Three days before Mardi Gras, the seat belts were being fastened at The Roosevelt New Orleans, a Waldorf Astoria hotel at the edge of the vibrant French Quarter.
“It’s madness right now,” says Food and Beverage Manager Myles Holdsworth. “The city goes wild for two weeks, and then we have Ash Wednesday. For our part, we fasten our seat belts and go into overdrive to provide the very best experience for our guests.”
Guests who expect the finest luxury are provided with wrist bands during this exciting time of the year, giving them preferential access to the property and its five restaurants.
A mere block away from the iconic Harrah Casino and other famous venues, The Roosevelt has for decades occupied an important position in the heart of New Orleans, and has experienced a rebirth after Hurricane Katrina damaged it along with the rest of the city.
In this week’s Q&A with Recipe for Success @ Boxerbrand, Holdsworth discusses the sense of place and history exuded by the modern, luxurious property.
Q: I understand The Roosevelt is steeped in New Orleans history.
It dates back to 1893 when a German immigrant opened it as Hotel Grunewald. Around the time of World War II, its name was changed to The Roosevelt. With the construction of the Panama Canal, New Orleans was put on the map economically, and the hotel eventually became a Fairmont. Then, after Hurricane Katrina, the hotel was closed, purchased with the backing of the Waldorf Astoria, and rebuilt with a modern but nostalgic feel when The Roosevelt reopened with in 2009.
New life was breathed into the property, you can feel it as soon as you walk through. But there’s a real sense of place, of historic identity, that’s been maintained. For example, I’m sitting right now in the Sazerac Bar as I speak to you. With this room, designers brought back a grand feel, with a lot of gold and softer fabrics. It feels a little like a grand train station in France, with an elongated lobby and welcoming feel.
The room is paneled in dark woods and features old murals. The walls and the bar are made with the wood of one Maple tree, and there’s a bullet hole in one panel from the accidental discharge during the 1940s. Details like that, and big, old stories add to the ambience of being in New Orleans.
Q: How do you attract customers?
One of the big things working to our advantage is that The Roosevelt always had a significant relevance in the history of this vibrant, social city. There’s always been big name-recognition with The Roosevelt, so much so that many of our guests have spent a lot of time here, and have fond memories of it; they may have come here for their first date, and even my own parents spent their first night as a married couple here before leaving for their honeymoon.
And the Waldorf Astoria has a very strong international and domestic following, as does the Hilton Honors, which is also a partner in the property.
Q: How do you keep up with all those grand expectations?
It’s all about building the right team. When we find the right people, we keep them engaged in the property and well trained. In a way, we consider ourselves to have three sets of customers to cater to: our guests, our staff, and the owners. If we keep everyone well informed and the staff well trained, they’ll be happy and take care of our guests.
And our menu in our five restaurants is a pure reflection of New Orleans. We serve a lot of gumbo—that’s a very big hit on our menu—and crispy Brussel sprouts with a miso glaze and crispy spicy pecans. Our gumbo is filled with chicken and andouille sausage. And our drinks are bourbon-based and Ramos gin fizzes.
Overall, we have about 400 employees running The Roosevelt, with food, beverage and banquet staff ranging between 120 and 150 people.
Q: What’s your biggest obstacle?
That’s a good question! I would say that Hurricane Katrina was a big blow, to the city, and overall in my own life. I’m from New Orleans originally and after Katrina, my school was flooded—I was just finishing high school—and my parents decided I should finish my education in boarding school. I moved to Switzerland and finished my education there, then went to culinary school in New York, before traveling to China and Switzerland for university studies.
Having to leave New Orleans forced me out of my comfort zone, but I always knew I’d be back. And five years ago, I was able to return and start working at The Roosevelt. It’s good to be back home. And, I strive to make sure our guests feel a similar homecoming when they step through our doors. — The Roosevelt Hotel uses Boxerbrand products. Thank you!