Carihi grad finds success in the hospitality industry

From the Discovery Inn to Le Bristol Paris, Leah Marshall has lived and worked in the hospitality industry all around the world.

Leah Marshall manages the luxury hotel Le Bristol in Paris. She was born and raised in Campbell River.

Leah Marshall manages the luxury hotel Le Bristol in Paris. She was born and raised in Campbell River.

From the Discovery Inn to Le Bristol Paris, Leah Marshall has lived and worked in the hospitality industry all around the world.

“It is a privilege to work for a wonderful company, in the city of my dreams, in an exceptional context, surrounded by young and enthusiastic colleagues,” Marshall said in an email interview. “All with the mutual aim of bringing memorable experiences to our guests.”

She began her career in Campbell River at 16, aiding the assistant to the general manager of Delta Hotel’s Discovery Inn. After graduating from Carihi, she worked full time at the hotel until leaving, at 18, to study at La Sorbonne, a university in Paris.

After a year in Paris she was recruited by the owner of a pension (a small hotel) she was staying at while visiting Florence. At the end of her holiday she returned to Paris, packed up her things and moved to Florence.

While working at the pension she did everything from cleaning the rooms to making pasta. She worked from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. with a three hour break in the afternoon to attend the Dante Aligheri Institute where she studied Art of the Renaissance in Italian. Three months later her Italian was better than her French.

A year later, she came back across the Atlantic Ocean to Montreal to practice her French.

“The only thing I knew was really the hotel business so I decided to apply at the best hotels in the city,” she said. “Westin’s Hotel Bonaventure hired me in February ’71.”

By 27 she was promoted to Hotel Manager of the Westin South Coast Plaza in Southern California. She was the first female Hotel Manager in the company that had 62 hotels in 21 countries.

“Without necessarily having a career path in mind, I was very fortunate to love what I was doing, and very early was encouraged to take on more and more responsibilities,” she said.

Marshall spent the next 12 years in Southern California, first with Westin Hotels, and then, towards the end, she joined Phyllis Lambert and Gene Summers at the Newporter in Newport Beach.

“I had the pleasure of working for them at the Newporter in Newport Beach for almost three years,” she said. “Then the principal of the family that created South Coast Plaza, the Orange County Performing Arts, Repertory Theatre, and first to bring Nordstrom out of Seattle, asked if I would join the family business.”

She worked as the director of retail services at South Coast Plaza for five years and because of the exposure and experience she received there, Disney recruited her to be the General Manager of the Disney Village in Paris. She worked there for nine years, spent 10 years at Four Seasons George V, Paris and a couple years with the Shangri-La group before starting with Le Bristol, where she has been for six years now.

Le Bristol is one of four hotels owned by the Oetker family. It was designated the first “palace” in Paris. The hotel was opened in 1925 by the Jammet family and was purchased by the Oetkers in 1978.

There are 190 suites and rooms and the fine dining room boasts an executive chef who has three Michelin stars, the highest possible Michelin Guide rating awarded to only nine other restaurants in Paris.

“We are considered a classic hotel in the elegant French style, but with a huge Parisian following bringing a constant buzz in the hotel,” Marshall said. “The all-day dining café is considered the place to meet, the evening bar with DJ, a happening fun vibe with more of a contemporary décor with an edge.”

Marshall said around 35 per cent of the guests are European and another 35 per cent are North American. They want discretion but also recognition and personal service.

“I, you could say, have to set the tone each and every day for all our 550 colleagues,” she said. “I have always believed that we have to be on the floor, visible, to accompany our colleagues in order to give the best of ourselves to our guests. In this niche business of ours, it is all about the guest experience. We need to be natural, welcoming, sincere while friendly but discrete, and determined to do the maximum to wow each and every guest.”

Marshall doesn’t think she will be retiring any time soon, she loves her job too much.

This is the third in a series about Campbell Riverites who went on to do great and interesting things. If you know who I should write about next let me know at jocelyn.doll@campbellrivermirror.com or by phone at 250-287-9227.

Campbell River Mirror

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