Food Arts presents its November Silver Spoon Award for sterling performance to consummate hotelier Stan Bromley ofFour Seasons Hotels. "Hotels are alive. They have energy. They've got to have heart," Bromley asserts, rubbing his fingertips together as if he can feel the heart beat right there. Bromley says his job is to be the "best butler and Jewish mom." His philosophy: "You want. I get." He is known both for his sense of humor and lack of stiffness, as well as his demanding attention to detail.
Bromley may, as he says, be driven by guilt and a fear of lint, but ultimately, it's his feel for hotels that has catapulted him to the top of his profession. As he rose up through the ranks of f&b management, he has been the driving force in raising the quality of hotel food and beverage service wherever he's been posted.
"Bromley bridged the gap between modern American and f&b and hotel management and the more traditional, elitist way of doing things in Switzerland," says international hotel and restaurant head hunter Benoit Gateau-Cumin.
Currently based in the nation's capital, Bromley is Four Season's regional vice-president and gm of Four Seasons Hotels in Montreal, Boston, New York City (both the Pierre and the new Four Seasons on 57th Street), and in Washington, D.C., where he oversees day-to-day operations. Under his stewardship since 1989, the D.C. property became the only local hotel to hold the coveted five diamond award.
In D.C. he has hosted everybody from King Hussein of Jordan to Granite, the canine Iditarod champion. Talk show personality Larry King, who first met Bromley at the Four Seasons Clift Hotel in San Francisco, regards him as one of the greatest innkeepers I've ever known. He's imaginative, he's not afraid of change, and he's a risk taker. If you are staying any place he manages, you can count on every little detail being taken care of, plus somethings you never imagined. He found out I like jelly beans and they are all over my suite when I checked in." Bromley has gained many high-profile fans with this extra-mile technique: When Barbara Bush came to the hotel for lunch, Bromley bought her dog, Millie, a faux-pearl necklace and left it in the First Lady's car.
Faith pushed Bromley onto his career path. His father died when he was 14. "My aunt and uncle had a little hotel in Lake Placid (NY). My uncle had studied in Lausanne, and he taught it was the only place to learn the hotel business, so as soon as I graduated from high school, he sent me there," Bromley recalls. "It as awful. I was transplanted overnight form Johnston, Pennsylvania, where I grew up to Lausanne. Everybody was speaking French. The worst thing I remember was not knowing how to flush the toilet. I really love what I do now, but it was right for all the wrong reasons. I didn't plan it myself." After he graduated form the Swiss National Hotel School, Bromley began his career as a dish washer at theOrly Hilton outside Paris. he quickly moved up the f&b management ladder with Hilton and then with Sonesta Hotels. "I got so many promotions so fast, I began to believe my own stuff," Bromley recalls.
The legendary Jim Nassikas, whom Bromley now regards as one of his most important mentors, asked him to come to the Stanford Court in San Francisco as f&b director. "When I got there it was the first time in my young career that I was told I was not as good as I thought I was," Bromley says. "Some nights I walked home crying, but then I realized he was right." Bromley credits Nassikas with teaching him the key lesson of his career: the importance of "monumentally magnificent trivialities. The two years I spent with Nassikas were as valuable as the years I spent at Lausanne."
The next great challenge was revitalizing the Clift, where his mandate was to give the hotel spirit and personality. "If I had known how hard the Clift would be, I wouldn't have left the Hyatt," he says. Gateau-Cumin says Bromley "made" the Clift and others generally agree.
And yet, Bromley, 49, says the business is hardly rocket science. "We don't have a Hubble spacecraft here. the enemy is in the building. You can see it, smell it, hear it, fix it. A lot of this has to do with whether the butter is spreadable."