F O U R S E A S O N S S Y D N E Y
U D A Y R A O
Interview} Ken Waller
Photographs by} John Russo
KW: Can you give us a brief background on yourself and how you found your way to working at the property?
UR: I have been with Four Seasons for 31 years. Worked in several properties across the globe, namely, Chicago, Dallas, Tokyo, Singapore, Maldives, India, and most recently, in Bali Indonesia. I was in Bali for the past 10 years, when the opportunity to manage and operate the 2nd largest Four Seasons came onto my lap. To top it off, it was in Sydney. Who wouldn’t get excited about Sydney? I moved here in May of 2022 and have spent my time really getting to know everything about the culture and the destination. When I am not in the hotel, I spend my time hiking along the coastline and trying new restaurants. There is always something new worth exploring.
KW: Has your role been the same throughout your career at Four Seasons or have you worked in other roles at the company?
UR: I started off as an overnight Receptionist at the Ritz in Chicago, which was a hotel managed by Four Seasons in 1991. My background is predominantly in Rooms Division, working in Front Office, Reservations, and Housekeeping. Then, I got promoted to Director of Rooms in the Maldives, and then to Hotel Manager to open the first Four Seasons property in India. I have been in my current role as General Manager for the past 11 years.
KW: Can you tell us the brand philosophy of Four Seasons in Sydney, Australia
UR: Warmth and friendliness of the Aussies that is authentic and true to the destination, combined with the unpretentious elegance and intuitive service of the brand.
KW: What makes your property different from staying at other properties in the region?
UR: It’s the city of Sydney, the location, the views from the rooms overlooking the harbor bridge and the iconic opera house and much more, that makes a difference. When embarking on such a long journey to come to Sydney from anywhere in the world really, you want to stay in a hotel with the best view. You wake up in our beds with both Sydney icons in your view. The location has so much to offer, not just for corporate travelers on business, but it’s a tourist destination that has a wealth of experiences that are unique to the city.
KW: What about your property keeps guests returning for multiple stays?
UR: The obvious is our service and staff. It truly is the differentiating advantage over our competitors. The tenure at our property says a lot about the hotel, and it’s great that our returning guests get to see so many familiar, smiling faces upon arrival. Our head commissionaire on the front drive has been at the hotel for 38 years and always welcomes our guests with a smile and greets guests by their names.
But another key selling point is our location – tucked in the corner of the historic Rocks precinct, Sydney CBD, and the harbor’s edge. There isn’t another hotel in the city that has a perfect location like ours. Minutes walk to the harbor, the Rocks, shopping, walking distance from some of the most famous dining experiences, and much more.
KW: How have you maintained such a high level of consistent perfection in an ever-changing hotel market? Is there a secret to your success?
UR: There is no magic potion to consistency and perfection. Honestly, it comes from the team’s “sincerity”, “warmth”, “care” and willingness to “make a difference and create a memorable” experience for our guests. When one is genuine and it comes from within, one cannot go wrong. Our guests always feel comfortable… we provide a “home-away-from-home” for them, and that comes from our people.
KW: Tell us about some of the unique curated experiences the property offers.
UR: The hotel provides a wealth of personalized experiences for our guests, from a relaxing Bath Butler menu featuring Australian botanicals to curated culinary experiences like going to the Fish Market with the Executive Chef. Our in-the-know Concierge team can assist with private yacht experience to behind-the-scenes tours of the Opera House and art galleries. For history buffs, aboriginal tours can be arranged in the area or a day trip to the Blue Mountain for a full-day excursion. An experience at Grain, the hotel cocktail bar, always provides a curated experience. Just tell the bartender what flavors you like in your cocktail, and they will either create a bespoke cocktail just for you or provide you with the perfect cocktail suited to your tastebuds. You leave feeling like you didn’t just have a cocktail but that you learned something new.
KW: Can you tell us about your dining options?
UR: Sourcing the finest Australian ingredients, Mode Kitchen & Bar offers a modern take on Australian cuisine. It’s fresh seasonal produce with cultural influences behind the flavors and technique. Executive Chef Francesco Mannelli from Italy is passionate about where fish is sourced, or where the produce is grown, while Chef de Cuisine April Chen from China enhances these flavors with unique spices creating the perfect balance; to finish the meal, the French pastry Chef Quentin Zerr creates exceptional desserts with the most refined technique. Mode Kitchen & Bar serves an expansive breakfast buffet, lunch, afternoon tea on the weekends, and dinner daily and an award-winning wine list featuring 70% Australian wines.
Grain is the sophisticated cocktail bar located on the ground floor and is the place to be for after-work drinks. It boasts one of the largest whiskey menus in Australia (more than 200), provides barrel-aged cocktails, and every cocktail and food item on the menu features an element of grain. For something uniquely Australian, the bar has a cocktail called “In Like Flynn” featuring eucalyptus-infused gin with a colorful koala on top.
For an exclusive retreat in the sky, Lounge 32 is the business lounge providing daily breakfast, afternoon refreshments, sommelier-selected wine, cocktails, and evening canapes. The space provides a relaxed atmosphere and private space for business meetings. It’s exclusive to all hotel suite guests and is available to purchase for a daily fee.
During the summer, guests can enjoy light fare and refreshing cocktails poolside at The Cabana.
Even with all the great dining options, the In Room Dining should not be overlooked. With a view that good from the room, sometimes it’s nice to enjoy a burger while overlooking Sydney harbor from the comfort of your own room. Executive Chef Francesco Mannelli is passionate about seasonality therefore the menu will always change offering the best produce and freshest ingredients. He’s also working on something special at the moment and will curate a degustation dining experience in our Premier Suites.
For more information on Four Seasons Sydney, visit @fssydney