A true foodie whose career has taken her from her roots in the Philippines to luxury hotels all over the world, Leni Miras shares her journey which includes stints in the Middle East, Caribbean, and Seychelles! Along the way, Leni has worked her way up through various restaurant management positions and is now the Food & Beverage operations manager for the five-star Beaumont Hotel in London.
The Beaumont recently swung open its doors on the heels of an extensive refurb led by renowned New York-based designer Thierry Despont and London-based architect Reardon Smith. The closure brought about restorations to the hotel’s sleek Art Deco interiors, evoking the grandeur of the building’s 1920s heritage (think: warm leather and plush velvet furnishings that pop against original details like chequerboard floors and wood paneling). Along with the snazzy new interiors, the hotel has just completely revamped its food and beverage offerings. We chat with Leni about her best tips for a conceptual renovation, her moves around the world, and how she managed to make wine in London during lockdown!
You’re from the Philippines, where did you grow up exactly?
What was your first job?
I was a Management Trainee at the Hotel Intercontinental Manila.
How did you get into hospitality?
I was always interested in food and hospitality so I got a degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management. I clinched the Management trainee job soon after graduation, which set me on my way. A short while later, my mum and I were in Dubai on holiday, and the renowned GM Jean-Pierre Marcadier, overheard me chatting with my mum about the hotel. He interrupted us and said you must be in the business? I’d like you to come work with me. Long story short, he created the role of Events and Activities Manager for me at the Grand Hyatt Muscat in Oman.
Then you hopped around to some exotic locations—Oman, Seychelles, Antigua––did you like resort life?
I am lucky to have worked in some of the most beautiful locations in the world. What’s great about resort life is that you do not need to travel far to be in an exotic locale or on the beach and partake in unique activities (almost on a regular basis) such as 4-wheeling over sand dunes, sailing, or swimming with stingrays… Oman was the most city-like of the three; Seychelles, quiet and romantic, and Antigua the most fun with amazing people and really just a great place to live.
What brought you to London?
I had always dreamed of living in London and this was why I accepted the job in Carlisle Bay Antigua, as One Aldwych in London was its sister hotel. Years later, when Gordon Campbell Gray took over the management of Dukes Hotel in London, he facilitated my transfer to London. This was in 2007, London is home for me now.
You’ve worked in some of the most iconic hotels in London managing restaurants, what is most rewarding and challenging about the luxury environment?
Exceeding the expectations of the most discerning guests is what I find most rewarding and challenging. It gives you such a buzz when you know you have provided an experience that is far beyond what they were requiring or anticipating.
What’s more demanding working in a resort restaurant or in a big city like London?
Both have very different kinds of pressure but for me, London is more demanding, fast-moving with higher guest expectations.
You’ve been at The Beaumont for more than seven years, what do you love about this hotel?
It sounds clichéd, but it really is the people that I work with that I love the most about this hotel. From my staff in F&B to peers on the Executive Team, there is no other place I’ve worked with that has this wonderful and unique culture to which we are all so committed.
Tell us about the recent changes to the hotel’s restaurants and bars…how did you come up with the new concepts?
Some of the changes were just evolutionary rather than revolutionary and were a reaction to guest comments over the years. For example, improving the lighting in our main restaurant, The Colony, adding brighter works of art, and substantially upgrading the wine offering. Other changes happened quite organically because they made total sense: for instance moving the Bar to where we used to have a (rather under-utilized) private resident’s lounge. Creating Gatsby’s Room in the old Bar space, which works so much better for Afternoon Tea than the lobby, where we used to serve it. And, of course, The Terrace. This is something that had been talked about almost since opening and we now had the perfect opportunity to do the work to create a very private, green, outdoors sanctuary on our forecourt. We did not change the underlying Beaumont story and all the new outlets are still very much rooted in our 1920s, transatlantic origins. (For readers that don’t know the backstory of The Beaumont, it’s a fictional take on the grand hotels of the 1920s and American travelers who enjoyed them).
What tips would you give other F&B directors about overseeing concept overhauls?
It is so important to understand who your guests are and what you’re all about (brand and story). Knowing who you are and delivering consistently on the brand story will make you stand out from the rest in our industry. For me, this is the basic foundation for success.
How has COVID been for you?
It was really challenging for me, especially in the beginning of lockdown as I was used to working and being on my feet all day long, so it was tough not to do anything. I did begin to enjoy and appreciate the quietness later on, and also rediscovered my love for baking. Lastly, Covid provided me with an opportunity to help make wines (in London!) and drink them in 2021.
Oooh, that sounds fun! Tell us more about winemaking in London?
I was involved in the harvest and production of London Cru Wines in 2020… Just me, stomping the Bacchus grapes at LDN CRU winery.
How do you think COVID has changed how people eat out?
I have seen a shift in guests prioritizing quality over quantity. People are more likely to dine less frequently, but then really splash out and have a really memorable experience, rather than eating out daily.
What are your top tips for having smooth relations between the front of house and the kitchen?
Lots of communication and meeting each other halfway.
F&B is still a heavily male-dominated part of the hotel industry, what challenges have you faced as a woman?
I’ve been lucky that I’ve not had too many challenges. As the most senior person in my department, I know that I have come a long way. However, I feel at times I have to work harder, prove myself first before getting the job title or the right pay where it seems easier for other male counterparts.
What would you like to see change for women in F&B?
I would like to see women be much more visible in management roles and other key positions like Executive Chef, Bar Manager, or Sommelier.
The New York Times recently did a feature on the vegan trend becoming mainstream, are you seeing this at The Beaumont?
There are definitely more inquiries for plant-based dishes, and we’ve recently included a vegan English breakfast, as well as our vegan Afternoon Tea, which is very popular.
What other f&b trends are you seeing?
Healthier eating; quality over quantity; classics that are delicious, familiar, and comforting.
Food waste is a big issue, what do you do at The Beaumont and any other sustainability best practices to mention?
Leftover citrus and other fruits are dried and used as beverage garnishes. The kitchen teams do lots of preservation and fermenting. Meat offcuts and excess stock are used for stock preparation. We continue to support local suppliers and products i.e, Crate to Plate, Cacklebean Eggs, Small Beer. We collect and donate all corks to Recorked UK. We provide fresh milk in glass bottles (instead of plastic) in the minibars and on request and lastly, we’ve removed single-use plastic stirrers and picks throughout the hotel.
What are your three favorite restaurants in London (besides your hotel 😊)?
Ah, I live near River Cafe. Love it too, any new London restaurants you’re excited about?