Kevin Wendle is best known for being a Hollywood producer, media entrepreneur and co-founder of Fox Broadcasting. The founder and owner of Hotel Esencia – one of our favourite properties on the Mexican Riviera Maya – Wendle knows a thing or two about good design and hospitality too.
The former tropical hideaway of Italian duchess Rosa de Ferrari, Wendle has transformed the 29 room whitewashed mansion, filling it with his personal art and antiques collection. Nestled in ancient Maya jungle and flanked by the Caribbean Coast, the 50-acre estate is one of Mexico’s most exclusive beachside oasis.
Just back from travelling, we caught up with Wendle to get the inside track on what’s hot in Mexico and the latest trends in luxury travel.
1. Having worked in the entertainment industry how did you come to create Hotel Esencia?
Though I loved my days as a producer I always had a side interest in real estate. I started flipping homes back in the ’80s just for fun and the homes got bigger and bigger over time. Finally one day I had a nine-bedroom house near St. Tropez where I only used to spend a couple of weeks each summer so I started renting it out to VIPs when I wasn’t using it. I loved getting it ready and making it perfect for my guests which eventually attracted some of the best clientele in the market. One of them said to me “you really do such a great job with all this, you should open a hotel one day” – that thought never left my head.
2. When not at Hotel Esencia, where are you happiest?
I love travelling and checking out other hotels!
3. When recommending hotspots to friends visiting Mexico, where do you send them?
Mexico is so incredibly rich in history, culture, nature, geography, craftsmanship, and cuisine. It’s quickly become one of my favourite countries in the world to explore. Where we are located along the Yucatan Peninsula, there are countless traces of Mayan culture including pyramids and lost cities, Mayan trade routes through the swamps and the jungle, as well as secret underground rivers and cenotes. We are immersed in nature as our beach is where some of the world’s largest sea turtles come to nest each year. Beyond Yucatan, the capital of Mexico City is not to be missed with astonishing ancient ruins and some of the most fascinating museums in the world, in addition to a vibrant urban creative culture of architecture, art and design, and top restaurants. Two other favourite spots in Mexico are San Miguel de Allende which is worth the trip and the artisan community of Oaxaca.
4. You clearly enjoy art and design. Tell us about the last piece you acquired?
Only two weeks ago I received an extraordinary chair — a sculpture really — hand made from the trunk of a tree by the Mexican architect and designer Diego de Romay. It now sits prominently in the original main house of the hotel in harmony with our authentic mid-century collection of works by Pierre Jeanerret, Charlotte Perriand, and Pierre Guariche.
5. Were you to choose another country in the world for a sister to Esencia, where might you consider?
I’ve always had a love affair with France where I lived part-time for nearly 15 years. And who knows, America may be a possibility one day, likely on a beach somewhere.
6. You have received some huge names to Esencia. Are you allowed to share a few of them with us?
We’ve been lucky to have been selected by some of the best-known people in the world for their vacation, however out of respect for their privacy I would have to refer you to just a few of those who’ve posted their visit on social media. Bella Hadid, Gisele Bundchen, and Kate Moss have shot Vogue covers here. The fashion designer Jason Wu was married here and is a good friend. He’s referred some of his own friends to join us such as Lupita N’yongo, Diane Kruger, Kate Bosworth, Emily Ratajkowski, and others. Gwen Stefani and Blake Shelton have stayed with us more than once and Drew Barrymore was here last month. Like I said these are just a few of those who’ve already posted photos from here for their fans but there have been so many more.
7. What trends are you noticing in luxury travel?
It’s more clear to me than even that the luxury traveller is most interested in something more intimate and personalized. They don’t want to be at a huge resort spending the day being shuttled around in a golf cart. Great service is more important than ever, not the robotic scripted service you find in so many “luxury” hotel chains but sincere service provided by people who really love taking care of people.
8. What do you never travel without?
Lists for Santa Claus from my two boys.
9. What’s the best gift you have received?
A framed caricature illustration of myself from two employees poking fun of my intense work ethic
10. What music are you listening to at the moment?
Whatever my boys are playing in my car
11. Alive or dead which two people would you most like to have dinner with?
Hotelier Caesar Ritz and Restauranteur Danny Meyer.
12. What are your favourite restaurants worldwide?
So many! Jean Georges never disappoints no matter what he does. Fontelina in Capri is probably #1 in the world for me. In NYC, my favourite at the moment is The Polo Bar but I’ve always had a soft spot for The Modern at MOMA from the brilliant Danny Meyer. In Paris, the new Beefbar from my friend Riccardo Giraudi is always my first stop. In fact, it’s so good we just opened one at Esencia!