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Graeme Nesbitt – My life in hospitality

22 July 2009 by
Graeme Nesbitt – My life in hospitality

Graeme Nesbitt is the resort general manager at Cameron House on Loch Lomond.

Fate clearly had a life in hotels planned for Graeme Nesbitt. Faced with a choice between apprenticeships in construction or hospitality, Nesbitt reached for a coin and flipped it. He could have gone to Balfour Beatty; instead, he joined Compass.

Nesbitt epitomises the belief that you should work with people who can teach and inspire you. "My CV has lots of nice properties, but that's just a bonus. It has always been the person I've gone to work with, not the property," he says.

After four years under Alan Hill at Gleneagles, Nesbitt went south to seek out the gurus of the London hotel scene. Lesson one came at the Dorchester, where executive chef Willi Elsener instilled razor-sharp kitchen management skills. "I learned total organisation; everything had a recipe, a procedure, a place".

Lesson two, people management, was conducted by the Savoy's Anton Edelmann, "an unbelievable man-manager and a fantastic leader. It was a tough kitchen but I learnt to cope with huge pressure."

Knowing you need to be able to cook the classics before you can create fashionable dishes, Nesbitt then headed to Claridge's for a culinary masterclass from John Williams. "It was a real education - he could probably recite Escoffier," he says.

Stints at Hanbury Manor and the Lygon Arms allowed Nesbitt to hone his cheffing and kitchen management skills; but then the lure of Scotland grew too strong and he moved to St Andrews Bay Resort and the tutelage of Stephen Carter. He calls Carter "Mr Hospitality. He treats every guest like a long-lost friend."

Sensing a desire in Nesbitt to move front of house, after a year Carter sanctioned a move to F&B director and from there to resident manager. "Working for five years with Stephen has to be equivalent to 10 or 15 with other general managers. He put a programme in place to develop me and pushed me to the limits."

When he had no more to teach him, Carter introduced Nesbitt to Robert Cook. General manager positions in the Edinburgh and Birmingham Malmaisons followed, and the career arc that has taken him to his current role at Cameron House was drawn.

The single piece of advice Nesbitt's advice to young professionals: "Don't rush through the ranks. Fast tracking catches up on you, so learn your trade properly."

HIGHS… My current position, working with Stephen Carter and Robert Cook, is a continuous "high". I know of no two people that come close to them and I work with and for both of them in what I think is the best resort in Scotland, Cameron House. The product is fantastic and the setting and finish are beautiful, but when I joined in July 2008 the 500-strong team needed re-energising. It took until February to get to the starting blocks and get the right people in place. Now the hard work begins.

LOWS… That would have to be at St Andrews Bay, when the power went during the 2004 News Year's Eve gala dinner. Thankfully, it was just as they sat down, but let's just say it was a tough evening and I didn't have a drink of whisky all night!

Age: 40
Family: Married with a two-year-old and a four-month-old
Favourite holiday: The four of us in a lodge at Aviemore with the dog chasing rabbits.
Drives: Usually a BMW X3 or my wife's mini, but my Honda CBR 600 comes out to play on sunny days.
Motto: Be the best you can be. If that's not enough, your conscience is always clear.

CAREER HIGHLIGHTS

  • 1995 Rose from chef de partie to soux chef at the Savoy.
  • 1998 Achieved and retained three AA rosettes at the Lygon Arms.
  • 2006 Appointed general manager of Malmaison's largest site in Birmingham.
  • 2008 Reunited with Robert Cook and Stephen Carter when he moved to Cameron House.

RECESSION-BUSTING TIP

Don't be too focused on the bottom line. Focus on your guests, give them a great experience and a reason to want to come back. If you look after your people, they'll look after your guests, and your guests will give you profits.

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