Monday, October 8, 2018

TOM ROELENS THE GENERAL MANAGER OF FOUR SEASONS KL IS TRULY A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS. READ MY EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW ON WHY HE CHANGES HIS SOCKS AND UNDERWEAR ON SUNDAYS

KEE@FSWMAG.COM


TOM ROELENS---MAN FOR ALL SEASONS!

NO, TOM ROELENS IS NOT STANDING ON A CHAIR---HE IS JUST NEARLY A HEAD TALLER THAN DATO KEE HUA CHEE! NOTE HIS ENCHANTING BLUE EYEBALLS! WALAO EH
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Tom Roelens, the general manager of Kuala Lumpur’s best new super 5-star hotel Four Seasons is truly a man for all seasons. He started from freezy Belgium to desert Dubai to tropical islands of Bali, Maldives and Hawaii and now in the city centre of Malaysia’s capital!
DATO KEE HUA CHEE discovers the fascinating facets of the man for all seasons.

First thing you notice is Tom Roelens’ height. Accuse him of anything but midgety as he is like 2 metres which is an asset when one needs to marshal others into providing world class service. Ok his exact height is 192 cm!

Amazingly he says “I was quite short until I turned 17 and started shooting up. I think it was due to military service that triggered my growth hormones.”
 GENERAL MANAGER OF FOUR SEASONS KL IN TRIGONA BAR, NAMED AFTER THE MALAYAN HONEY  BEES. NOTE THE SPECIALLY MADE LAMPS THAT RESEMBLE KELANTAN'S SPINNING TOPS! 
LONG AND LEGGY LIKE THE 2 PANTHERS
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Then there is his natural sense of good humour. Ask his age and the reply is “Forever 21” but I managed to dig out his real age which is 47 now but will lapse into 48 before year’s end.

Tom Roelens was born in the Flemish part of Belgium called Deinz and his first passion was cooking. “I was 14 when the bug bit.” he recalls. “I was intrigued by the art and mysteries of cooking and I planned to be a chef. I was already making pastries and cakes and could cook very well. So I enrolled in Bruges hotel school in Belgium as I was impressed by the action in the kitchen and all the hustle and bustle.

“I dreamed of wearing white and mingling with tuxedoed staff in a 5 star hotel. My parents were unimpressed as they said during festivals and holidays I would be working instead of enjoying with family and friends. Mum was right of course but since I had the passion for service and delivery, I did not consider this as work as I really enjoyed the experience. I was really immersed in my vocation and did not even take weekends off. I worked Monday to Friday and continued Saturday and Sunday.

“I went home on Sunday night to change socks and underwear and then I was back to school.”


After completing national service at NATO Headquarters, Roelens switched from being a junior sous chef to hotel front line and went to France, the first time he ventured outside his native Belgium. Of course Belgium and France are not polar opposites but he admits it was outside his comfort zone for a young adult.

For 7 years he worked as chef while studying which was tough but he became an adept at juggling schedules. “My dream was to see the world and interact with all sorts of people and cultures.”

His first big break that would set the tone for the rest of his life was working in Dubai. Not the Dubai of today with Khalifa Tower and Burj Al-Arab the so called 7 star hotel but the Dubai of yesteryear.

“It was the original Dubai of the famous creek and pearl fishing which was nothing much to shout about but then Dubai was nothing much to shout about. Today Dubai is one of the world’s great success stories,” he recalls. “I went as director of catering at the Intercontinental and it was 1975. The Intercontinental was the first international hotel so I was there right in the centre when history was being made before my eyes. I was in charge of food and beverage, the front leader looking after 19 restaurants and bars. Yes I said 19! That’s a lot. The restaurants ranged from French to Spanish tapas, English pubs, even Persian and the usual Japanese sushi bar, Thai fish market and of course American burgers. The hotel however had only 200 rooms and had a novelty---a night club!

“I was only 26 so imagine how thrilled and fascinated I was to work in a totally alien world. A desert kingdom! As far away as possible from European culture.”

