Recovery through positivity: how HA helped get Le Manoir’s Mitchell back on track

When you’re young, it’s easy to think you’re indestructible. Your whole life is stretched out before you, the opportunities are endless.

But there are no guarantees in life. No one can know what lies around the corner. Just ask Mitchell Collier, Guest Relations Manager at Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons. I’ll let Mitchell tell his own story.

“From the age of 14, I knew hospitality was what I wanted to do. I may have been elbow deep in dishwater but I already felt part of something bigger. For me, hospitality isn’t just the service we deliver but the collaboration of people with their own unique traits and skill sets.

“Knowing that I felt destined for a career in hospitality, I began to chase my dream. After two years studying Hospitality Management at Buxton College, I accepted a position at South Lodge Hotel, where I progressed within the Guest Services team. I joined Le Manoir in 2016, with the drive to continue my journey further. Life was good …

“In the Spring of last year, my life turned upside down. Following a decline in my health and several visits to the doctor and to hospital, I was diagnosed with a form of skin cancer, in June.

“The last thing you expect to be doing on your 21st birthday is to be recovering from emergency surgery to remove a cancerous growth. It’s certainly not what I had planned!

“Days before my surgery, I was also informed I’d been unsuccessful in applying for an internal promotion. And, in the same week as my surgery, my partner decided to end our relationship. I felt alone, a failure, and I couldn’t comprehend having been told I had cancer. Despite being an optimistic, positive and joyful person, I couldn’t see light at the end of the tunnel.

“A close friend at work saw my struggle and told me to seek help from Hospitality Action’s Employee Assistance Programme, which our company offers to all staff members. If it wasn’t for her suggestion, I honestly don’t know what position I would be in today. The support and reassurance I got from just one telephone call was the pick-up I needed.

“I was offered six sessions of counselling by Hospitality Action. After a few sessions with the counsellor, I still felt I wasn’t back to my normal self, so after a quick call they agreed on a further six.

“My counselling was to help me come to terms with everything I’d been through. I described it to my counsellor as trying to download a 10GB file with a bandwidth of 1KB. I just wasn’t able to process everything and became stuck with what was going on in my life and how I could move forward. I had all the emotions going on and I just didn’t know where to start with them all.

“On returning to work I found certain situations very difficult to handle. Le Manoir is a bucket-list destination for some people, so I was around guests who’d unfortunately not been so fortunate with their treatment and were coming for a last special occasion. My counsellor was able to teach me techniques to help me process everything a little bit at a time, and to clear my mindset.

“The counselling brought me back to a place I was familiar with. My positive outlook and happy attitude were back, and I felt ready to tackle the challenges that had been thrown at me over the previous three months. I reapplied for the promotion and, with perseverance and support from the counsellor and a fresh outlook, I was promoted to Guest Relations Manager early last November. I then got my all-clear at the end of November, so it really was a great month for me. I go back to the Churchill in Oxford every three months for scans and check-ups to make sure nothing has come back. It’s great to have such attentive after care.

“I am 21, turning 22 in June, but I’ve decided that this year is going to be my 21st birthday revisited, since I didn’t get to celebrate last year while I was recovering from surgery.

“I am so grateful for the support Hospitality Action gave me; and I admire their commitment to supporting individuals struggling in our industry. Without a safety net like the one they provide, I fear my story would have been very different. Everyone will come across struggles in their life and sometimes it’s just a helping hand that makes a big difference.”

Mitchell, more power to you for inviting me to tell your story, and good luck with your recovery. You know where we are, should you need any further support.

Mitchell received our support because Raymond Blanc and his management team at Le Manoir had the foresight and duty of care to subscribe to our employee care programme.

I urge to do the same for your team members, and ensure they remain happy, healthy and work-ready.

Charity supporters walk the rooms of Downton Abbey

Last Thursday we offered our guests the opportunity to tour Highclere Castle in West Berkshire, to lunch and have afternoon tea at The Vineyard at Stockcross and we raised £13,000 for Hospitality Action.

We ran this event for the first time in 2017 and for the second year running we sold out in just a few weeks. We love organising this popular event because it opens the doors to new supporters, who are prepared to travel for miles for the opportunity to tour Highclere, enjoy a Champagne reception and a fabulous three-course lunch with paired wines at The Vineyard.

Chef Robby Jenks once again prepared the most exquisite menu not just for the lunch, but also for the array of sweet treats for the afternoon tea, which was gladly received upon the return from the castle tour.

The Vineyard Hotel, a Relais & Châteaux 5 star hotel and spa, is renowned for its impeccable service, 3 AA Rosette restaurant and award-winning, 30,000-bottle wine cellar. All guests highly praised chef Robby Jenks and his brigade.

Even the short coach journey to Highclere Castle was enjoyed, driving through the beautiful countryside, taking in the green fields dotted with sheep and new born baby lambs, one of the sure signs of spring, to finally reveal a stunning country house set within a 5,000-acre estate in Hampshire, the country retreat of the Earl of Carnarvon. Highclere was a filming location for the British comedy series Jeeves and Wooster and it was also more recently used as the main location for the award-winning period drama Downton Abbey. We even had an actor amongst our guests, a proud extra who took part in many episodes in the series and proved to be quite a character.

