staff spotlight: an interview with general manager james partridge

From working with Gordon Ramsay to organising a birthday lunch for the Queen Mother

What was your first job and how did it shape your career?

I used to live in the Cotswolds. There was a Savoy Group hotel at the time, called The Lygon Arms, a 16th-century coaching inn. I used to work on a Saturday and a Sunday morning clearing the breakfast tables. I actually started working at the age of 12, looking after the needs of the great and good. I carried on through to a university degree in hotel and catering management. They then asked me to come back as an assistant manager and I stayed there for a number of years working, training myself up with the Savoy Group to be head of events and one of the senior managers in the hotel.

An image of The Lygon Arms, a 16th-century coaching inn, Broadway, The Cotswolds.
The Lygon Arms, a 16th-century coaching inn, Broadway, The Cotswolds. Photo: Tony Hisgett/Wikimedia Commons (cc-by-2.0)

Can you tell us about one of the most exciting moments in your career?

I was at Claridge’s in 2001, delivering a birthday lunch for the late Queen Mother, working alongside Her Majesty’s Office. The guestlist for that were all of the senior members of the Royal Family, including the Queen. It was hosted by the Annenberg family (the US envoy to the UK during the Second World War). It was full butler service which we hadn’t done for some period of time.

A photograph of The Queen Mother, Queen Elizabeth II’s mother. Photo: Allan Warren
The Queen Mother, Queen Elizabeth II’s mother. Photo: Allan Warren/Wikimedia Commons (cc-by-SA-3.0)

What do you most enjoy about your work and why?

I get so much personal satisfaction by collaborating with other great minds in our business. In solving the complexities of delivering excellent guest service. I don’t pertain to have all the answers, but I like working alongside people from many different backgrounds.That gives me a huge buzz.

Is there a simple piece of advice that you would have for anyone in the industry?

Listen. Don’t force what you think your guest wants onto them. You have to have your basics in place – if they don’t like it, change it. Listen to what they want and do better by that individual and then don’t assume that the next person along is going to behave in exactly the same way.

Is there a moment in your career when you took a big risk that paid off?

Jumping ship from hotels in 2008, taking Gordon Ramsay’s offer to go and work for him. I helped open The York and Albany for him, so it was his first hotel. It was a building site. I’d worked alongside Gordon and his team for many years when he came in and ran the restaurant in Claridge’s. It allowed me to go back to grassroots with a smaller team and create something brand new, deliver it and operate it, and get great ratings and reviews.

Who do you look up to most in your field and why?

James: I look up to a gentleman called Christopher Cowdray, who is the CEO of the Dorchester Collection, who I first met when I was the events manager at the Lygon Arms and ran his executive team. I then worked for him for many years at Claridge’s, and he was the gentleman that taught me to stick by my ideas; he empowered me to make decisions.

Gordon Ramsay cooking, 2006
Gordon Ramsay cooking, 2006. Photo: Dave Pullig/Flickr (cc-by-2.0)

Think of a colleague who you are working with right now who you value and respect. Who are they and why did you pick them? 

Karen, our head housekeeper; she’s never afraid to voice an opinion. Her opinions – and how they help me do my job – are outstanding. She’s been here for over 20 years. And prior to that, always within housekeeping.

What traits do you value most in colleagues?

Honesty. Fun. Taking responsibility. Owning the issue. And mentoring their team.

Finally, do you have any top Mayfair recommendations?

There is the Mayfair Chippy, which is actually an old converted Victorian gentleman’s lavatory. But it’s beautiful. It’s a traditional fish and chip shop where you can go in and have a really good meal and a drink. I also love the Connaught Hotel, from the American bar to Hélène Darroze’s as well as Jean-Georges restaurants. They have the most beautiful water sculpture underneath one of the big London plane trees. It’s exquisite.

An interior shot of an apartment at Hyde Park Residence. Courtesy: Penguin’s Egg