Talking to...Udo Doring

One of the first things we learn about Udo H. Doring is his loyalty to the past. “I still speak the dialect of my little village in Germany,” he says. “But nowadays it’s very difficult to find anyone there who still speaks it – the older people have passed away and it’s been replaced by High German.”

For the General Manager of The Longemont Shanghai, this foundation in tradition is at the heart of running one of Shanghai’s largest five-star hotels. Immaculately groomed and quick to smile, Doring exudes an infectious sense of familiarity mixed with an air of well-placed confidence. With more than 40 years experience in the hospitality industry, the old Asia-hand is taking some time out of his busy day to reminisce about the long career road which has brought him to Shanghai, over lunch at Amici, his hotel’s Italian restaurant.

 We start with his genesis in a small village near Frankfurt am Main. “As a young man I felt I wanted to see a little more and widen my horizons,” he says. “Television came along with its cooking travel reports shows and all the sudden I had many more prospects than when I was growing up.” On a visit to Frankfurt with his father after completing his initial chef apprenticeship, he stumbled across the newly opened InterContinental Hotel; an hour later he walked out with a job. “Kismet,” he smiles.

When his beef roast arrives, the meat jogs his memory. “Something I will never forget happened two weeks after my first day, Cassius Clay came to town to fight German champion Karl Mildenberger. I, being the newest chef, thought it was an honour for me to cook a porterhouse steak for him at four o’clock in the morning. I later found out it was because none of the other chefs wanted to get up at that time. But I still enjoyed cooking that steak for him.”

Over the next 18 years, he embarked on a chimerical tour of Europe with the hotel group, and later Hong Kong and Australia, advancing through the kitchen ranks and then into management. “In 1979, I first came to Hong Kong to work as Director of Sales and Marketing and it was here that our first son was born,” Doring says.

Unsure of whether they would return to Asia, in 1983 Doring’s friends arranged a trip to Hangzhou and Beijing for him, his wife and their one year old son. “I remember stepping off the plane at Hangzhou Airport,” he says. “That was a big welcome to China – as you can imagine it was totally different than what we see today.” His first experience with the Mainland’s hotel industry was staying at the Government Guest House in Hangzhou, now the Shangri-La Hotel. Doring returned to China in a working capacity in 1989 as General Manager of the Golden Flower Hotel, the first international joint venture five-star property in Xian.

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