Founding Director Ruston Toms joins us for a long overdue guest blog entry this month. He casts his mind back to the earliest days of his career in hospitality and the fortuitous turn of events that got him there and the career he’s enjoyed as a result!
I started my journey in hospitality by accident many years ago, as a 17-year-old Hall Porter at Pennyhill Park Hotel, Bagshot, carrying bags, delivering room service, covering the switchboard operator’s tea breaks and serving afternoon teas on the terrace for the rich and famous.
I only got the job by chance when my older sister’s boyfriend vacated the position to go off to Uni and said he’d ‘put in a good word for me’. The other stroke of luck was winning a moped in the village raffle which made the 24-mile round trip to the hotel from my parents’ home far easier.
The atmosphere of a luxury hotel and the daily set of new experiences and people was something I really enjoyed. I was instantly drawn toward the camaraderie of the Chef’s, the buzz in the kitchen during service, the banter and the food of course! It was only matter of time before I changed my waistcoat for whites and was taken on as an apprentice Chef and sent off to Westminster Kingsway College to learn how to cook.
Since then I’ve discovered that so many of my peers who are now CEO’s, M.D’s and company owners started their careers in hospitality in a similar fashion. Usually by accident and not design.
The thing about the hospitality industry and which I love, is that it’s a meritocracy and the only thing stops a person making a success of it, is usually themselves!
The equation is simple; work hard + good training + mentoring = career progression and enjoyment. The bonus is that personally prepared food and service in all its forms will be in demand forever.
When I then went to work in London, I stayed at the PM Club in Earls Court. The origins of The PM Club dates back to 1949. The grandly named George Comine Strachan Black O.B.E a retired Army Major was the first Chairman of The PM Committee. To begin with the crypt of St Martins-in-the-Fields, opposite Trafalgar Square were used as an afternoon ‘club’ for young hotel and restaurant workers to meet and relax and this is probably where the “PM” comes from.
Unfortunately, the residential club closed in 2002 however not before it assisted the likes of Marcus Wareing, Jason Atherton, my good self and many others launch their careers. Following the sale of the club the newly created PM Trust was formed in order to continue the aims and objectives set out in 1949. Therefore, for the past 16 years I’ve been a trustee of the PM Trust. However, 18 months ago I took over the Chairmanship and my fellow trustees are Brian Turner CBE, Tim Jones Chairman of HCM, Gary Hunter Vice Principal Westminster Kingsway College and Holly Addison, Head of Hospitality & Leisure at Odgers Berndston.
Our mission is to financially assist young people embarking on a career in Hospitality in London. We do this via direct bursaries and grants and also by making grants to the hospitality departments of Universities and Colleges.
The working conditions of employees in the hospitality sector have improved greatly since I first started out. However, the PM Trust is able to assist individuals who need a leg up with financing their training and development and stop them drifting away from the industry.
Making hospitality a career of choice rather than falling into it by accident, like I and many others have done, is what The PM Trust helps youngsters to do. Plus showing them that it’s not a second-rate career that fills a gap whilst you wait for something better to come along. Plus, if you follow the equation above anyone can have a very enjoyable, sustainable career and even start your own business!