He met his wife Sara in USA when he studied Hotel Management at Cornell University during summer course and both ended up in Dubai. Sara worked for Forte hotel as assistant F & B director and later trainer and consultant. He grins mischievously, “We married because we were always feeding each other since both were in Food & Beverage!”

He notes Dubai remains the most liberal of all the emirates as most are conservative. “I was in Dubai when the visionary ruler laid the blueprint and foundation. Now 20 years later all has come to fruition.”

From the heat of the desert, Tom Roelens’ next port of call was the heat of the tropics. “I was again director of catering to Nusa Dua Beach hotel. It was built in 1983 and had 380 rooms and the design has been copied endlessly so most of the stylish hotel design had its genesis in Nusa Dua Beach Hotel, the original grande dame.”

In Bali he got another major break as he became Hotel Manager of Nusa Dua Beach Hotel, the first time he was elevated to this post and has never looked back since.
He met the president of Four Seasons in Bali and joined Four Seasons Jakarta which was then called Regent Jakarta. Now he has come full circle as GM of Four Seasons Kuala Lumpur!

But that was 18 years ago and in 2000 Roelens moved to Newport Beach in California as beaches and him seemed to be synonymous. And would you believe it he then decamped to Maldives which is nothing but beaches!

“I was contracted to open 2 luxury properties in Maldives and you can forget all thoughts of me lying in the beaches under shady coconut trees---I was in a massive construction site for a year!”

Again Tim Roelens considers himself blessed because like Dubai, Maldives was in the early days of tourism and he was again the pioneering juggernaut. Today water villas and trendy huts on stilts are a dime a dozen but it was Tom Roelens who initiated this concept! He grins, “I will let you into a secret. Back then the huts on stilts built over water in the sea was originally meant for those who could not afford the hotel rooms on land or villas high on hills. Today these water villas are meant for the rich!”

Roelens says running the big hotel on a small island was akin to running a township, from sewerage to feeding guests and staff. “I ran a hotel with 100 villas and 400 staff looking after just a hundred villas and serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. Getting there was a 45 minute flight as Maldives is an island nation consisting of over 1,000 coral islands with some of the planet’s most astounding hotels.

“But go there soon as Maldives islands are just 1 to 2 feet above sea level so with global warming, they may be the first to go,” remarks Roelens ruefully.

Maldivian names are notoriously difficult to pronounce and spell so he wrote the names of the 2 hotels---Kuda Huraa and Landaa Giraavaru. “The islands are only 400 and 800 sq metres and they shrink at high tides!”

Like most hotels, Roelens ran a 10-bedroom catamaran called Explorer for 3, 4 and 7 day cruises.

Roelens lorded over his 2 Maldives islands for 3 years before, can you believe, moving to another island nation Hawaii which is more of the same. But he begs to differ.

“This Hawaiian island called Lanai is owned by 1 man not a state or government or conglomerate. He visited Lanai and fell in love with it. Most people in this situation would simply buy a property or build a dream home. But he decided to buy the whole island for RM 1.3 billion. He got 98% of the island, 90,000 acres, a town with 3,200 inhabitants and 2 Four Seasons hotels!

“Of course he was no ordinary man but Larry Ellison the co-founder of Oracle. On this idyllic island you feel like you are all alone and the views are beyond belief. You don’t even have to stay in the penthouse suite at nearly RM 100,000 per night to feel like you are king of the island.” 

Those on a budget can stay in the cheapest suite which is around RM 6,000 per night. Compare that to Four Seasons KL which averages RM 1,000 per night, some six times cheaper.

Bill Gates possibly the richest man ever lived, loved it so much he got married at the 17th hole in the golf course. For RM 8,000 you can take flying lesson in a World War 2 plane. With horse riding, archery, clay pigeon shooting to scuba diving and snorkelling and spa, there is something new to try on land, sea, sky and midway. Roelens call it ‘reimagination’.

As for food, God forbid it’s barbecued fish caught from the sea (you can have that if desired) as Chef Nobu visits often and cooks here for fortunate guests. Well, Larry Ellison is an investor of Nobu restaurants in Malibu and Los Angeles for starters.

