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November 15, 2016

INTERVEW: MANNY KESS, CONCIERGE TO THE STARS

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Name: Manny Kess

Profession: Concierge to the stars and owner of The Kess Group

Age: 38

Packing Tip?

Always check weather.com and pack as light as possible. Never make assumptions. Last year, I visited New York City for New Year’s Eve. I packed way too much, expecting a cold New York winter, but it wound up being 65 degrees.

Giving a heads up about the weather is something I always do for my clients before they come to town — especially when they’re coming from overseas. The last thing a client like Jérôme Boateng wants is to drag a huge bag through Heathrow if he doesn’t need it.

Favorite travel memory?

I visit my family in Greece every year. There’s nothing in the world that compares to watching the sun set in Oia, Santorini. Every time I’m there, time stands still. It’s the most amazing, beautiful, serene image that exists.

Bucket List Destination?

Many of my clients spend time traveling to the world’s most exotic locales, so I draw a lot of inspiration from them. Before last year, I would have said the Phi Phi Islands, but now an African safari is at the top of my list. DeMarcus Ware took a safari soon after winning Super Bowl 50, and the pictures he showed me were incredible. Hearing him talk about the experience took my breath away. I can’t imagine a more intimate way to be up close and personal with nature.

Favorite off-the-beaten-path spot?

The hustle and bustle of Las Vegas and the Strip can be exhausting if you don’t take a break every now and then; that’s why I love to head to Lake Mead when I need to clear my head. There are plenty of water sports, boating and other things to do. Who would have thought you could find a non-pool party water activity in the desert?

What kind of traveler are you?

I’m a get-up-and-go kind of guy. The unpredictable nature of what I do means I might unexpectedly be on a plane to see a client two hours from now. This is a relationship business, and I have to build those relationships.

Funniest travel story?

I took trips to Greece and Colombia with Barry Gardner, the former Philadelphia Eagles linebacker. Barry is a huge physical specimen. We had the same experience on both trips: The locals had never seen an enormous 240-pound athlete. Guys, girls and even security guards all swooned around him as if he were Leonardo DiCaprio. They treated him as if he were a real-life superhero, which actually he is and was to many people.

Best meal you’ve had on your travels?

I’m all about the experience. A meal is so much more than just food.

Las Vegas is home to some of the world’s most incredible dining experiences, and in my business I’ve had the opportunity to enjoy many of them. Because of that, the bar is set high. The one dining experience that stands out, though, is at 42 Grams in Chicago. It’s a small place — run by a husband and wife — and everything about it was just impeccable. The meal itself consisted of a three-hour, 12-course tasting menu. They got every detail right. And now they have two well-earned Michelin stars.

Craziest thing you’ve done while traveling?

Crazy experiences are the norm in Las Vegas, so it takes a lot to move my needle. Being on the field amid the chaos after the Broncos won Super Bowl 50 was probably the craziest. Being there as a guest of Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas was an once-in-a-lifetime experience my career enabled.

There I was, on the field with the champions, the media, tons of security, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and very few friends and family, with 71,000 fans screaming in the stands. I was part of something historic, standing five feet away from Peyton Manning as he was saying goodbye to football, watching in person as Von Miller was named Super Bowl MVP. Just crazy.

Favorite item collected from your travels?

I’m not the souvenir collecting type. This is going to sound sappy, but the memories and the pictures are the rewards I earn from traveling. I get to relive those moments, and that’s what makes them special to me. They help me constantly relive my adventures and my travels. Maybe that’s why I’m in the business of making those kinds of experiences and memories for others.

Where next?

I never know where I’ll be tomorrow, but the next big trip is going to be an extended trip across Asia that includes Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines.