Benjamin Ollier, a tailor-made vision of teaching

Human skills, respect, innovation, teaching, and passion. These are the main topics of our discussion with Benjamin Ollier, Bar and Mixology Instructor. Let’s dive into his secrets for getting the best out of each student.

Can you share your background with us?

As a student I always worked as a waiter/bartender during summer holidays in the beach bars where I am from in the south of France. When I got my tourism degree in 2008, it was hard to get a job and my willingness to explore the world grew bigger and bigger.  So I thought, ‘Why not try to make bartending my job?’

I started my career in Toulouse, France, at Radisson, then London for the same company. I took my first Bar Manager position at the Intercontinental resort of Moorea, a beautiful island of French Polynesia. It was also on an island, St Barthelemy in the Caribbean, that I made my first experience of a hotel opening at “Le Barthelemy”.  Then is was a temperature shock with a move to Verbier, a ski resort in Switzerland, to take responsibility for the W Hotel bars.

As a kid, I always wanted to become a teacher, or an archeologist thanks to Jurassic Park; so when I heard that Les Roches was looking for a new Mixology Instructor, I decided to send my application. Four years later here I am teaching in one of the best hospitality schools in the world, with the coolest students from all over the world.

What made you want to teach?

It was my childhood dream to be a teacher. My bartending career has been full of experiences, travels and meetings; it was intense and sometimes difficult, but I learned a lot about people and about myself. Mixology is fascinating as it gathers together science, history and human skills – it makes it the perfect topic to teach and I am grateful for the opportunity I have to share with Les Roches students about it.

Why did you choose Les Roches rather than another hotel management school?

I am not a city person. Once you get to see the views of Crans-Montana, it is hard not to fall in love with the place. The campus is surrounded by beautiful mountains, it is like a small village where everybody knows each other. At Les Roches, innovation is encouraged and students team up with instructors to enrich campus life.

How would you define Les Roches? What makes Les Roches unique?

The family spirit is strong here. The relationship between students and staff is unique. We don’t only manage outlets or give classes; we support, we encourage, and we give advice if necessary. It is not only a school, it’s a way of life!

Mixology is fascinating as it gathers together science, history and human skills – it makes it the perfect topic to teach!

Has the atmosphere of Les Roches influenced the way you prepare your courses?

Of course, innovation is part of the values of Les Roches, therefore I have “carte blanche” when it comes to building my classes.  I implemented an Escape game about Mixology; I’m using “Serious Lego” to define some technical concepts; and I never hesitate to challenge my students if I feel that they want to go further in their learning experience. I believe that learning can be fun, even more if you’re addressing Generation Z!

What is your definition of the transmission of knowledge?

I’m currently attending side classes to obtain a ‘brevet fédéral de formation d’adultes’, an opportunity for me to know better the mechanisms of learning. I believe that to transmit knowledge you need to know your topic, to be passionate about it, to be humble – never stop learning and to establish a trustful and relaxed but serious relationship with your learners.

Beyond the technical aspect, what do you try to transmit to your students?

Human skills are essential in hospitality. You will not learn it in books, therefore by sharing and debating with students. I’m trying to make them aware that hospitality is different than service. It is a mindset and a set of skills that can be used in your daily life.

Do you have a secret for getting the best out of each student?

Respect every kind of person, every personality, and every background. The teacher must adapt to his learners and not the opposite. It is even truer when it comes to a ‘hands on’ topic. We are all unique and we are all learning differently with a right to commit mistakes.

I’m trying to make them aware that hospitality is a mindset and a set of skills that can be used in your daily life.

In your opinion, are there any fundamental values that a student should possess if he or she wants to work in hotel management?

Humility, passion and balance. Be humble, because you will never stop learning; you will always meet people that can teach you something. Passion is key; you cannot pretend you like hospitality. Your passion will push you to go the extra mile. Balance because it is a very demanding field, physical and mental balance are essential.

Be inclusive, be caring, be open. In your opinion, will these notions, which are essential for the new generations, change the face of the hotel industry?

Not only the face of the hotel industry, but also society. We tend to forget we have been through a very special time with Covid pandemic. Let’s learn from it and that life is better when we are together taking care of each other and opening our minds to other ideas.

In your opinion, what can, and will, the new generations bring to the hotel sector? Or the world of work in general?

New generations will bring more knowledge, more attention to detail and more innovation to the hotel sector. They are familiar with new technologies and not afraid of changing. Hospitality is about to recover fully and will probably boom in the coming semesters – new generations will take over and revolutionize the industry.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges facing the hotel sector in 2023?

New technologies are fascinating for the opportunities they bring to the sector, but one of the challenges will be to use them in a relevant way without forgetting that hospitality is firstly a human job with sincere interactions and experiences.