How I got here

27 January 2005
How I got here

Caroline Parkes's enthusiasm for her new job as house director at Birmingham restaurant Simpson's is infectious. It would easily shame the majority of inexperienced professionals half her age, but then always having a smile at the ready is one of the pearls of wisdom she imparts to me.

Having been at Andreas Antona's reborn and relocated Michelin-starred restaurant only since January, she's keen to make her mark, and is currently putting in the hours seven days a week. Antona has plans to launch a private cookery school in February-March to serve a keen and affluent market in the area, and even before this springs into life co-ordinating 40 staff keeps the experienced Parkes on her toes. Before joining the restaurant with rooms, Parkes learnt her trade in the world of hotels, employing the same high standards and attention to detail she does now. "It's a shame that many companies are now placing hospitality in the back seat within their business," she laments. "At the end of the day it's what we're all about. That and making sure we always exceed customers' expectations." Trained as a chef at Cordon Bleu cookery school, Parkes soon moved into management because she loved the contact with staff and customers. "I decided that this would be the area where I could make a worthwhile contribution to the industry." Parkes has subsequently helped many an aspiring youngster realise their potential, although she concedes that like many in the industry she has in the past allowed her own passion for it to lead her to neglect friends. Her advice is to make sure you maintain balance within your work and social life. Having worked In Scotland for much of the 1970s and 1980s, Parkes and family took a gamble in 1987 and moved from Aberdeen to take on the task of opening and running Thistle's New Hall Country House Hotel in Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands. She describes the challenge of converting some old houses into a hotel as "amazing", and her efforts didn't go unrecognised, as the hotel won AA Hotel of the Year for England, a four-red-star rating and accolades from owner Thistle. Parkes took a break from operations in 2003 and became a consultant. However, it was a short-lived distraction, and she returned to the sharp end with the same hotel group as general manager of Coombe Abbey hotel, near Coventry, shortly after. Her final advice to managers is simple: "Always listen to your staff and be willing to help." Career highlights 1987 Deputy general manager, New Hall Country House Hotel 2003 General manager, Coombe Abbey hotel 2005 Joins Simpson's
The Caterer Breakfast Briefing Email

Start the working day with The Caterer’s free breakfast briefing email

Sign Up and manage your preferences below

Check mark icon
Thank you

You have successfully signed up for the Caterer Breakfast Briefing Email and will hear from us soon!

Jacobs Media Group is honoured to be the recipient of the 2020 Queen's Award for Enterprise.

The highest official awards for UK businesses since being established by royal warrant in 1965. Read more.


Ad Blocker detected

We have noticed you are using an adblocker and – although we support freedom of choice – we would like to ask you to enable ads on our site. They are an important revenue source which supports free access of our website's content, especially during the COVID-19 crisis.

trade tracker pixel tracking