It goes without saying that when you manage one of the world’s leading hotels and are hosting the Group of Seven — leaders of the world’s most powerful industrialized democracies, accounting for half the global economy — you better be prepared for contingencies big and small.
Say you’re in the Bavarian Alps and the summit occurs during the NBA finals and the president of the United States wants to catch the 2 a.m. (local time) broadcast of game two and have a snack — chips, salsa, guacamole. You need a plan.
Especially because, as Nikolai Bloyd (Hum’97) well knew, “Nobody can make salsa and guacamole in Bavaria.”
Bloyd is general manager of Schloss Elmau, a century-old spa retreat and cultural hideaway near the Austrian border. Bavaria he knows; likewise, guacamole. California-born and Colorado-educated, at 43 he’s managed restaurants and resorts from Boulder to the Napa Valley to Germany.
So when President Obama’s team let him know that, yes, a late-night game snack would be great, Bloyd had already prepped the ingredients and his wife, Dalia Banerjee, had picked up tortilla chips at a Mexican grocery in Munich. There in the hotel kitchen, before an audience of six — secret service agents, Navy chefs and German secret service — Bloyd mixed up the salsa and guac.
Apparently, the dish went over well: Bloyd later found the plates clean.
That’s a quirky story from a two-day gathering in 2015, when the eyes of the world were watching Schloss Elmau. Bigger things were afoot, of course, and if all went well, months of planning would play out as a mix of orchestrated movements and agreeably spontaneous events.
But careful planning is no guarantee that things won’t go horribly wrong.
Take the high school camping trip when Bloyd was atop Yosemite’s Half Dome and his appendix burst. He had to be airlifted out. Or August 2005, when Bloyd had been working a few years as assistant general manager at Schloss Elmau, and a guest room fire became a conflagration. No one was injured, but the hotel was destroyed and would take years to rebuild.
Or the vagaries of geopolitics: When preparations for the political summit began, the body was called the G8 because it included Russia. Then Russia seized Crimea and was uninvited, complicating planning at Schloss Elmau (not to mention the affairs of nation states).
For Bloyd, the road to Schloss Elmau began in Boulder, just off Baseline.
“Three years as manager at the Dark Horse in Boulder — that’s the basis of all my experience leading me to the G7,” he said. “Seriously.”
While a student, he started working at the storied tavern as a doorman/bouncer, then as a bartender and, ultimately, as a manager. The job paid for books and skiing and taught Bloyd the arts of inventory, marketing, accounting and customer satisfaction.
After graduation he returned home to Northern California and joined the staff of Meadowood, a luxury resort in Napa Valley, steeping himself in large-scale, high-end hospitality management.
When business plummeted amid the 2001 economic recession, Bloyd wrote the owner of Schloss Elmau and expressed interest in working there until the hospitality industry rebounded in the States. Bloyd’s mother is German and her family had visited the Schloss for generations. Nikolai had been there as a boy.
Founded in 1916 as a retreat offering alpine surroundings and classical music, it was gorgeous, secluded, a bit sleepy and old-fashioned, with first-rate concerts. The place drew families back year after year. Now it drew Bloyd, who served as assistant general manager through summer 2005 — when a devastating fire shut it down.
The road to Schloss Elmau began in Boulder, just off Baseline.
The fire posed the question: What would rise from the ashes?
As the owners sorted that out, Bloyd returned to California and managed the Auberge du Soleil in Napa Valley.
When the Schloss resort reopened in 2007 as Schloss Elmau Luxury Spa Retreat & Cultural Hideaway, it had a Michelin-starred restaurant and a Turkish-style hamam spa — the largest outside of Istanbul. Come 2010, Bloyd was back in action as Elmau’s general manager.
His mission: Ensure service was world class.
With construction of a new building of luxury suites underway in 2014, it became clear they needed to be special accommodations indeed: Germany was scheduled to host the summit in 2015 and German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Elmau, near Garmisch-Partenkirchen, would be the place.
For the world leaders expected to attend, the suites would have to be equal — 150 square meters each. Obama and Putin (if he came) would need their own elevators.
The Americans came to assess security. Other delegations reached out with requests. A month out, Bloyd hammered out details for dinner. A week in advance, the Americans laid their own communications network — fiber optic cables, CAT5, the works. They occupied the top two floors of one wing.
All this to prep for a two-day meeting, albeit an important one. Among its outcomes was a pledge by the G7 countries to go carbon-free by 2100.
A few years ago, if you’d asked Bloyd to name his most intense experience in hospitality, he might have cited a few celebrity wine auctions — “Tony Blair, Al Gore, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Nancy Pelosi all there at once.”
But that was before the G7.
“This definitely took the cake,” he said.
Photos courtesy Nikolai Bloyd/Schloss Elmau