Last name Bocchini
We all know him simply as Gildo, but he also has a last name. Last week, Ermenegildo Bocchini, first maître d'hôtel and one of the best-known faces of the Gstaad Palace, sat down with GstaadLife's Andrea von Siebenthal to talk about his years in Gstaad and the world and life in general...
Gildo, you’ve been working at the Palace for almost 40 years. What are your most treasured memories?
Indeed, it is almost a lifetime I’ve been working at the Palace! I have a lot of good memories of all those years. I’ve been truly lucky to work in this very special place that is the Palace and Gstaad. It is truly a unique experience, and I consider it a privilege to have had the opportunity to work in this ambiance and with the type of guests we have here. The close contact with them has always been very enriching for me.
The restaurant Gildo’s is named after you, and it could be said that you’re the best-known face of the Palace. Is this a great satisfaction for you?
It truly is a big satisfaction and a great proof of appreciation. But this is no reason to be vain or presumptuous. I have never worked to receive honor, since I believe that true appreciation doesn’t come from this world.
“Without passion, nothing goes.” Above, Gildo in the eponymous restaurant at the Gstaad Palace.
You’re talking about faith. Are you a religious person?
Yes. Faith is a very important part in my life. Faith helps you through all difficulties and teaches you humility in whatever you do. The greatest gifts come through this. I believe humility and honesty to be the most important values in life. My father always taught me not to desire anybody else’s goods. One should remain simple and not pretend to be somebody we’re not.
So how would you describe yourself in three words?
A difficult question; I think that the values I spoke of are a guideline in my life, and I try to respect them. I am just an ordinary person with flaws and weaknesses like all human beings. I just love what I do and try to respect everyone around me.
This love for your work: is it a profession which become a passion or a passion which turned into a profession?
I first came in touch with this profession by way of a punishment. My father sent me to work at the Grand Hotel Britannia in my hometown, Cesenatico, because my school results were so poor. Luckily, I discovered my passion for this work and then went to the Stresa hotel school and started my career.
How many hours a day do you spend at work?
I don’t count the hours! I spend most of the day in the hotel, but this is not a sacrifice since I have true passion for my work. If one does not like what one’s doing, then work becomes a real sacrifice.
You spend all day in the hotel and eight months a year in Gstaad. What about your family?
My family always comes first, even if we don’t see each other very often. My wife and two grown up daughters live in my hometown in Italy. I think mental presence and spiritual union are more important than physical presence.
You live in Gstaad during the summer and winter seasons and go back to Italy when the hotel is closed. Where do you feel most at home?
I must say that I feel home in both places. Of course I have a very strong bond with my hometown and country; it is like a plant that germinates in one place but grows in another. That’s the way I feel.
What do you particularly like about Gstaad?
I love the beauty of its surroundings and the mountains; (laughing) even if in the very beginning I didn’t like them at all and felt imprisoned! But now I think I like the mountains and the sea equally. What I like about Switzerland in general is the good education of its people. I very much appreciate their discretion and sense of organization and responsibility.
I was told that you select the staff yourself. Do you also select the menu at Gildo’s Italian restaurant?
I work very closely with the chef, Peter Wyss. I share my ideas and propose changes, and the menu at Gildo’s is mainly my creation. I grew up on the Adriatic Coast, therefore I love fish. And pasta, of course.
Besides your work and family, what are your passions?
My secret passion is the opera. I love to sing opera arias. I particularly like Verdi, who came from near where I live. (Laughing) In fact, I even sung in a theater in Italy together with some friends when I was younger. I sing whenever I can; either in the hotel or at home.
Since you first came to work here in the winter of 1968, what has changed?
I don’t think that it is the people who change; it is the world around us. Unfortunately, I would say some of the elegance and good education has been lost; but, in general, I think that traditions at the Palace have not changed.
What event or period do you particularly remember?
I very much enjoyed the 70s, when I was still young and used to work at the GreenGo. That was great fun.
In your opinion, what makes the Palace so unique?
The Palace is, I think this can be said, the engine that drives Gstaad. This is thanks to the Scherz family who assure continuation and the maintenance of tradition.
Let’s talk about future: what are your plans?
I have no plans whatsoever; I actually never make any plans, but let life bring the challenges towards me. Nevertheless, one day I’d like to do more for others.
Are you talking about social engagement?
Yes, I’d very much like to do something for those who come here without knowing anything. I’d like to pass on some of what I’ve learned to them; teach them how to work in order to give them an opportunity of actively integrating into our society. I once got to know a famous restaurant director in London, who told me that his dream was to have a barbecue bar on a beach and serve out food for free to everyone who passed by. This is a little bit like my dream: giving something of all the good I have acquired in my life.
Until when will we have the pleasure of seeing you at the Palace?
As I said, I do not make any plans. For as long as I have good health and feel passion for my work, I will still be here. There comes a time when one should let go; the trick is to recognize that moment.
Even if there cannot be another Gildo,who will replace you and what will the Palace be without you?
The Palace will always be the Palace with or without me. And as for my successor, I have no worries whatsoever. There are lots of capable people around. Even among the young ones I find good will and enthusiasm, and this is basic. Without passion, nothing goes.