The early twentieth century was an exciting time for the glitterati of London, as the taste for French haute cuisine and opulent hotels spread across Europe into the capital. The formidable partnership of César Ritz and Auguste Escoffier dominated the hospitality industry, first at the Savoy in 1889 and later the Carlton Hotel (1899) and The Ritz (1906), introducing an exclusive clientele to modern trappings and cuisine classique.
The lives of these two influential figures and those they entertained have been well documented – it is part of culinary legend, for example, that Escoffier created the peach Melba at the Savoy in honour of soprano Nellie Melba – but it is less common to get a glimpse at life behind the scenes. For this we can rely not on history books, but the memories of those who worked there for insight into daily life working at some of the world’s most famous hotels.
Yvonne Wakefield’s father, Will Eaglen, worked at the Carlton Hotel along with his father between the First and Second World Wars. The latter was a pot washer while Will was a waiter, working at the prestigious Carlton Hotel for many years before moving to legendary jazz club Frascati’s on Oxford Street. Yvonne, 83, told us what it was like growing up in a household with such close ties to one of London’s most exclusive hotels.