This year we also offered a visit to the Egyptian Exhibition, which highlighted the 5th Earl of Carnarvon’s role in discovering the Tomb of the Egyptian Boy Pharaoh, Tutankhamun, in 1922 with his colleague, Howard Carter. We all learned something new that day and those of us who love history, came away a little bit curious.

In the words of one of our guests: “We had a wonderful day at Highclere Castle and the food and the service at The Vineyard were outstanding, we will definitely come back! Today we were introduced to Hospitality Action and feel privileged to have attended this fundraiser and to have contributed to such a great cause, we will make sure we support your charity in the future!”

The raffle and live auction raised £13,000 and we are hugely grateful to Greenclose Hotels Limited, The Marylebone, Four Seasons Hotel London at Park Lane, Tyddyn Llan, The House near Bath, Firmdale Hotels, CH&Co and Sidoli who donated prizes.

We are extremely grateful to The Vineyard for hosting the event, to Taittinger Champagne for providing the bubbles for the drinks reception and to Hatch Mansfield for pairing up wines with the menu. We thank all of our sponsors for continuing to support our fundraising efforts and contributing with such special care and attention to ensure our event offer experiences to remember.

The funds raised will be used directly to support our charity work, to provide a much needed support, often a lifeline, to current and former hospitality industry workers who find themselves in difficult times, both at work and in their personal lives.

The reality is that hospitality is everywhere in our lives and we believe that the hard working people offering hospitality should not remain faceless or suffer in silence. After all how can you deliver great service with a smile if you don’t feel like smiling?

If you would like to be informed about our work and attend future events, please sign up to our newsletter here.

If you would like to get involved, donate a prize, nominate us as your charity or have an idea, we would love to hear from you fundraising@hospitalityaction.org.uk

Rugby Legends and Super Chefs Raise £40,000 for HA!

On Monday evening we hosted our inaugural Rugby Legends Dinner at Deer Park Country House Hotel. It was a tremendous occasion which raised a whopping £40,000!

Our 200 guests enjoyed delicious food prepared by a brigade of some of the UK’s pre-eminent chefs, all from or with links to the west country; Dominic Chapman of The Beehive, White Waltham, Jude Kereama of Kota, Nathan Outlaw of Outlaw’s Fish Kitchen, Josh Eggleton of The Pony & Trap, Guy Owen of The Idle Rocks, Paul Ainsworth of Paul Ainsworth at Number 6 and Michael Wignall formerly of Gidleigh Park. Thanks also goes to Hadleigh Barrett, Executive Chef at Deer Park for opening his kitchen to us!

Stuffed courgette flower with burrata, artichokes, beetroot & sultanas, pine nut vinaigrette by Dominic Chapman, The Beehive

Our lucky guests also enjoyed the company of a host of rugby union superstars who entertained us all with tales from on and off the pitch. We are extremely grateful to them all for giving up their time free of charge; David Flatman, Phil Vickery MBE DL, Jeremy Guscott, Alex Brown, Phil Dollman, David Flatman, Andy Hazell, Kai Horstmann, Lee Mears, Matt Powell, Nigel Redman Andy Reed, Gareth Steenson, and Nolli Waterman alongside football legend Paul Tisdale.

L-R: Nathan Outlaw, Phil Vickery MBE DL, Guy Owen, Josh Eggleton and David Flatman

We are of course also indebted to our headline sponsor Sharp’s Brewery for their tremendous support, without them the event would not have been possible. Special mention also goes to Chase Distillery, Enotria&Coe, Exposure Photo Agency, Oliver Harvey, The Pig, Salt Media, Total Produce, Udale Speciality Foods and Wing of St Mawes for being so generous.

Events like these are only made possible thanks to the dedicated supporters who give up their time to help us on a voluntary basis, people like Andrew Foulkes MI who masterminded the event and Mark Godfrey FIH MI who gave us free rein of Deer Park Hotel. Needless to say we are always in need of ambassadors just like Andrew and Mark, from right across the UK, to lend their support. If you’d like to get involved in the charity, in any way, shape or form, please give me a ring on 020 3004 5504. It would be great to hear from you.

Lands End to John o’ Groats: charting Hospitality Action’s nationwide reach

Hospitality Action? It’s that charity for chefs working in London and the Southeast, right?”

Wrong. And wrong.

Hospitality Action helps anyone who works or has worked in hospitality, and finds themselves in crisis.

Yes, we help chefs; but we also help restaurateurs, hotel workers and bar staff. Moreover, we support hospitality professionals at every level of operations: whether you work in a Premier Inn or at The Ritz, whether you serve Michelin-starred dishes or hospital meals, we’ve got you.

As for any geographical bias, the chart above speaks for itself. Last year, 18% of our spend in 2017 was in the Southwest, 14% in the Northeast, 13% in the Northwest, 10% in Scotland and 8% in Wales.

They say charity begins at home. Rest assured, wherever you call home, from Dublin to Dunfermline, Penzance to Penarth, we’re here for you.