raising the baur
The sixth-generation owner of Zurich’s iconic Baur au Lac hotel, Andrea Kracht is – unsurprisingly – fond of the long-term perspective. “The hotel business is not rocket science,” he says. “There will always be new things happening, but the basics remain the same. What is important to me, as the owner of a five-star hotel, is striving to be perfect, especially in service.” This is much more of a challenge these days, as his guests have become increasingly diverse. “Now, more and more, we must anticipate the needs of guests from so many different cultures. The Chinese, especially, are travelling more in Europe, and we want to know what they expect and how to please them.”
Spain’s Priorat region is one area that has developed into a top winemaking region over the last 20 years. Grapes from that terroir have a certain elegance, delicacy and refinement that Spanish wines don’t usually have.
The wine storage facilities at Baur au Lac are very modern, and are also used by serious wine collectors. Our cellar has the capacity for two million bottles, with constant temperature, humidity levels and a special light that will not affect the wines. We also have a separate section for rare wines.
I love hotels that have become landmarks in the cities where they are located, such as Ritz Paris, Hotel Hermitage Monte Carlo, The Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai and The Peninsula Hong Kong. These are not just business or leisure hotels; they feel special because they have a history. This kind of experience is increasingly sought after by the high-end traveller. There are fantastic hotel groups with very good products, but their properties are the same everywhere. You feel comfortable, but there is no soul.
My grandfather used to race Bugattis, and he won the Klausenrennen, Switzerland’s famous mountain race. My father was also very much into cars and my daughter loves it too, so maybe it’s in the genes. I have a Porsche GT3 Cup coupe, and race a few times a year on Italy’s Monza and Imola tracks, which are embedded in the hills and very beautiful.
I like discovering new hotels when I travel. I recently found out about the Swatch Art Peace Hotel in Shanghai, which has 18 rooms reserved for artists to stay for a few months at no charge. During these residencies, they can establish workshops and be inspired by one another and the city.
Some of my favourite chefs have also worked in the Baur au Lac kitchen, including New York’s Daniel Humm and French chef Gabriel Kreuther. Every year, we also have a Nobu week, during which chefs from the famous Nobu chain prepare and serve Japanese cuisine at our restaurant.
There is a bit of a rivalry between Basel and Zurich. Basel is usually seen as more open-minded, while Zurich is more conservative. But Zurich is a more important global city because it is a financial centre. We host a lot of people who fly in for Art Basel. The location of Baur au Lac is a gift – we are right next to Lake Zurich, and within walking distance of the old city, where you can roam the streets and explore the cafes and galleries. Visitors also enjoy the main shopping street Bahnhofstrasse, where all the Swiss watch brands have their flagship stores.