Welcome back – it’s been nearly a year since I last wrote this blog and we have so many new ideas. Palé Hall phase two, as it were, is in planning. It’s time to begin again.
It’s been a period of consolidation and refinement and we have had a greatly improved, but still tough, trading year. I have no intention of going through all that has happened, but gaining five Red Stars – the AA’s highest accolade – is an obvious highlight, as well as being voted 7th most luxury hotel in the UK by Trip Advisor.
Over the last year we have both lost and gained staff. I must mention three long-serving members of staff who have departed for new adventures and who will be much missed. James, who joined us as a gardener and worked himself around various departments, decided that he wished to reconnect with the soil. He also wished to move nearer to family. James has moved to the gardening team at Holker Hall. He worked with us for almost exactly three years, in it from the beginning, bringing his own brand of joy to the team. Sam, who started as a Night Porter and left us as Assistant Manager, felt the need to expand his experience to build a broad base from which great hoteliers are made. Sam has been a stalwart with us from day one of opening and has been a much-loved face of Palé. His partner Georgia has also moved on to pastures new. She has served in the restaurant with a calm professionalism, again moving up through the ranks, thus giving her a springboard for the next step in her career. The role all three of them have played is beyond measure and we are grateful beyond measure too. Losing staff is very much the rough of it.
Alan and I appreciate loyalty above almost everything else. Gareth, our head Chef, is now our longest-serving member of staff; in fact, 3 years this week. In some ways Gareth is typical of a great chef, passionate, demanding and driven. He is also a family man with young children who he adores; a great dad! Alan and I are determined that both areas of his life should be balanced in relative harmony. The food offering at Palé continues to improve and evolve. Gareth has repaid our faith in him over and over. Do we seek more accolades? 4 rosettes? A Michelin star? Yes, of course both we and Gareth do, and we will continue striving to be as good as we can be. If those accolades follow, we will be delighted, but it’s not why Gareth does it. He does it for the love of it and there is no finer reason. Gareth is part of the smooth of it.
Our other big news revolves around our pastry team. Adam has been with us since the beginning, with a gap where he went with Michael to open Lympstone Manor, before returning to us as Head Pastry Chef. Sam joined us about 10 months ago and he has been a great addition to the team. Sam is profoundly deaf. He has recently been voted Channel 4’s role model in Deaf Awareness Week. About this time last year we were approached by Love Productions, the production team for Bake Off The Professionals. Many weeks of auditions later they were selected to take part. They are exceptional amongst the other competitors, having only been a team for a few months. The production company were most clear that no quarter would be given to Sam. Other than Claire – Sam’s wonderful signer – no extra allowances would be made, no extra time for signing, nothing. As I write this post the series is mid-run. Adam and Sam have achieved two Star Bakers and a second place. NO MATTER WHAT happens next we truly could not be prouder. The work – oh my goodness the work – I have never seen anything like it.
Why have I concentrated on Kitchen? It’s around them that our future will develop and it’s around them that the ideas, the changes and the evolution we have planned over the next year will revolve. Palé won’t change in its fundamentals. It will still have the same focus, the same core beliefs that we hold dear. If I may quote a recent guest “[Palé is a] truly bespoke hotel that has the grandeur of any stately house but with the familiarity and relaxed atmosphere of a friend’s home”.
Two things to finish with. I must mention Debbie Cappadona, she is our new General Manager and has made an exceptional start. Alan and I are certain that the future of Palé rests in her hands and we are certain she is the right person for the job. She has our complete confidence.
The other is about an old friend both to Palé and to Alan and I. This week Michael Caines was given a special achievement award by the Craft Guild of Chefs. This is an award given by one’s peers. The great chefs of this wonderful United Kingdom of ours gave this to Michael. It’s so well-deserved Chef, you are an ambassador for all that is admirable in this industry.