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Stoke Park’s Giammario Ragnoli talks Bridget Jones, Mariah mania and the magic of this most British of venues
I first became interested in hotels when I was very young. My grandparents used to take me on holiday with them to all kinds of places. I got to see a fair bit of the back of house, and instead of playing at being a fireman or policeman like most young boys, I used to pretend to work in the kitchen or restaurant.
My first job in the industry was 23 years ago. I worked as a waiter at a beautiful hotel on Lake Como (in Northern Italy) during the summer break from catering college. I then worked at many other hotels in Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Miami and the UK.
I ended up at Stoke Park when an acquaintance on the circuit moved from being GM of The Dorchester to VC of Stoke Park. He got in touch when they were relaunching the resort, and so here I am.
The best part of my job is dealing directly with satisfied guests and seeing them return again and again. It is great to see all the teamwork paying off and leading to people having a wonderful stay.
Not many people know that the US president’s Oval office is actually a larger copy of the Wyatt room here at Stoke Park – they share the same architect.
My favourite room is the Pennsylvania suite. It is the room used in the film Bridget Jones’s Diary where they stay on their mini-break and go rowing on the lake. At night the camera pans over the balcony onto a newly married couple, and it captures how magical this part of the hotel really is.
The ideal event to hold here would be a corporate trip with golf and tennis for teambuilding, and use of the conference facilities during the week. It is also great on the weekends for couples, as there are lots of things to do both together and separately, such as visiting the spa and pampering if the lady doesn’t fancy golf.
My top tip to event organisers is to listen to what clients want and do your utmost to give it to them it, no matter how weird and wonderful the request. In 2005, Mariah Carey was due to arrive at 11am and at 10.30am her PR rang and requested we provide a massive red carpet from her car to the hotel and security for the hundreds of fans that would turn up. We did it, and she was lovely.
To escape from it all, I use the gym facilities before work every morning to get my day started, which isn’t escaping very far! I also enjoy going to the theatre and eating out – my favourite restaurant is the Waterside Inn on the banks of the Thames in Bray.
My favourite hotel in the world has to be the Eden Hotel in Rome. For a change from the formality at Stoke Park, I like to go to more informal places to wind down. The Eden has great views and the atmosphere is amazing – you feel like you are the only guest staying there.
Stoke Park Country Club &
Park Road, Stoke Poges, SL2 4PG
Tel: 01753 717171, squaremeal.co.uk/stoke
This article first appeared in Square Meal Venues & Events magazine, spring 2010