Hilton U.K. was recently honored as the country’s No. 3 Best Company for Women by Great Places To Work, a recognition that further showcased Hilton’s commitment toward creating a great workplace for all. Team Members at Hilton embody a culture of lifting one another up, including women supporting other women. Sally Abé, the consultant chef of Hilton’s Conrad London St. James hotel, is one of the leaders at Hilton who set the standard.
Sally joined Team Hilton after leading the world’s only Michelin-starred pub. Now at the Conrad, Sally’s expanded responsibilities include overseeing the hotel’s new restaurant The Pem, a pub and bar also offering afternoon tea service. With kitchens still being primarily male-dominated environments, Sally’s team is an exception and she recently talked to the Evening Standard about her job and leading a female-first team, including her Head Chef Laetizia Keating and Sommelier Emily Harman.
In addition to leading within a women-friendly workplace, Sally also strives to cultivate a positive culture the restaurant industry infamously does not follow, as many restaurants bear long hours and high-stress environments. Sally told the Evening Standard, “The only way we can draw people into the industry and make it attractive is by being sure that they’re treated like human beings, and that they want to come to work and feel proud to come to work.”
This goal aligns well with the Hilton culture in our restaurants and hotels around the world as we strive to create an environment where everyone can bring their whole selves to work. Hilton recently sat sown with Sally to talk a bit more about her experience on Team Hilton, including advice to other chefs looking to make the switch into hotel restaurants.
How would you compare working in a Hilton restaurant to a traditional restaurant environment? What cultural shifts did you notice?
“Coming from running an independent restaurant where I was the janitor, handyman, head of HR and marketing, as well as the kitchen and front of house, it has felt amazing to be part of a worldwide company where there are specialists in every area, and you get support from all these talented and skilled people! There is such a great culture at Conrad London St. James; everybody is very supportive of each other.”
How do you empower women in hospitality? How do you feel empowered at Hilton?
“At Conrad London St. James, our General Manager Beverly Payne, and most of the senior management team are women, and there’s very much a self-perpetuating culture of respect and loyalty. In my kitchen and front of house teams at The Pem, women take up most of the senior roles, too.
Women are very much encouraged into the highest positions within Hilton. For example, Emma Banks is the VP of F&B for EMEA which really shows how far you women can go in F&B at Hilton. There are many Hilton programs in place to help women progress, which shows an enormous and long-term commitment to empowering women in the workplace.”
What would you tell a chef who may be hesitant to work in a hotel restaurant?
“I can only speak of my experience at this hotel, but here there are so many opportunities for chefs at different levels to build their careers, whether it’s in our new restaurant The Pem, Blue Boar Pub, The Hedgerow cocktail lounge, or cooking for breakfast and room service. You can always find somewhere to fit in, and there are so many perks working for Hilton, like the discounted room rates, great employee benefits and balanced working hours.”
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