Visionary, innovator and hospitality wizard Mr Francois Delahaye lives the life of red carpet glamour and unparalleled cinematic appeal.

He is the flamboyant COO-Chief Operating Officer of The Dorchester Collection, the legendary brand that hosts a powerful lineup of luxury hotels as Plaza Athenee (Paris), Beverly Hills (Los Angeles), Bel-Air (Los Angeles), The Dorchester (London) 45 Park Lane (London), Coworth Park (Ascot), Le Maurice (Paris), Principe di Savoia (Milan), Hotel Eden (Rome). Posting a photo from these iconic landmarks with hashtag #DCMoments casually ups your ante as you instantly become popular for your fair taste in luxury.

From beginning as a young cook in a local restaurant kitchen to becoming an iconic global hotelier, Mr Delahaye is a role model for the growing number of youngsters who dream of carving their niche in the leisure and service industry.

In his daily life, Mr Delahaye adheres to the timeless French canon of absolute sophistication that goes in sync with an appreciation of novelty, finesse, elegance, authenticity, and tactful attention to detail.

He has excelled in the time-honoured art of self-expression. He is polite, decorous, courteous and intellectual. Yet, at the same time, a master of impeccable humour. In spite of being something of an elite personality regularly socialising with his elite patrons, Francois Delahahye is a man of exceptional humility and a greatly amiable demeanour.

I finally met the French hotel baron at the Palace Lounge restaurant of the famous Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai accompanied by the charismatic Regional Manager of Dorchester Collection Mr Parris Fotias who originally hails from Sydney, Australia.

Mr Francois Delahaye went the extra mile to ensure that I was comfortable as he graciously ordered me a cup of Taj’s delicious trademark coffee as we began the interview.

At the end of the conversation, I was full of praise and respect for the stalwart hospitality and service industry personnel who renounce their weekends, travel far away from their homeland, and sacrifice precious time with their wife and kids only so that some people can have that dream stay in Paris in a room with picturesque Eiffel Tower view, experience the fairytale destination wedding they have been imagining since childhood, enjoy that bucket list getaway with friends for which they have been saving for years, and enjoy the fancy New Year dinner with their family that they have been waiting for so long or carry out that crucial client meeting without any hassles and worries.

Scroll down to read the full interview of Mr Francois Delahaye with the rising luxury, lifestyle & culture Blogger Utkarsha Kesarkar.

Behind every successful man, there is a success story. What is yours?

I was a bad student at school. I was never focused. I was busy dreaming about something else when the teacher was speaking. The turning point arrived at the age of 16. My mother forced me to spend my holidays working in the kitchen of a French restaurant in order to punish me for my laid-back attitude and teach me the value of effort. Meanwhile, my brother and sisters, along with my mother, went ahead on a vacation to the south of France. I lost my father when I was 13, so I was by myself for two months. One day, one of the waiters approached me and said, “You know my son, our guests are very much pleased by the dish you just cooked". I realised that for the first time in my life, I was being appreciated. Plus, I got paid for it! In the past, I didn't understand anything. I was also a bad writer. Now, suddenly, I got told that I was capable of doing a successful job and people really liked it. I was having fun the whole time doing my duties. Ironically, when my mother returned home from vacation she was surprised to see me rejoicing in my ‘punishment.'

She quickly enrolled me into a Swiss hotel school (EPA Saint Cergues boarding school). In Switzerland, too, I was enjoying my responsibilities because I was able to be at the service of others. Eventually, my mother advised me to improve my command over English and so, I was sent to England where I was serving at the famous Chester Grosvenor Hotel, which as a matter of fact, was owned by the spectacular Duke of Westminster. Strangely, during my tenure in the hotel, the Duke's old butler had a heart attack, and on the spot, I was chosen to replace him.

I thus became the private Butler to the Duke of Westminster. I was delightfully catering to the personal requests of the Duke and Duchess while living in their royal chateau. I was surrounded by Rembrandt, Rubens and Picasso. Ah, the atmosphere was stunning! At the time of my stay at Westminster, the Duke’s daughter was about to get married to Lord Lichfield, the acclaimed photojournalist and cousin to the King and the Queen. I got to experience the big and historic event first-hand. I met all the celebrated figures. I interacted face-to-face with Princess Anne, Princess Margaret, Mick Jagger and yes, Her Majesty the Queen Of England.

Bravo Monsieur! Please reveal the details of your royal dialogue with the Queen.

O, I met the Queen in a very open & unrestricted atmosphere. I was in a small room, by myself, serving champagne to the royal family members who, on the other side of the door, had assembled to pose for the official wedding pictures. Suddenly, the door opened and the first person to appear, I realized, was the Queen! I am a Frenchman and back in France, the only way to catch a glimpse of the Queen was on the coins, notes and newspapers or over the kiosks. Now there she was, in front of me! Ahh, the Queen was so petite and tiny. To my eyes, ears, and all senses, she felt like a Mother. She was truly a noble person. Everything about her was so extraordinary.

According to French custom, you have to call her ‘Mum’, like your mother. I came to her with my tray, I said, “Mum, would you like a glass of champagne?” She smiled because my accent was so strong, so awful, and she said, “Oh avec un grand plaisir, merci beaucoup!”. She speaks French better than I do! (we all share a tender laugh). She was so mirthful. After the little drink, she joined a big marquee with three thousand people and then I lost her. This is my little story of meeting the Queen of England, the Queen!

What were your subsequent career milestones?

Moving on, I decided to join another famous English hotel company called Savoy. In my two years at the Savoy Group, I often travelled between London and Paris.

Later, I enlisted in the army for one year (1976-77) under the compulsory French national service programme.

I went on to handle various responsibilities at Sofitel for a good nine years. I operated from Sofitel hotels in Paris, Marrakesh, Morocco, Mali, and West Africa, where I also worked in Timbuktu and Mopti, in the Sahel.

I then attached myself to a Chinese company called Warwick. I was initially lodged at Westminster and Paris. Eventually, I moved to Hong Kong for one year and then to New York for two years. After an extensive stay overseas, I finally moved back to Paris. Once back home, I joined a big conglomerate, who, by the way, are the owners of Universal Studios. It is a French company called Vivendi. I worked for Vivendi for another 9 years. At Vivendi, I collaborated with the famous Michelin Star chefs Joel Robuchon and Alain Ducasse.

What was the turning point that led to the invention of the iconic Dorchester Collection?

In 1999, I became the General Manager of Plaza Athenee. Well, it was a headhunter who pursued me to give up my former job and join Plaza Athene. It was a historical hotel. It was a historic moment and I was proud to have been chosen to join Plaza Athene. So I moved to Plaza Athenee along with Chef Alain Ducasse. In 2006, we brought our grand vision to life and The Dorchester Collection was created. Now you heard about all my life.

What philosophies helped you disrupt challenges and evolve as a topmost leader in the global Hotel & Service industry?

I believe that as servicemen in hospitality, we need to be willing & passionate to help others get what they want - a glass of water, a cookie, a coffee or a room and table of their choice. I am a member of the service industry and I always aspire to surround myself with people who love to be at the service of others. The first step is adding that special human touch to the service. To me, this philosophy is crucial because you can clearly feel it when a waiter or a cook does not like his job, is dragging his feet, or is indifferent. If he is not enjoying his job, he should leave. In order to thrive in this industry, you need to be passionate, and when you are passionate, the times fly by naturally. You need to always be available and delighted to help others. For me, even if it is somebody like you, Utkarsha, who is asking me to spend 20 minutes on an interview, I am happy to help and I hope you feel it. In order to please others, you should be happy first.

