Interviews with Two of Red Carnation Hotels’ Outstanding Team Members
I am pleased and immensely proud to profile two of our outstanding Red Carnation team members, Mustafa “Musti” Zaghali and Adam Lake. We have many brilliant team members in our hotel collection, so it is very hard to pick and profile just two, and will share more such stories in the future.
Musti is one of our longest serving team members, who just recently retired after providing our guests and staff with 41 years of dedicated and exemplary service at our Chesterfield Mayfair Hotel. This clearly reflects a truly remarkable career.
We would also like to congratulate and recognize Adam Lake, who started working for Red Carnation Hotels at the tender age of 16 years old as a Linen Porter at The Rubens at the Palace. Through his own hard work, persistence and dedication combined with great mentoring and superb training provided by the company, over several years he worked his way up to Assistant Front of House Manager. He then left us for a few years to gain further experience, and then returned to the company three years ago as Deputy General Manager at The Chesterfield Mayfair. He recently has been promoted to General Manager, which is an incredible accomplishment and a great story about how we can achieve great thing if we work hard and dedicate ourselves to achieving more – something my Mother espouses all the time to her beloved Red Carnation team.
Here is a brief interview with each very special person, which provides one with some lovely insights into each individual as well as their personal mottos and career advice –
Tell us about your background. Why and how did you start working for The Chesterfield Mayfair?
I was working in France and a friend recommended The Chesterfield Mayfair to me. I arrived in London in 1972 and was fortunate enough to get a position working at the hotel in the room service department. At that time, the hotel was owned by Grand Metropolitan hotels. Red Carnation Hotels purchased the hotel in 1984.
What do you think are the key ingredients for a successful career in the travel and hospitality industry?
You must be patient, especially when managing a team, and you need to enjoy your work, because that reflects in the service you provide. You also need to be able to keep calm under pressure, since it’s a very fast paced industry and you have to be able to cope with all sorts of different situations.
With your 41 years of experience working at The Chesterfield, what is your favourite memory?
When I look back over those 41 years, I have many happy memories but the time that I enjoyed most was when I was the restaurant manager. I loved the ambience of the restaurant, organising the rotas, delegating tasks and training new members of the team. I used to enjoy meeting and catching up with guests, especially the many regulars. We worked together like a family and guests always seemed to enjoy coming back to see us.
What is the biggest challenge you ever had?
One year at Christmas time, I had to oversee five important functions in one day – a lunch in the Library, another lunch in The Royal Suite, afternoon tea in the Conservatory, dinner for 96 guests in the restaurant and dinner in The Royal Suite for 110. A long day that started at 6.30am and finished at 2:00am the following morning, but – was very satisfying!
And your biggest accomplishment?
I always felt proud when I heard that guests were asking for me – “Where’s Musti?”. I believe I built great relationships with many of our guests and this encouraged them to return.
How did you start your working day?
I would get to the hotel about an hour before the first guest was due to arrive, ensure the function rooms were prepared and ready. I also checked with the reception staff that they were aware of the events taking place, so that guests could be directed to the right place upon their arrival. The key to my role was always to be well prepared.
Tell us about your favourite experience with one of our past guests?
Definitely Mr. Patrick Walker who was a reporter and had a TV show – he was always interested in me and would visit often.
Tell us what will you miss most about working at The Chesterfield and the Red Carnations Hotels?
I will miss the family spirit that exists among the team (Spartaco, Lurdes, Carolina, Biagio, Chef Ben, Loris, Adam, Sam……everyone), which filters down from the Tollman family. I’ll miss seeing my daughter every day as she is the Financial Controller at the hotel. And of course, I’ll miss many of our regular guests, they used to love telling me their life stories and I always found it fascinating to hear what they did.
What is your motto in life?
Work hard, do your best and enjoy life.
Thank you for your many brilliant years of service Musti, from all of us, and enjoy your retirement.
Tell us about your background. Why and how did you start working for The Red Carnation Hotels?
I grew up in South London and when we would visit hotels as a family, I was always fascinated by the concierges – they knew everything! When I was 16, I had a disagreement with my Mum and told her that I could walk into any hotel and do that job straight away. I boarded a train, came into Victoria Station and knocked on the back door of the first big hotel I could find and it was The Rubens at the Palace. My Mum was right that they didn’t let me start as concierge, but I did get my first job as a linen porter, and from there, went on to work my way up the ladder.
What are the key ingredients for a successful career in the travel and hospitality industry?
A passion for people, energy and drive to succeed in everything you do.
What would you say is your personal business mantra?
Everything is possible.
The biggest challenge you ever had?
In 2013, I was working for an independent hotel which was acquired by a larger chain. They made sweeping redundancies and it made me think long and hard about the kind of organisation I wanted to work for. This experience challenged me to look for new opportunities that would make the most of my skills and ability, as well as give me better job security.
And the biggest accomplishment?
I am extremely proud to have been promoted from Deputy General Manager to General Manager and to be given the opportunity to motivate my team to continue to provide the excellent hospitality and luxurious comfort for which the Chesterfield Mayfair Hotel is renowned.
How do you start your working day?
I check my emails on the way into work. Once I’m at the hotel and have caught up with the night manager about what happened the night before, I’ll walk around the hotel to talk to staff and guests. This could involve having conversations with linen porters, doormen, breakfast chefs, receptionists and room maids, and to guests enjoying their first coffee of the day or checking out, as well as guests arriving, who are about to commence their stay with us.
Tell us about your favourite places in London?
Borough Market is where you will find me. This is one of the oldest food markets in London and produce from across the UK and Europe can be found here. In recent years, it’s undergone refurbishment and there are a number of excellent restaurants surrounding the market. Since it’s close to the Thames River, it’s a great spot for lunch and you can then move on to the Tate Modern, the Tower of London, Spitalfields and East London, or walk back along the Thames to the West End. (Everyone visiting London has to visit Borough Market!)
What sightseeing activities do you recommend for our guests around the Mayfair area?
As Samuel Johnson once said “if you wish to have a just notion of the magnitude of this city, you must not be satisfied with seeing its great streets and squares, but must survey the innumerable little lanes and courts.” Mayfair is still a village at heart with people living in the mews and hidden back streets, and I would recommend whether you are visiting here for business, to see the sights or to spend time with friend – at the end of your day, you should head just around the corner to Shepherd’s Market and sit outside one of the many cafes there and watch us Londoners going about our lives.
Tell us about your favourite menu item or beverage at The Chesterfield Mayfair?
We have a fantastic Gin & Tonic Experience which is truly unique and has been going down a storm with our guests. It’s a chance to sample some great brands and understand the gin-making process, as well as discover the combination of flavours to suit your taste.
Tell us why The Chesterfield’s Afternoon Tea is so popular?
The ritual of afternoon tea gives us a rare opportunity to spend time focusing on the people we’re with – our friends and family. Combine that with the “Willy Wonka” experience we offer, and one is sure to delight and excite the child in us all – there is our winning formula. Our afternoon teas allow our guests to enjoy all of the traditional aspects of this long standing British tradition, from the delicate finger sandwiches, freshly baked scones and a wide selection of loose leaf teas, with a fun, creative twist.