After 44 years of service, Hotel Olden’s Franco Stella is set to retire at the end of the season. The beloved maître d’hotel will pass the baton to another longtime employee, Massimo Nava.
Hailing from Stresa on Lake Maggiore, Stella got into the business by chance. He was working as a 16-year-old golf caddy when a female client asked if he’d like a job at a nearby hotel. Rather than attending hotel school, the “Oberkellner”—maître d’hotel—was a keen mentor, and taught Stella the ins and outs of the profession.
He spent a few years honing his craft in Ticino properties before the Olden’s owner at that time, Fausto Donizetti, recruited him to Gstaad in 1974. In 1995, after 21 years of employment, the hotel was sold and the new owners dismissed the entire staff. Stella then moved to the Grand Hotel Park where he remained for eight years, followed by a year in Zurich, before eventually returning to the Hotel Olden.
Stella looks back on the Donizetti family with great fondness, and says Gstaad legend Hedi Donizetti was a true hostess.
“She decorated the walls, pictures, glasses and tiles with farm paintings, and had personal beer glasses for frequent guests like Roger Moore, Julie Andrews, and Curd Jürgens,” remembers Stella.
Managing business and family is no easy task for seasonal staff, and Stella explains that they were like two opposing poles, both demanding a great deal. Especially, he notes, back when the Hotel Olden was open year-round, and holidays were few and far-between. For a husband and father of one son, this was a challenge.
Now Stella’s nearest and dearest can breathe a sigh of relief, as with retirement will come plenty of time for family. The Olden staple plans to spend his newfound freedom playing with his three grandchildren and his favourite hobby, golf.