Since The Red Carnation Hotel Collection’s inception in 1984, our Founder and President, Beatrice Tollman has built one of the most successful and admired hotel collections in the world, recently recognised as the ‘Number 2 Hotel Brand In The World’ by Travel + Leisure.
As one of the most widely respected and acclaimed women in hospitality, Beatrice has been widely lauded for her contribution to the industry, with recognitions including the European Hospitality Awards Hotelier of the Year, a Catey Lifetime Achievement Award and The Leading Hotels of the World’s ‘Leading Legend’ accolade.
Beatrice was studying to become a nursery school teacher when she fell in love with Stanley Tollman, a second-generation hotelier known for sporting a Red Carnation in his lapel. As newlyweds of modest beginnings, the couple leased a small Johannesburg property in 1954 and Beatrice took charge of the kitchen. At the age of 22, Beatrice was the first female Head Chef – unheard of for women in South Africa at that time – meticulously tasting each dish and sampling various methods and techniques until they were perfected.
“As something of a trailblazer, at the age of 22 she was running her own hotel kitchen – something unheard of for women in South Africa at that time”
This passion for food and her hands-on approach to service and hospitality has been the secret to Beatrice’s success and, 65 years later, she remains intrinsically involved in every aspect of the now internationally-acclaimed collection of luxury boutique hotels. Beatrice reads a detailed report from every hotel each morning, as well as every single guest comment and online review, understanding that guest feedback is the most valuable tool to success. Tirelessly committed to quality, creativity and guest satisfaction, Beatrice is constantly innovating new ideas to enhance the guest experience and is a hands-on leader, individually teaching each of her chefs to create signature dishes and holding regular kitchen taste-tests to brainstorm and perfect menus as a team. Design is also central to her passions, and as she travels, Beatrice seeks out the finest fabrics, antiques, furniture and artworks that complete each of the completely unique rooms, suites and staterooms across the Collection.
Beatrice is supported by an industry-leading executive team that includes her two highly dynamic daughters, whose passions for the business began from a young age, when they observed – and now share – their mother’s hands-on approach and careful attention to detail. Victoria Tollman is Director of Red Carnation Hotels, overseeing guest experiences, sales, marketing and PR for the properties. She was instrumental in bringing Geneva’s iconic lakeside Hotel d’Angleterre into the collection and is also Director of the family’s highly acclaimed South African vineyard, Bouchard Finlayson, which is famed for its award-winning Pinot Noirs.
Toni Tollman is Director of Design and Projects at Red Carnation Hotels, as well as sister brand Uniworld, the market-leading luxury river cruise line. Toni uses her incredible eye, international experience and finely-honed aesthetic to conceptualise, design, decorate, refurbish and restore the stunning portfolio.
“Staff are treated as part of the family; individual talent is lovingly nurtured”
To consistently deliver their unsurpassed brand of customer service, Beatrice, Victoria and Toni know that their teams need to be happy and inspired; staff are treated as part of the family, and individuals’ talent and ambition is lovingly nurtured. Just some of the incredible women whose potential has been realised and developed within The Red Carnation Hotel Collection include…
Michelle Devlin, General Manager
Michelle Devlin began her career with The Red Carnation Hotel Collection in 2005, as Executive Head Housekeeper at The Chesterfield Mayfair. Her passion for hospitality and guest-focused approach were quickly recognised and in March 2012, Michelle was offered the position of General Manager at the five-star Egerton House Hotel in the prestigious London borough of Knightsbridge. She has led the passionate team at this charming, boutique townhouse hotel ever since.
Michelle also leads Red Carnation’s sustainability initiatives in London – something that both she and the whole Collection are extremely passionate about.
Paula Stakelum, Executive Head Pastry Chef
It’s a far cry from her original career trajectory as an accountant, but Paula Stakelum, Executive Head Pastry Chef at the iconic, 800-year old Ashford Castle in Ireland’s County Mayo, couldn’t be happier with how her life has turned out. And who can blame her – she has a simply stunning office.
“Most mornings I run or cycle around the Ashford Estate and go foraging,” says Paula, who loves having the Castle’s 350 acres of beautiful countryside at her fingertips. “I often watch ingredients grow so that I can pick them at the perfect stage. That is where each dessert starts – with a special, seasonal ingredient, such as a wild strawberry – and I challenge myself to find the best use for that ingredient to maximise its flavour, texture and create something new for our guests.”
In 2018, Paula was a finalist in the prestigious Valhrona C3 International Chocolate Chef competition in New York, having triumphed in the regional heats in Europe.
Lauren Hargrave, Resident Manager
Lauren Hargrave came to her position of Resident Manager of Hotel 41 through Red Carnation’s award-winning Management Programme, which she joined in 2009; a training initiative that Mrs Tollman and her family are extremely proud of. This comprehensive programme serves to develop the finest hospitality leaders of the future thanks to a training and mentoring scheme that cultivates participants’ knowledge and skills, and allows them to excel and achieve their true potential, guided at all times by Red Carnation’s team of outstanding professionals.
Not only does Lauren feel that she’s come a long way personally, growing in confidence and developing some amazing skills, but she and the wider team have also led Hotel 41 to great success. The intimate hideaway, which is located opposite the Royal Mews of Buckingham Palace, has been voted ‘Top Hotel in the UK’ for three consecutive years in the annual TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice Awards. In 2019 this luxury boutique hotel secured the titles of ‘Number 1 Luxury Hotel in the UK’, ‘Number 2 Best Service in the UK’ and ‘Number 3 Luxury Hotel in Europe’, among many other accolades. It is also recognised as a Forbes five-star property.
Tzveta Peneva-Ivanova, Executive Housekeeper
A well-known and much-loved face at The Milestone Hotel & Residences in the heart of Knightsbridge, Tzveta has been part of the team since 2008. She continually strives to raise the bar in every aspect of her role, from finding ways to reduce the hotel’s carbon footprint via its laundry services to keeping the elegant, historic manor house hotel looking beautiful at all times.
“We just love surprising and delighting our guests with unexpected personal touches, and it’s the best feeling in the world knowing that you’ve made other people’s holidays something to remember for years to come,” she says.
This amazing dedication to delivering the ultimate guest experience saw Tzveta awarded the AA Hospitality Award for Housekeeper of the Year in 2017; a celebration of outstanding commitment and performance in the hospitality industry.
Arjeta Arapi, Food and Beverage Manager
Arjeta Arapi was just 17 when she moved to the UK from her home country of Albania, where her father owned and ran the restaurant that she had worked in while studying at school. Having learnt to speak English fluently she decided to follow her passion for the hospitality industry in the UK and joined The Montague on the Gardens in 2003.
Today, she manages a team of 33 food and beverage professionals at the hotel, servicing seven fantastic outlets that range from fine dining at the Blue Door Bistro to afternoon teas in the hotel’s conservatories. She also oversees the incredibly creative and successful pop up experiences, including the seasonally inspired Beach Bar, the award-winning Ski Lodge and the launch of Mix It, a new bottomless cocktail experience.
In 2017, Arjeta was awarded Food and Beverage Manager of the Year at the Cateys.