Daniel Kaeflein GM Traders Hotel, Kuala Lumpur

Daniel Kaeflein, GM, Traders Hotel, KL

Daniel Kaeflein

In this interview, Daniel Kaeflein, general manager of Traders Hotel, Kuala Lumpur, shares his entry into the industry and some exciting stories from behind the scenes.

What do you do?

I’m the General Manager of Traders Hotel, Kuala Lumpur, a hotel managed by the Shangri-La Group with 571 guest rooms and suites as well as several dining venues such as the renowned SkyBar and the newly launched Bara On Six. On a day to day, I oversee the overall operational excellence and work closely with the commercial teams of the hotel.

How did you get into the industry?

I started working in restaurants and bars when I was still in school in the beautiful city of Heidelberg, Germany. I started as a bartender in a small Café & Bar. It had 30 seats and was run by a team of two, our French chef and me. I had a great time; it was also my first introduction to the food and beverage industry. That ultimately lead me to start training afterwards for a hospitality career in a large hotel in Cologne, Germany.

Share with us a story from behind the scenes.

Ask any hotelier; they’d have a long list of interesting stories ready. From hotel openings, restaurant launches, and food and beverage collaborations to hosting and serving dignitaries and stars, I definitely have a fair share of different stages of my career.

For example, we were organising three parallel weddings in my previous hotel in Jakarta. Weddings there are not sit-down, and the flow differs from those in other parts of the world. In essence, we ended up with over 5,500 guests that evening for the three events, simultaneously arriving at the hotel and passing through the various wedding venues. Until today, these types of occasions are still captivating to me. A special energy is created in anticipation of those large-scale events with the number of people to be served, the culinary team getting ready to serve while in front of house, and everything is timed to perfection to ensure the families and VIPs are served best. It becomes like a well-timed choreography that went on behind the scenes to ensure that the flow of guests was seamless and, god forbid, they weren’t attending the wrong wedding!

What food memory from your childhood or travels stands out?

My grandparents had 17 grandchildren. When we were still kids, we had these big family dinners at my grandparent’s house with probably 30 or more people. My grandmother was from the Black Forest. In the “Baden” region of Germany and along the Rhine river and into Alsace, people make this traditional sweet or savoury dish called “Dampfnudeln”. It doesn’t have an accurate English translation. Still, it’s basically a pan-fried sweet or savoury yeast dumpling that is in the finishing phase. It has a thick caramelised crust on the bottom and then usually served with lots of vanilla sauce. I’ll never forget the anticipation when these goodies were cooked right before us kids for dessert in three or four huge pans at one go.

What’s the best/ worst part of your job?

Being a hotelier is for a specific type of person. You thrive on meeting other people and interacting. You have to be comfortable with having some aspects of your life that cannot always be planned, but you will have a lot of exciting days ahead of you where one is not like the other. For me, that keeps life interesting. I also love that I can travel and live in various countries (eight so far!), experiencing them while working there. Someone wise said: choose a job you love, and you’ll never work a day. And that is certainly true for me.

Daniel Kaeflein’s favourite food and beverage pairings?

It really depends on where I am. Generally, I like to eat and drink what’s local, but what comes on top of my head right now (obviously some of my favourites) would be pairings like a good ribeye and Malbec or oysters and Champagne. But I could also go with a beautiful grilled catch of the day and an ice-cold local beer on the beach when travelling in South East Asia or a local Riesling and Flammkuchen in Alsace. In my native region in Germany, we have some of the best white asparagus in the world that just needs some hollandaise and maybe some nice local ham. Pair it with a Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc), and it’s a wrap!

What’s one of the wildest things you’ve seen behind the scenes?

Not sure if they were “wild”, but: while working in China – I experienced a snake delivery in the kitchen! I had no words.

The perfect day off would be…

…with family and friends on a beautiful beach with a barbecue.

A day in the life of a Daniel Kaeflein is…

…never the same as the day before.

What does Daniel Kaeflein do for fun?

I keep fit as much as possible, spend time with my children and travel. Anything music interests me…and maybe the occasional social event. Did I mention that I may follow the odd game of the Premier League and Bundesliga?

What would you like guests to know about Traders Hotel, Kuala Lumpur?

It has the most fantastic hotel team you will meet at Malaysia’s most iconic (and convenient!) address. Whether for business or leisure, it’s one of the best experiences you can have with some of the most unique food and beverage products you’ll find within the KL City Centre. From SkyBar, known for its cocktails, live DJs and the only venue to get a full panoramic view of the iconic Twin Towers, to our new grill and gin bar, Bara on Six serving in-house dry-aged Angus steaks, we have a great selection of lifestyle options to accompany your meal. The same goes for the bar, where all beverage mixers are also available sugar-free if you want it so.

How has the pandemic changed your perspective or the way you operate?

It most definitely has. We have seen our dependence on open borders, good communication, and consistent policies across different countries. For the tourism industry, it has also shown how resilient we are and how the industry can bounce back.

The pandemic has challenged us to look for more agile ways to operate and prioritise what’s important. It has also shown that the industry’s core will always remain important: the human element, our colleagues and excellent, personal service with empathy will permanently set the best hospitality apart from the rest.

What do you want people to know about being a Hotel General Manager?

It’s one of the most exciting jobs you can have as it makes you a part of a global family while enabling you to be and work (nearly) wherever you would like to be. It is a job that still allows people from all walks of life, as long as they are talented, hardworking and passionate, to grow into Senior Executive Roles, making us a very versatile group of people to be around.

What’s your view on the hospitality scene in Kuala Lumpur?

Kuala Lumpur is one of the major cities in Southeast Asia and showcases some of Asia’s best hospitality. I am proud to work here for the Shangri-La Group, which has considerable significance in Malaysia, with hotels with excellent reputations and a competitive edge in the Malaysian hospitality industry.

What practices do you currently implement or hope to implement to work towards social responsibility and sustainability in the future?

One of our most significant projects has been the elimination of single-use plastic. As simple and ordinary as it may sound, it is actually very difficult for a busy city hotel to source the best replacements. From the food and beverage aspect, Shangri-La has a Rooted In Nature initiative where we focus on having sustainable items on the menu. This includes sourcing locally as well as ingredients that are free-range and organic. This can be found in our newest dining venue, Bara On Six, where a large portion of the menu features ingredients locally sourced from within the country to help reduce carbon footprint and support local agricultural and fishing communities.

What can guests look forward to in the upcoming months?

Guests can look forward to further normalisation of travel, and hopefully, we will be able to welcome many more from various countries coming back to experience the vibrancy of KL. In our hotel, we are currently preparing for Ramadhan as many exciting changes are happening in the hotel that are designed for that month. Traders Hotel, Kuala Lumpur, will have, for the first time ever, the entire 5th floor dedicated to a daily buffet during that month. You have to try It out!

Read more interviews like this one with  here, and stay up to date with the latest food and beverage happenings in KL here.

One Comment

  1. “…started as a bartender in a small Café & Bar…” Impressive! Worked his way up to the top!

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