“Honolulu is just 20 minutes flight but Lanai is so different and unspoilt with 7 micro climates and second tallest sea cliffs in the world. It has rainforests, beaches and even deserts!”
You would think life could not get better and Tom Roelens would live on this paradise island till he dies and gets buried here but after 10 years, perhaps the bright lights of city life can be irresistible.

“So I came to KL! Yahoo!” he laughs gleefully. “Living on islands is a blessing but after 3 years in Maldives, 3.5 years in Bali and 10 years in Lanai, I think city living is permissible.”
Obviously he would only run a super deluxe hotel after his experiences. “Four Seasons KL is unique as we have 27 serviced apartments, 242 private residences and 209 rooms and suites. Four Seasons manages the entire tower and I was here nearly a year before its opening so I think it is my karma to be involved in hotels from construction to opening day and I love it.

“The staff at Four Seasons KL make the hotel special and unique as they are trained to be intuitive rather than simply take orders. Then there is our undisputed luxury, incredible location and sleek design/architecture.

“Believe it or not, there were around 35,000 applications for just 350 positions so only 1 % was selected. This meant we picked the cream of the crop, the crème de la crème to fill our vacancies including Dato Rosemarie Wee who had been with Shangri-La KL for around 30 years! So I can say---the best for the best!”

Tom and Sara Roelens have no children which is not surprising. “We gazed into our crystal ball and saw a disruptive, jet setting, unsettled life so we decided no kids as education would be a problem. But this is our choice and we are happy.”

To my great distress they have no poodles either, my favorite breed.



 FOUR SEASONS LOUNGE
SCULPTURE ART IN LOBBY



















IL DIVO WHICH MEANS 'THE STARS' IN ITALIAN, ONCE AGAIN GAVE A STERLING SHOW AT ARENA OF STARS STADIUM AT RESORTS WORLD GENTING ON 8 OCTOBER 2018 TO A NEAR FULL HOUSE.

KEE@FSWMAG.COM

HOT QUARTET---VICE-PRESIDENT OF PUBLIC RELATIONS AND MEDIA KATHERINE CHEW, EXECUTIVE VICE-PRESIDENT OF HOSPITALITY & LEISURE DATO EDWARD HOLLOWAY, BEAUTY QUEEN LINA CHUA AND DATO KEE HUA CHEE
IL DIVO 'TIMELESS' CONCERT AT ARENA OF STARS@RESORTS WORLD GENTING
 LINA CHUA AND DATO KEE HUA CHEE WATCHING IL DIVO 'TIMELESS' CONCERT
 LOOKEE AT DATO KEE'S SNAKES COILING ON SHOULDER
TANNY TAY AND DATO KEE HUA CHEE
 DATO KEE HUA CHEE INSIDE ARENA OF STARS
 EVERYPNE THOUGHT DATO KEE HUA CHEE WAS GOING TO OPEN IL DIVO SHOW
 BUT THAT HONOUR WENT TO SUPER TALENTED CLAUDILIA HOLLOWAY, LOVELY DAUGHTER OF DATO EDWARD FOLLOWAY
 CLAUDILIA HOLLOWAY IS YOUNG, BEAUTIFUL AND A FABULOUS OPERATIC SONG
WORLD CLASS SHOW BY CLAUDILIA HOLLOWAY WHO SANG 2 ENGLISH AND 1 MANDARIN SONGS FOR HER OPENING ACT! IL MAGNIFICO! 
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Powerhouse group Il Divo receives standing ovation from fans at Resorts World Genting
The quartet stunned the crowd during their Timeless tour with their vocal prowess

The award-wining group Il Divo made a one-night stop at the Arena of Stars, Resorts World Genting for the ‘Il Divo Timeless Tour Live in Genting 2018’ featuring their brand new album Timeless. 

The tenor quartet acclaimed for their vocals consisting of Urs Bühler (Switzerland), Sébastien Izambard (France), Carlos Marín (Spain) & David Miller (USA) brought their charms, good looks, signature tailored suits and above all broad range of vocals to the stage for an unforgettable performance. 

