Seat 3A: Michael Albanese, Co-Founder, Element Lifestyle

Seat 3A: Michael Albanese, Co-Founder, Element Lifestyle

Lifestyle | Posted by - September 18, 2014 at 1:00 am

Name: Michael Albanese
Hometown: New York City (born) and raised in Marietta, Georgia
Home Base: Los Angeles, CA
Occupation: Co-Founder, Element Lifestyle
Twitter: @theweightofink

Bio: Michael cut his teeth at The Paramount Hotel under the direction and ownership of famed hotelier, Ian Schrager. It was there that he began to understand the holistic approach to creating memorable experiences for guests, but it was not until he opened Andre Balazs’ The Mercer Hotel in SoHo that Michael came into his own. Michael continued his career at 60 Thompson, but soon thereafter was recruited to work as a concierge at the Tribeca and SoHo Grand Hotels. Michael became the Chef Concierge of both properties for five years. Due to his reputation as a leading concierge professional and consultant, he was recruited by members only lifestyle management firm, Mint.

Michael is also an accomplished playwright, regular contributor to Bespoke, Montage and Ocean Blue magazines and has a film production company, Folklore Entertainment. He just wrote and produced its inaugural film, Thirst, with Melanie Griffith, Josh Pence and Gale Harold, which made its world premiere in August 2014 at the 67th Locarno International Film Festival.

Q: Most visited destination for business
A: Between New York and San Francisco.

Q: Most impressive airport
A: Sometimes it does not have to be big and luxurious to be impressive. When I first flew into the airport in Asheville, North Carolina, I was impressed by how small and easy it was to navigate. My in-laws were waiting for us and parked in a lot right outside the front doors of the airport. Convenience and efficiency always impress.

Q: Preferred luggage
A: No luggage is preferred, that’s my dream way of traveling. Otherwise, a backpack.

Q: What three things are on your must-pack-or-will-suffer-a-meltdown list? 
A: 1. A mechanical pencil I’ve had since high school + “Pink Pearl” eraser + my journal (that is 3-in-1). 2. Wellness Formula by Source Naturals, it's really potent and good for immune support. 3. My music.

Q: Preferred airline 
A: Domestic: Virgin America
​International: Lufthansa

Q: Aisle or window 
A: Depends on the flight. Mostly aisles. I drink a lot of water on flights and window seats always translate to me inevitably bothering somebody, especially if they are sleeping.

Q: Jet lag strategy
A: Water, going to bed at bedtime the first night wherever you are, and a long walk upon arrival.

Q: Staying in shape on the road 
A: Hotel room push-ups and walking as much as possible.

Q: A travel moment that sparked an entrepreneurial idea or solution
A: I was at SFO in the security line and randomly met a guy in front of me named Theodore Agranat. He turned out to be a successful entrepreneur. By the time we took off our shoes and let our belongings pass along the conveyor belt, he had inspired me with some pointed and positive advice about entrepreneurship – and life. As it turns out, he has an incredible story that subsequently inspired me even more. We have never seen each other since, but have exchanged some emails and are friends on Facebook. I always think about what he said to me.

Q: Your preferred conference hotel
A: For Virtuoso Travel Week, it would be the Bellagio in Las Vegas. Otherwise I avoid conference hotels as much as possible.

Q: Best hotel bar for networking with other entrepreneurs
A: The bar at The Nomad in New York, or the bar at The Rosewood Sand Hill in Palo Alto.

Q: What hotel has truly lived up to the hype? 
A: The Greenwich Hotel in New York. One of my all-time favorites. If something is authentic and it is hyped, then it is hyped appropriately. If it pretends to be one thing and is actually another, then the hype is artificial. I love authenticity and a sense of place in a hotel. The Greenwich fulfills both and feels like home. 

Q: What do you enjoy finding most in a mini-bar?
A: Dark chocolate.

Q: Describe your guilty pleasure when traveling/vacationing
A: Having my family with me.

Q: What foreign phrase do you most enjoy tossing about?
A: “Grazie” or “Boker Tov.”

Q: Tell us about a great little place you recommend to friends 
A: Pepolino in Tribeca – one of my favourite Italian restaurants anywhere. Enzo, the owner, is amazing and he makes the best cheesecake I have ever had. A great little place I recommend to everyone.

Q: “I would do almost anything to relive every minute of this hotel stay...” 
A: My honeymoon at J.K. Place Florence. We were upgraded to the Presidential suite. I would relive every minute of that hotel stay. It was before I was addicted to holding my Blackberry (yes, I still have one and for those of you who have never heard of it, feel free to Google it) and checking email constantly. I was unplugged with my new wife, with no sense of obligation other than to eat, sleep and explore the beautiful city of Florence. Or not. One of the best evenings we had was in our bathrobes, in bed, eating pizza, drinking red wine and watching a documentary on Stanley Kubrick.

Q: Confess to one thing you’ve nicked from your hotel room 
A: A hand towel from The Mark Hotel in NYC.

Q: Favourite island
A: St. Simons Island, Georgia – it was where my grandfather lived and where I spent summers as a child.

Q: UNESCO World Heritage Site that blows your mind
A: Either Masada in Israel or Cornwall in England, both majestic for different reasons.

Q: The best spa experience of your life
A: The Four Seasons Santa Fe.

Q: A travel themed film that has really moved you 
A: Motorcycle Diaries is a cool film and evoked great emotion in me for travel, culture and adventure.

Q: A beloved travel book, fiction or non-fiction 
A: The Bible.

Tags: element lifestyle, michael albanese, travel, si si penaloza, seat 3a, profiles

Si Si Penaloza

Si Si Penaloza has been jet-setting to the world's top destinations for over a decade, contributing to The Globe and Mail, JETSET and NUVO. She has trekked the Himalayas in seersucker pajamas, tracked baby kiwi birds at Cape Kidnappers and observed octopus at 80 feet below in Bora Bora.

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