CODE meets Thomas Kochs, Corinthia London

Published 23 September 2020

This week, we chat to the managing director of Corinthia London Thomas Kochs. He tells us about maintaining the reputation of the hotel, combining visions with top chefs and advice to those starting out in hospitality.

What’s the best thing about working for Corinthia?

There is a unique spirit at Corinthia, and the feeling of being one big family. We have a very supportive culture, at the same time as being entrepreneurial and always striving to do better. I like the combination and it seems to work well.

How do you keep things exciting and develop new ideas at a hotel with such rich heritage?

Over the years (and as I have got older!) I have developed a few guiding principles in my decision- making. One example is that the reasons someone visits our hotel need to be relevant to today, so whilst we are proud and respectful of our history and heritage, we are building on it rather than living by it. I also believe that it is a hotel, not a museum. I have a positive and creative mind, and I embrace change – not for the sake of change, but for the sense of satisfaction that comes with it.

Let’s see how this view alters after the Covid-19 crisis. Perhaps we will develop different values and a deeper appreciation of what we have already – it will be interesting to see.

How do you maintain the high quality and reputation of the hotel?

Our reputation is invaluable. Our ethos is to do everything with a clean conscience, with honesty and integrity. Look after your team. Be fair, and aim high when it comes to quality – only accept the best, which doesn’t always mean the most expensive. Be in touch and in tune with the bigger picture – what is happening in society and the world.

Where is your favourite place to eat / drink inside Corinthia Hotel London?

This is like being asked if you prefer your brother or your sister! It’s impossible to answer, and I am blessed with being able to enjoy the delicious and wonderful food of both our chefs, Executive Chef André Garrett, whose cooking I genuinely adore, and that of Tom Kerridge, which I just can’t get enough of! I also think both menus serve different purposes, and it’s important to offer variety to our guests.

And in London?

These are difficult questions! I always enjoy The River Café – it’s one of my all-time favourites, as is Perilla in Stoke Newington where Ben Marks’ cooking always feels new and different but never too challenging. Medlar, near where I live in Chelsea, is a great example of what a local restaurant should be. Another neighbourhood favourite is La Famiglia – it just ticks all the boxes of a perfect Italian restaurant. I could go on and on, but I’ll add just one more – I could eat at Roka Mayfair any day of the week!

When working with chefs such as Tom Kerridge, is it difficult to combine your visions and styles?

We both have strong opinions, and at first glance our styles could be seen as very different, but the mutual respect and affection we have for each other is very strong and built on a good relationship. At times our styles are indeed a little different, but our principles are totally aligned. We are both huge believers in great hospitality, creating incredible working environments in which our teams can build their careers and our guests can enjoy spending time. We both place a great deal of importance on service.

Which is your favourite Corinthia hotel other than London?

There is something very charming about the Corinthia Palace in Malta, and I am really looking forward to the new hotels in our collection. Rome just looks divine, Moscow so chic, and Dubai is just Dubai, the embodiment of cool, and right on the beach!

Did you always plan to work in hospitality?

Yes, I did, but I also toyed with the idea of being a doctor as I like the idea of health and healing. I started studying medicine, but I guess the passion for hotels and all the madness that comes with it was stronger.

What advice do you have for those starting out in the industry?

Do it! It’s one of the best career paths you could choose. But do it because you really, really want it. Don’t do it because of the lack of a better alternative: you won’t succeed and it’s not fair to those who take pride in working in the field and strive to be the best. One also has to take it for what it is – it’s an operations business, not a 9 to 5 office job. You can’t be a great manager at just 25 – you cannot fast track experience. You need to live through certain difficulties, joys, challenges – all of it. The decisions you make once you get to the top will affect many people, so take your time.

What’s been the proudest moment of your career so far?

I am always pleased when we have internal promotions within the Corinthia team. I felt proud when I got the GM job at Claridge’s. That was special and I invested a lot of love into the success of that hotel and I enjoyed every minute. I was also proud when we opened Kerridge’s Bar & Grill at Corinthia London, and it was packed from day one. I was proud when little Sammy (my new puppy) ran back to me in the park, despite being in the middle of a serious squirrel hunt. Little things like that make me smile.

What’s to come in 2020?

Well, after all of this who knows. But one thing is certain: it will pass. We will find a new normal and I’m sure that it will involve travel, meeting, eating out and being with friends, family and colleagues. This is an unprecedented situation and we will remember 2020 as a year of reflection, austerity and challenges, as well as remembering the positivity that came out of those things.

To read more interviews and insights, click here

Search results
Weekly bulletin. Eyes and ear of the industry