stick around and socialise, or go home and rest. The former is always more rewarding when it comes to tips at the end of the week, and it is often highly enjoyable to mix with a variety of different people.
Yet whatever post work activity is chosen – from relaxation to socialising on a much more extreme level, the host must never lose sight of the fact that the following morning it all starts again, and everyone works better after being well rested. Work hard and certainly play hard – for that is why we do this job – but the good chalet host is an expert at maintaining a good balance between the two.