On the personal front, I follow another philosophy - I must not think too much. For example, 'I could have longer legs, 'I could be' Blonde, 'I could have' blue eyes, 'I could be strong', or maybe 'I could have a flat belly'. These mental commands are not positive. Instead, I tell myself that we are very lucky, to live the life we have and need to enjoy. Utkarsha, carefully observe the coffee and the soft cream on the top and feel your hands moving the coffee. This is pure joy. Now look beyond the crystal-clear windows of the Taj Hotel, wonder at the flocks of jubilant tourists, bow down to the vast orbit of the sea, and appreciate the crew of colourful boats sailing swiftly towards their destinations. Pay attention to the paintings around you and marvel at the prolific imagination of the artists. Behold the chandelier dangling above you and notice the way marble is laid out on the floors. Everywhere you rest your eyes, it is absolutely brilliant. We are so lucky to experience this state of bonheur. Life is great! Well, you can always choose the option to complain but this is the best way to be nothing but unhappy. If you want to be passionate, you need to see life as a way to reach the utmost state of enthusiasm. You need to look at yourself and admire the beautiful individual that you are and always were. Learn to feel and embrace the presence of people around you and appreciate their beauty. Right now, I feel so lucky that I have a little Indian lady asking me about my life! I am lucky, come on, I am passionate! Did that answer your question?

Which part of France did you originally hail from?

I was born in Lille, in the North of France. The Former Consul General of France Mrs Mrs. Sonia Barbery was born not far from Lille.

That’s surreal, few of my friends are from Lille. What are your fond memories of growing up in this town city & being nurtured by the quaint way of life?

Growing up in Lille, I embraced the pleasantries of setting up the table with my mother, being in the kitchen area with my grandmother, preparing dishes, and going to the cellar to pick up a good bottle of wine. I naturally got used to the beautiful environment.

In an increasingly globalised milieu, how would you describe your life as a Frenchman?

I feel the French are so lucky. France is in a part of the world where we have numerous access points to the sea as well as the mountains. The French are adorned by a rich heritage of cheese makers, art de la table, glassware, art, and of course, an extraordinary legacy of a luxurious lifestyle. French history, culture and a wealth of legendary traditions are actively helping me to excel in my job as a luxury hotel manager. Everything about France is great. We are so spoiled! I can't imagine being born anywhere else. I feel fortunate to live in France. Even with the "Yellow Vest". Ahh, I am joking. The yellow vest is a local group of people who are so spoilt that they mumble all the time. However, I am not mumbling. I feel so lucky. I am a happy Frenchman.

Have you had a feeling that lately, this vast cultural treasure of France hasn’t been receiving sufficient attention or curiosity from young French people?

O yes, completely! That is one of the biggest difficulties of France. It's just a French thing; a small part of being French. But I cannot kill all of them for that, huh?

What are your latest reflections about Indian gastronomy, as a travelling gourmand and connoisseur of global cuisines & beverages?

Nowadays, I love exploring the young Indian chefs. I can clearly sense the modern influence cultivated by these upcoming gastronomes. They debut abroad and bring back a fresh way of appreciating Indian gastronomy that is defined by smaller portions of the course meal complimented with only a few larger assortments. Rashmi Uday Singh could guide you better about these state-of-the-art diners as she is an expert at selecting the best of the best. However, I feel Masque is a capstone of the contemporary wave of diners, with incredible gourmet treats being served one after the other. I visited it yesterday and enjoyed an absolutely stunning fare. Masque is the best example of what I am trying to express - a new wing of modernity.

Your yearly calendars are full of travels and sojourns all over the planet. Are you able to choose a favourite travel destination by now?

I have traveled extensively across various continents and cities but I can’t pick a favourite spot. The best place is nothing but the place where I will be going tomorrow. The best journey of your life is the trip to the future. In fact, I love to prepare my luggage and get ready for my global sojourns. I was so excited to come to India, and tomorrow I will be delighted to travel back to Paris. On Monday, I was super-excited to be in Italy although, for some reason, the plan got delayed. For me, the next place is the best place. I get immensely excited by the simple thought of stepping into a traveller’s shoes and moving from one place to another. I would be terribly sad if I had to stay in bed without planning any upcoming trips or events. No one destination is the source of my joy. So, the answer to your question is tomorrow - the trip to tomorrow.