The Caterer


09 June 2004 by

I get up at 7am and leave the house by 8am. One day a week I go to Newbury in Berkshire, where I ride my horse Lontaire, otherwise I go to the gym at our Covent Garden hotel. I have a trainer there called Jamie Hill, the son of Jimmy Hill. He's quite handsome, so it's a good start to the day.

After my exercise I usually have a quick breakfast at the Covent Garden hotel and then go to my office in South Kensington. The beauty of our hotels is that they're all within cycling distance of each other. Having said that, I usually take a taxi because I always feel I'm running behind time.

I suppose I get to my office, which is like Steptoe's yard, between 9.30am and 10am. People say it's a mess but to me the room's full of treasures. I'm responsible for the interior design of our hotels, from the choice of ashtrays to the lighting. That means my office is full of everything from fabrics to colour schemes.

To begin my working day I look at the mail and then deal with any design issues we might have. I try and do that as fast as possible because I hate sitting at a desk. If I'm creating a new colour scheme I also try to do that in the morning because the light's better.

By about midday I usually escape from the office and I'll go to either the Pelham or Number Sixteen. We've got refurbishment works going on at both so I'll go and talk to the workmen about what they're doing.

It's important that I talk to everyone, including the workmen and the housekeepers, because it's only by doing that that I find out what's working and what's not. The idea that I sit in palatial surroundings and just waft about certainly isn't true. If a hotel's looking beautiful then I don't need to be there.

At lunchtime I have a quick snack and I eat at whichever hotel I'm at. I always ask for the worst table in the restaurant, and if that's taken, I won't sit down.

Generally, I'll spend my afternoons specifying or commissioning or planning for our Soho hotel that opens in Richmond Mews, off Dean Street, late next year. I might, for example, go to an auction to see what prices pictures are going for, or I might visit the Victoria & Albert Museum to get out some references on carpet design.

Recently I met an artist named David Collins because I want him to paint our brasseries and café‚ and hang the pictures of them in our new hotel.

I do get difficult days but we have such go-ahead staff that if I ever feel I'm going to crash, they pull me through. As for my husband Tim, we might work together but we don't see each other. He's busy with the finances and our paths rarely cross.

At the end of the afternoon I go back to my office, which is usually at about a quarter to six. There I go through the nitty-gritty things such as writing cheques, going through my e-mails and leaving messages for my PA Susan McDermont.

I live in Kensington and I always walk home because it refreshes me. I try to be home by about 7pm and then I'll cook supper for Tim and me. It's nice to sit down and have a meal that's taken about 20 minutes to cook, such as Dover sole, pasta or salad.

At dinner we'll talk about work or our daughters Tiffany, Willow and Min, and then, after dark, we'll go and walk our two dogs, both cavalier King Charles spaniels, in Hyde Park.

Interview by Louise Bozec


Firmdale Hotels
Tim and Kit Kemp
Annual turnover: £14m

Just a minute…

What's your favourite hotel?
I've yet to find it. There's nowhere that I always want to go back to because, so far, I always want to be somewhere different.

What's your ambition? I'd like to have a really good horse that I could build up a fantastic rapport with, I'd like a grass tennis court because it sounds luxurious, and I'd like a gypsy caravan because it's so romantic.

What do you most fear happening in your job?
All the ceilings dropping in at the same time because someone has left the water running.

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