News for the Hospitality Executive
Staff Who Become Legends, Celebrating the Art of Fine Hospitality
Within Dorchester Collection
April 2009 (New York) – The Dorchester Collection includes seven of the world’s most iconic five-star hotel properties each exuding their own style and individuality through design, services, amenities and most notably, their staff. The good ones last for years. The great ones last decades. And the legends? They’re in it for life. They have dedicated histories at each property and go above and beyond to deliver personalized service, discretion, attention to detail, and consistent energy and enthusiasm to their guests. Following are select legends whose admirable abilities continue to be iconic in their own right:
Dennis Milton, Painter and Decorator, The Dorchester
Dennis Milton’s sole responsibility is to keep London’s premier property, The Dorchester, shining. After arriving at the hotel as a painter in 1990, the Rochester, England native soon turned his talents to gold leaf restoration. He now works primarily in the high-style Silver and Gold rooms leading to the Grand Ballroom, as well as in the Suri Suite on the 9th floor, which has its own surfeit of shimmering leaf. “Add it up, and I’d estimate I’m responsible for about a mile of the hotel,” says Milton of The Dorchester’s extensive gold- and silver-leafed cornicing. Essentially self-taught, Milton uses sticky sizing, a brush of “softest rabbit hair,” his own natural skin oil, and a slightly damp cloth to apply the impossibly delicate leaf as needed for maintenance and restoration. “It takes enormous preparation and coordination with the rest of the hotel, as the slightest breeze from an open door will blow the leaf out of my hands.” Talk about a Midas touch.
Mario Gambron, Chief Concierge, Principe di Savoia
Have a desire? If you’re in Milan, Mario Gambron is the man to see. As Chief Concierge for Principe di Savoia, Gambron oversees a staff of 20 whose cherished task is to make things happen for guests. Tickets for the season opener at La Scala Theatre, a private viewing of “The Last Supper” by Leonardo Da Vinci, last-minute seats on fully booked flights, a premier table at one of the city’s most fashionable restaurants – tonight! Gambron has done them all. And he’s been doing them for 35 years. “The concierge must solve any of his guests’ problems, fulfill any desire, and welcome customers with his best smile,” notes Gambron, who along with his duties at Principe di Savoia is President of the Lombardy chapter of Le Chiavi D’Oro (“The Golden Keys”), the international association of top concierges.
William Oliveri, Bartender, Bar 228, Le Meurice
"It feels like home", says William Oliveri of the muted décor, leather armchairs and lovely Lavalley frescoes dating back from 1905 at Bar 228 at Le Meurice, where he has tended bar for over 30 years. Sicilian by birth, William earned his reputation in Europe’s grandest palaces before taking his position at the historic paneled bar, which has hosted crowned heads from all over the world. Warm and talkative – he speaks several languages, including Russian. William is only the fourth bartender over the past century at Bar 228. When it comes to loyal clients, he practices discretion, alluding to the eccentricities of "habitués" such as Salvador Dali and Richard Burton as well as Elizabeth Taylor, Claudia Cardinale, and Sofia Loren. Without going into detail: "I am a confidant, a confessor and host all at once," he explains. He is also a true professional who believes that each client deserves a personal welcome – and a custom cocktail to go with it. Among his successful creations, guests can enjoy his famous Bellini, well-known in Paris; The Starky created in honor of the designer Philipe Starck who redesigned Bar 228 and the JCDC created for famous French designer Jean Charles de Castelbajac.
Svend Petersen, Hotel Ambassador, Beverly Hills Hotel
He’s been hailed as “The Poolside Prince of the Pink Palace.” He calls clients by their first names or even “Your Highness” when the moment seems appropriate. He has given swimming lessons to Faye Dunaway, spread towels for Princess Grace of Monaco, and tucked the Beatles into their own private cabana. He’s been cast in more than a few movies. And after making his legend as Pool Manager at The Beverly Hills Hotel for 43 years, Svend Petersen remains an L.A. icon with no real compare. Even as the hotel’s clientele has changed, with financiers and business big shots now as much of a presence as the entertainment elite, Petersen continues to dazzle with captivating stories of celebrities gone by. Though his pool duties have evolved into a social status, Peterson cannot tear himself away from his home-away-from-home, and he is equally famous as he touts his new title of Hotel Ambassador.
