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Nina Basset, hotelier, co- owner of TerraVina, organiser of Gerard (!) and busy mum who juggles too many balls in the air all at once.
Since Hotel TerraVina opened in September 2007, I have worked closely with Suzi and the team in the day to day running of the hotel. I love being a hotelier and co-owner of a boutique hotel.. I am thrilled that TerraVina has become known in its own right, following on from Gerard’s success as co-creator of Hotel du Vin. We both wanted to create something as interesting, but distinctly different a second time round. So far, TerraVina is proving that, whilst it has come from good parentage, it is gaining its independence very nicely.
So how did my passion for being a hotelier begin?...From the earliest age that I can remember, I always wanted to be involved in the hotel business. As a young child, I used to holiday regularly, at the same hotel, with my parents in St Brelades Bay, Jersey. I remember being made a great fuss of whenever we stayed and I used to be whisked off with the housekeeping staff into the kitchen for treats. All the other staff used to spoil me too and their world seemed so exciting and glamorous to an impressionable little girl.
It was absolutely during this time of my life that I fell in love with the idea of becoming an hotelier. Added to this, in the late 70’s, early 80’s, such TV shows as “Hotel”, based in a swanky hotel in New York were popular viewing, as was the ever brilliant and much loved, Fawlty Towers- I was riveted by such shows and the glimpses into the hotel world they offered, albeit glossy and fabricated and I decided that this was a world I wanted to be involved in too…… I remained focused on my goal of being an hotelier throughout my school years.
I went on to spend four years at Westminster Hotel School, London, where I gained an OND and HND in Hospitality Management and loved every minute of it. During my studies, I worked for the Taittinger family in Paris, at one of their 5 star properties, on work experience for 8 months. I was eighteen and I never wanted to come home. However, I was offered a position at Chewton Glen straight after graduating. I took the job and working at Chewton Glen shaped my life and set me on a path that has been exhilarating, exciting, challenging and great fun. I never got to return to Paris to work, but have never regretted that decision for a moment. It was from that very first day at Chewton Glen that my life in the hotel business really began. It was here that I met my future husband, Gerard, (I did eventually marry him, although it took me eight years to get him to agree to walk down the aisle!) and our future business partner, Robin Hutson.
Whilst at Chewton, I read a job advert in the back of the Caterer- everyone in the business reads the Caterer; it is the industry’s Bible and we all look at the job pages, even if not seeking new employment. So it was that I spied an advert for the position of an AA Hotel and Restaurant Inspector. Now this was a position that really intrigued me- it read as being very interesting, diverse and glamorous- I imagined in my mind’s eye staying in top, 5 star hotels every night, eating in Michelin star rated restaurants for breakfast, lunch and dinner…. Oh yes, that was the job for me! It had my name on it. The fact that I had only just turned twenty-one, had only a year’s proper experience of working in a hotel and was completely “under age” for such a job, didn’t even cross my mind. My passion and drive took over..
Thus I applied, full of bravado, and so my time at Chewton Glen was cut short when I was offered the position of Hotel Inspector for the AA, at 21 years old - the youngest ever and still remaining so to this day. During my time at the AA – (four and half years), I was tasked with setting up a new classification scheme which is still used today, the Town House classification. Having successfully set it up, I then went on to recruit a number of very prestigious properties and Town House collections into the scheme. It remains a very popular rating with hoteliers as it gives better flexibility and is perceived as being a luxury brand classification.
I left the AA to help with the start up of the first Hotel du Vin, in Winchester, with my husband Gerard, and Robin Hutson, his business partner (and my ex boss whilst at Chewton Glen, best man at our wedding and godfather to our son Romané). I stayed with the group full time for a year and a half. Once the fledgling business had started to become more established, with a second Hotel du Vin planned for opening in Tunbridge Wells, I disappeared behind the scenes. As Hotel du Vin continued to grow, with a hotel in Bristol and another planned in Birmingham, I was by now a stay-at-home mum, but still felt I was a hotelier through and through. I helped to host the wine events at the numerous HdV hotels and at the same time a number of my previous hotelier contacts (from when I was an AA Inspector), were in touch from time to time for consultancy help with various projects. Seven hotels later, Hotel du Vin was sold in 2004 and, having enjoyed some time out, we missed the buzz of the hotel business and so the idea of our new enterprise, Hotel TerraVina was formed.
Having found the site in June 2006, we waited until February 2007 (until all of the wedding bookings were over), before we eventually took possession of the property. We promptly closed it and set about a complete refurbishment and renovation programme, which lasted 7 months. I helped to project manage the changes to the hotel whilst Gerard completed his studies for a Wine MBA and also competed in the 2007 World Sommelier Championship.
I was responsible for the interior design at the hotel and was on site every day during the building project, liaising with builders, contractors and planners. I got quite used to wearing a hard hat and toe caps!!
Gerard and I have gathered together a team of great people, headed by Suzi Glaus, our General Manager, to work with us at Hotel TerraVina and we are very proud of them. We realise that we can both be infuriating to work with on occasion, either individually or as a couple, as we not only have exacting standards but are also very committed to what we do and expect everyone of the team to give us 110%.
To summarise, Gerard and I have a perfect working relationship - he looks after the wine and I look after everything else!
You can meet Gerard Basset and Nina Basset, in this excerpt from the popular ITV series 'The Secrets of My Success'.
Registered Office: Fiander Tovell LLP, Stag Gates House, 63/64 The Avenue,
Southampton, Hampshire SO17 1XS, United Kingdom.
Company Number: 600 3856. VAT Number: 900 2668 54.