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My career was kick-started when I joined a graduate training programme with Trusthouse Forte, which at the time was the biggest hotel company in Europe. It gave me the opportunity to work in little country inns, large city hotels, corporate hotels and even get involved with the catering at the Commonwealth Games in 1984. After that I was completely hooked.
Every day there is a new and exciting challenge at South Lodge.Since I started we have more than doubled the size of the hotel, from 42 to 89 bedrooms. However, my biggest challenge was when we secured the booking from the Treasury for the G20 finance meeting in 2009. The organisation of it all, particularly the security operation and liaison with the government, was a wonderful experience and it put us on the map for being a really serious conference venue.
The best part of my job is being involved in the development of the younger members of staff who come here to learn the business. Seeing them strive and move onwards and upwards into great jobs gives me a real buzz – that, and having regular guests come back time and time again.
At the hotel we’re excited about our new walled garden. We spent last year developing an acre of Victorian walled gardens, we landscaped the land and installed old glass houses. This year we aim to be 65% self-sufficient and have an initiative where we waste nothing. Everything from the kitchen is composted and put back into the garden. My favourite phrase is ‘We’ll find a way.’ I also like it when people use it on me, reassuring me that we will always find a solution no matter what. It’s great for team work.
When I get time off I love going on holiday to Cornwall with my family and dog. We go for long walks on the beach and eat lots of delicious seafood.
Not many people know that I’m a frustrated racing driver. I have the need for speed and if I wasn’t working in the hotel business I would have pursued a career in in racing.
My favourite hotel would be made up of the sense of occasion you get when visiting Claridge’s, the doormen from the Goring, the bar at the Stafford, the beach at Touessrok in Mauritius, and the resort and leisure facilities of Gleneagles.
The person I have learnt the most from is Peter Lederer. He was GM at Gleneagles when I was there and is now chairman. He was a wonderfully calm and reassuring manager to work for and very inspirational and innovative.
In 10 years’ time I still see myself at South Lodge. By then I’d like us to have built a new spa and an outside swimming lake. I want it to become a truly five-star resort
This article was first published in Square Meal Venues & Events magazine, spring 2012