Peter Komma, Chief of Reception, Hotel Plaza Athénée
Peter Komma might not be the first employee guests see when they enter the doors of Hotel Plaza Athénée, but he makes sure he’s the one they remember. The hotel’s Chief of Reception with a tenure going back 37 years, Komma assures his guests are satisfied with their accommodations and secures them other quarters if they are not. Over the years he has greeted many celebrity bright lights, including various Kennedys and Rockefellers, as well as Frank Sinatra, Sarah Jessica Parker, Jennifer Connelly, Jay Z, Salma Hayek and Beyonce Knowles. “It is very important to keep in contact and create a relationship with guests,” says Komma. “The only way to assure their satisfaction is to put yourself in their shoes.”
Jaime Garcia, Server, Hotel Bel-Air
Don’t be misled by Jaime Garcia’s sweet demeanor as he arrays your table with California-style Mediterranean entrees at The Restaurant at Hotel Bel-Air. Inside, he’s even sweeter – and a recognized talent at that. A server at The Restaurant for 35 of the 42 years he’s been at the Bel-Air, Garcia has outlasted six chefs, many menu revisions and at least a couple of uniform changes to bring top-drawer service to the hotel’s celebrated clientele. “Robert Wagner was a regular here at lunch and dinner when his mom lived at the hotel,” he recalls and “Jaclyn Smith still comes around a lot.” After initially signing on as a dishwasher, Garcia skipped from busboy to waiter within a few short years. He knows his way around the dining room, as evidenced by two “Server of Year” awards bestowed upon by Table, a restaurant trade magazine, and the honor of “Ambassador of the Year” in 2004 and 2007 by Hotel Bel-Air, and most recently the 2009 award for “Outstanding Employee” by Leading Quality Assurance. Asked for recommendations, he insists it’s hard to play favorites with Chef Dan Olson’s menu, but assures one can’t go wrong with Line-caught Dover sole meuniere or Huckleberry braised short rib with potato confit and leek fondue – “So easy to slice with a fork.” Sounds delicious.
James Staiano, Executive Chef, The New York Palace Hotel
Culinary trends come and go, but Executive Chef James Staiano keeps working his magic at The New York Palace Hotel. During 21 years at the Madison Avenue address, Chef Staiano has reinvented the hotel’s cuisine using freshest ingredients to impress palates of even the most particular food connoisseurs and can whip up bespoke menus or dishes upon request. Staiano who is known for his expertise in creating culinary specialties from around the world, has recently unveiled a traditional Japanese breakfast menuitem catering to the hotels savvy international clientele. Trained in the culinary arts at Atlantic Community College in Mays Landing, New Jersey, Staiano has traveled the world gathering inspiration, and has recently partnered with Executive Chef Billy Strynkowski of Cooking Light to offer an exclusive room-service menu of lighter fare. Like everything Staiano seems to create in the kitchen, it was well received.
With seven of the world’s foremost five-star addresses, the Dorchester Collection celebrates luxury with hotels of original character and the most modern amenities. Established as the Dorchester Group by the Brunei Investment Agency in 1996, Dorchester Collection was rebranded in 2006 to develop an impeccable portfolio of traditional and contemporary properties in Europe and the United States. The current portfolio of owned and managed properties includes The Dorchester, a 244-room hotel long favored by the cream of society in the heart of Mayfair in London; The Beverly Hills Hotel, a glamorous and celebrity-friendly 204-room property on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles; the elegant Le Meurice, a centuries-old, 160-room property located between Place de la Concorde and the Louvre on rue de Rivoli in Paris; Hôtel Plaza Athénée, a 191-room embodiment of Parisian luxury set between Avenue des Champs Elysées and the Eiffel Tower; and Hotel Principe di Savoia, a cosmopolitan, 401-room property on the Piazza della Repubblica in Milan. The Dorchester Collection’s newest properties joined in August 2008, including The New York Palace, an icon of Manhattan with the landmark Villard Mansion and a contemporary 55-story tower; and Hotel Bel-Air, a shining star of Los Angeles set on 12 acres in Stone Canyon with 91 guest rooms and the renowned “Swan Lake” inhabited by its own resident swans. With unrivaled experience and capability, cross-property values of the highest order, and strong company branding that expresses universally high regard for its portfolio, Dorchester Collection assures a consistently exceptional guest experience at all of its hotels. U.S. reservations: 800.650.1842; www.dorchestercollection.com
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