Dynamic Duo - The Troubetzkoys
Against a backdrop of St. Lucia's exotic natural beauty, hoteliers Nick and Karolin Troubetzkoy are shaking up the traditional hotel experience with their unique brand of revolutionary yet responsible tourism.
Words By Natasha Were
From open-to-the-elements architecture to chocolate-themed itineraries, the Troubetzkoys, owners and creators of two exceptional resorts, Anse Chastanet and Jade Mountain, have boldly gone where no hotelier has gone before.
Their unique combination of talents – he a visionary architect, she a marketing guru – and their non-conformist approach has resulted in a duo of resorts that are ground-breaking in design and that connect guests to their destination in fresh, inspiring ways.
When Nick Troubetzkoy first acquired Anse Chastanet in the 1970s, it was a simple resort with a few cottages dotted around the 600-acre beachfront estate. But it was the views that captured his imagination. Looking across the sea to St. Lucia’s iconic, soaring Pitons, the architect in him knew he had to put that magnificent vista at the core of the guest experience.
And so he knocked out walls in the existing rooms, letting the views flood in. And then he designed additional cottages along the beach and up the hillside, in the same open, view-embracing style.
“From the outset, Nick wanted to build in harmony with nature, and he also wanted to keep as much of the economic benefit as possible in the region,” recalls Karolin. “Back then in the ‘70s people didn’t even know the term ‘sustainability’ but Nick – not knowing it would later become an entire philosophy – was already practicing it.”
This desire to harness the views and connect guests more deeply with the landscape would find its full expression decades later in Jade Mountain. An architectural masterpiece that was as challenging to pull off as it is awe-inspiring to behold, Jade Mountain appears to float halfway up a mountain side, partly concealed by lush, hanging gardens.
Breaking with the traditional hotel concept completely, Nick replaced rooms with spacious sanctuaries, connected not by corridors but by bridges. Within these lavish spaces he blurred the lines that separate living and sleeping areas, and the boundaries between indoors and out: the sea facing side of each sanctuary is completely open, with a private infinity pool suspended over the jungle. These hillside hideaways are so comprehensively captivating that guests regularly fail to emerge from them for days at a time.
“Every budget had been blown to the heavens and it was so extravagant, we couldn’t do it justice as part of Anse Chastanet,” she says. “Jade Mountain deserved recognition of its own.”
Having raised the bar for luxury with the accommodation, they knew they had to offer equally impressive gastronomic and resort experiences. And so the 60-acre nursery that had initially supplied the trees and shrubs for Jade Mountain’s landscaping was reinvented as an organic farm, and Allen Susser was hired as a consulting chef.
Long before farm-to-table dining had become a mainstream concept, the two resorts’ kitchens had their own regular supply of fresh herbs, nuts, fruits and vegetables. Guests, in addition to being able to fill their days with watersports, island tours and spa treatments, could also delve deeper into the culinary experience, joining cooking classes and visiting the farm.
Within a few years this multi-sensory experiential concept was expanded, adding chocolate into the mix. As there were already hundreds of cocoa trees on the estate, Chef Susser suggested these be coaxed back into productivity.
Historically in St. Lucia, Karolin explains, cocoa farmers had simply harvested their beans and sold them for export, playing no further part in the chocolate industry. At Emerald Estate, however, the Troubetzkoys chose to experiment with making chocolate themselves, and by 2010 were producing their own small-batch, single-estate chocolate. Then three years ago, the Chocolate Lab opened, offering guests a dedicated space in which to learn about the whole process – from bean to bar – and try their hand at chocolate making.
The timing was fortuitous, coinciding with a growing international appreciation for high quality artisanal chocolate but, in the same way that the Troubetzkoys chose to share their newfound knowledge of organic farming with other local growers, they are not keeping the secret to St. Lucian chocolate to themselves.
The Troubetzkoys have elected not to sell Emerald Estate chocolate at other outlets outside the resorts. “By making chocolate ourselves, we have shown that there can be a source of employment and revenue beyond the beans,” Karolin explains. “But now I want to inspire other locals to become artisanal chocolate makers. I prefer to let them corner the local market.”
This is just one of the ways in which, over the past 30 or so years, the Troubetzkoys have chosen to do things differently. Proudly independent and unconstrained by a corporate image or branding, they have had the creative freedom to dream up resorts and experiences unlike anything that has been seen before. Their uncanny ability to foresee new trends and anticipate changing demands has kept them well ahead of the curve in every endeavour, assuring their resorts’ rank among the top in the region – without deviating from their commitment to sustainability and authenticity.
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