Last month saw the dawn of a new era at Mont Rochelle Hotel & Mountain Vineyards when Dalene Claassens was announced as their new Estate Manager. We wanted to get to know Dalene and find out what plans she has for Mont Rochelle so we gave her a grilling:
Congratulations on the appointment Dalene, can you tell us about the path that has brought you to Mont Rochelle?
I studied hospitality management and then started working at La Couronne (now known as Mont Rochelle) as a receptionist. From there I worked myself up to the position of Deputy General Manager. I then left and spent three years as Operations Manager at Zorgvliet before Erwin Schnitzler (owner of Mont Rochelle) asked me if I would like to come and assist him with the renovations of Hotel Des Mille Collines in Rwanda and from there I got the offer to return to Mont Rochelle and take the position of Estate Manager.
What made you want to work in the hospitality industry?
I love that no two days are the same and you meet new people daily.
So what have you done to make your mark on the hotel?
First of all I make sure I work with my team, I want them to know I can also get my hands dirty and make them feel we are all part of one family.
I make sure all our guests receive a warm welcome and are treated as friends throughout their stay.
Are there any exciting things going on at the hotel this year?
For now we are all very excited about the upgrades of the rooms especially in the garden wing and I’m just loving seeing the end results. We have a lot of plans like a beer festival and whiskey and chocolate evenings at Country Kitchen, but the first priority is training the staff and sorting out the areas that need attention.
What do you like best about working at Mont Rochelle?
The view, especially in autumn, seeing all the lovely colours on the vines is gorgeous. Most of the time I would like to be a guest and sit back, relax and just enjoy the mountains.
Then there are all the characters we have working at the hotel like Denver, one of our duty managers, we say he is part of the furniture. Abe the driver was a bit scared to drive the new company vehicle but always goes out of his way to make people feel special.
And Joslin’s risotto dishes in Country Kitchen are all winners as is the Thai curry in Mange Tout!
If guests asked what you would do if you had 48 hours in Franschhoek what would you recommend?
Winetasting on horseback, the new Franschhoek train, cooking bread at Moreson restaurant, the jazz evening at Le Petite Ferme and then of course dinner at Le Bon Vivant.
What is the best advice you recall?
If life gives you lemons make lemonade
What is your motto in life?
Loyalty is everything if you don’t have that – you don’t have anything
Who has been the biggest inspiration or influence in your career?
Kerrin Titmas – she is now the CEO of Fancourt but she has shown me everything I know about the hospitality industry
So when you’re not working what are your hobbies?
I love being outdoors walking and hiking and of course shopping!