They kicked off the night with a powerful Spanish rendition of Adele’s Hello and continued the night as a celebration of music that was accompanied by the Malaysian National Symphony Orchestra and fabulous dancers.                                                                      

Urs Bühler, the classically trained tenor of the group hailing from Switzerland said “We are proud to be celebrating our 15th anniversary. We have been through a lot together since 2003 and it has been a magical journey. One of the reasons is that we are singers who sing with all their heart and soul every time we perform. Thank you all for accompanying us along the way.” Throughout their career which started with them being discovered by producer Simon Cowell, Il Divo has sold over 30 million albums, with 160 albums in 33 countries going platinum and gold.

Il Divo proved their vocal stamina with a 25 song set list which had the crowd going that included songs off their album Timeless including ‘Angels’, ‘Love Me Tender’ and ‘Grazie Amore Mio’ from the 1970 film Love Story. They covered a broad range of songs with their own unique twist using their cultural diversity and classically trained voices. 

The quartet also displayed their brotherly chemistry thrown in with ongoing banter between the members that had the crowd in stitches.

 Interspersed in the set list were songs that really showed off the vocals and personalities of the individual members such as the funky Spanish number ‘Granada’ by Carlos, a tribute to his homeland Spain and an emotional rendition of ‘Vesti la giubba’ from the opera Pagliacci by David. At the end of the 2 hour and 15 minute performance, the crowd was chanting for an encore which ended the show with ‘Regresa a Mi’ and ‘My Way’.

Il Divo kicked off in Mexico City and covers various cities in Asia, South Africa, Australia, Latin America and the United States of America. Il Divo made their name by pioneering the genre of operatic pop, or ‘popera’ in classical crossover music. They self-produced their latest album Timeless which includes their own renditions of classics and hit songs.

For more information, call +603 2718 1118 or visit www.rwgenting.com


KATHERINE CHEW, VICE PRESIDENT OF PUBLIC RELATIONS AND MEDIA OF RESORTS WORLD GENTING WITH DATO KEE HUA CHEE ALL CLAD IN SNAKE BAJU
VERY CREEPY CRAWLEY LIKE SLITHERING HOUSE OF HARRY POTTER 
LINA CHUA, GRACE LEE OF MILESTONE PRODUCTIONS, KATEHRINE CHEW AND DATO KEE HUA CHEE

DATO KEE HUA CHEE AND LINA CHUA IN  ARENA OF STARS


KATHERINE CHEW AND DATO EDWARD HOLLOWAY EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT OF HOSPITALITY & LEISURE OF GENTING GROUP
WITH BEAUTY QUEEN AND FORMER MISS MALAYSIA LINA CHUA 
DATO KEE HUA CHEE HAS SNAKES CRAWLING ALL OVER HIM

LINA CHUA INSIDE ARENA OF STARS 
EVERYONE SEATED AT BACK ASSUMED I WAS GOING TO OPEN THE SHOW AS SINGER
CHEERS TO RESORTS WORLD GENTING, THE BEST THERE IS 


CLAUDILIA HOLLOWAY OPENS THE IL DIVO SHOW! 
SO YOUNG, TALENTED AND BEAUTIFUL! A SUPERSTAR OPERATIC SINGER OF WORLD CLASS STANDARDS SO WATCH OUT FOR HER TAKING THE OPERA HOUSES AND INTERNATIONAL STAGES BY STORM!




STUNNING GOWN 










SINGING WITH LIFE AND PASSION






















WELL DONE CLAUDILIA HOLLOWAY, A MAGNIFICENT OPENING ACT AS SHE EVEN SANG IN MANDARIN FOR HER LAST SONG 
SPONSORS 






LEGEND 
















OOOH HUNKY AND SEXY!








TIMELESS




IL DIVO! 
























MOST HANDSOME
































OLDEST FATHERLY FIGURE 
























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MOST HANDSOME, STUNNING AND DROP DEAD GORGEOUS 










































































































































































































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DATO KEE HAU CHEE AND HIS PET SNAKES
LINA CHUA AND DATO KEE HUA CHEE




















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LINA CHUA AND DATO KEE HUA CHEE
TANNY TAY AND DATO KEE HUA CHEE