Can't Spell Hero Without HER: Macarena San Martin
Celebrating the women that put the *her* in hero, we meet Macaren San Martin, Front of House Manager at the Hilton London Wembley. The inspiring Macarena spent her lockdown helping elderly neighbours, volunteering with the NHS, and picking up litter. Hilton recently recognized her with the Community Award – Individual at the UK & Ireland's "People's Choice Awards." We chatted with Macarena about what motivates her and her career path so far.
You are the Front of House Manager at the Hilton London Wembley?
Yes, I am the Front of House Manager at the iconic Hilton London Wembley, a landmark hotel based next to Wembley Stadium with 361 bedrooms. It’s where I had the luck to start my journey when I first moved to London, and it was love at the first sight!
How long have you worked there?
I worked here for two years in 2016 and took a break to embrace an exciting project of a hotel pre-opening in central London, then I came back in 2019 to what is home away from home to me.
Where are you from?
I am from Spain, Madrid.
What brought you to London?
I originally came for a year to improve my English and have an international experience, then there’s always been something that kept me here for another year, and the journey has already lasted six years.
Asyou are right at Wembley, do you host the performers and athletes? If so, can you share any celebs you have met?
Everything happens at Wembley, from concerts to football, to NFL... You name it, we have it! We’ve met so many people that it's difficult to pinpoint anyone in particular and of course, we respect the confidentiality of our guests - past, present and future.
Please tell us about what you did over the past year to earn the Hilton Community Award for UK and Ireland?
During lockdown I was lucky to be part of the “ghost” team that kept the hotel alive. Since we did not have any events around the area, I had some additional free time and wanted to use this to bring something back to the community during the pandemic.
I joined a wonderful group of volunteers around the Wembley area and built a network to help vulnerable families with food deliveries and grocery shopping, medicines, supplies or whatever was needed. I cycled everywhere and met amazing people along the road -it has been such a rewarding experience.
Through the NHS, we got in touch with elderly or vulnerable people that were isolated at home and had weekly telephone catch ups to cheer them up and ake sure they were okay and did not feel alone.
My partner also had the amazing idea of going litter picking around the local parks we always run to. The weather was amazing as well and so it was also a great excuse to go for a walk in the evening. I can't count the number of bags we filled up during lockdown!
This is a "people's choice award" so you were voted by your peers?
The nomination came from our General Manager, Meredith Bevan, who has supported every step of the way and who is also very involved with the local community. I believe the nominees were voted by the Hilton team members in UK and Ireland, so it is a very special award. The feedback has been overwhelming!
Did you start during COVID or were you already working with local causes?
We have always been involved with the community in different ways, but as an individual I was lucky to have a little more free time than usual and I could not keep looking at the news, knowing that my team was struggling sitting at home, so I thought that it was a good time to bring something back to the community.
You also recently did a course at the Basque Culinary Center, why did you choose that program?
During this year we all had time to think and reflect, so I gifted myself the opportunity to study a specialization course in Food and Gastronomic tourism in the Basque Culinary Center, one of the best (if not the best!) academic institutions worldwide, created by eight of the top Basque chefs, pioneers in everything they do. I strongly believe that the future of hospitality and the solution for the overtourism scenario we experienced before the pandemic is leaning towards sustainable and regenerative travel. A big part of sustainable travel is "gastronomic or food tourism," which builds a destination reputation by enhancing their gastronomic offer, local products and invites the guests to interact with all the different stakeholders that take part in a travel experience.
I also believe that a strong and attractive Food and Beverage offer is key to building an identity or a destination as a hotel, so I can't think of hospitality or my future in operations excluding F&B, though my main experience is definitely Front of House, Conferences and Events.
What is your favourite thing to cook?
I love cooking, and as I said before, sustainability should be the focus of all of us working in the hospitality world, from eating greener, to tackling plastic waste, to buying and eating local. My every day favourite could be just a stew of seasonal vegetables, slow cooked with some pulses or grains. Otherwise, a good 'tortilla de patata' with onion and organic eggs, with a good glass of red wine is a win-win for me!
Thanks for sharing your story and inspiring us, Macarena! We look forward to following your career.