From starting out as an apprentice in hospitality management in Switzerland to receiving the prestigious Gold Service Scholarship award presented by Her Majesty The Queen and now, the general manager of The Grill at The Dorchester, Jennifer Howard’s career is a story of inspiration.
As one of our FIENA members, we had the chance to catch up with Jennifer to talk all things food, hospitality and life working in London.
Budding with enthusiasm and excitement straight out of secondary school, Jennifer’s hospitality journey started in 2007, where she joined the Grand Hotel National as an apprentice in hospitality management. The hotel, known for its stunning lakeside views and luxury accommodation, was a leap into the hospitality world, offering Howard first hand experience of life in the culinary arts. “During my three year apprenticeship I studied hospitality management whilst gaining practical experience at the hotel’s restaurants and bars,” said Howard. It’s during this time she worked across sectors, from front of house and housekeeping to sales and marketing, and kitchen experience.
From this she went on to gain experience in the restaurant scene, working at Zurich’s Dolder Grand Hotel before eventually settling in London in 2011. “Originally I only planned to live in London to refine my English skills, however, like many others, I fell in with this city and never left,” shared Howard.
Since living in London, she’s gone on to work in some of the city’s finest restaurants from Galvin at Window’s to Sky Garden’s Fenchurch, in the three Michelin-starred Lecture Room and Library at Sketch to now, working as general manager at The Grill at The Dorchester.
In 2016, Howard was named the winner of the Gold Service Scholarship competition, a huge honour for anyone who has worked in hospitality. “Winning this competition is one of my proudest achievements for me so far,” said Howard. “Her Majesty The Queen is a patron of GSS and was giving out the award that evening. Following that I was able to go on several work experiences at the UK’s most prestigious hotels and restaurants.” Howard also spent ten days at the Mandirian Oriental Hotel in Kuala Lumpur, gaining insight into the hospitality industry from the height of luxury.
Fast forward to 2019 and she became general manager at The Grill at The Dorchester, working alongside Tom Booton in the restaurant’s relaunch. “It has definitely been an adventure,” said Howard. “People knew The Grill as this stuffy old fashioned restaurant and we have changed this image since. Tom’s food is delicious, refined, creative and modern.” They went on to change the decor, as well as whole vibe and atmosphere of the restaurant.
Of course, every restaurant struggled during lockdown and it was a very trying time for the hospitality industry as a whole. “A very sad moment for our industry but we tried to make the most out of it.” Howard continued, “As leaders we had weekly welfare calls with our teams but also organised lots of spirit and food trainings via Zoom, and some pub quizzes of course.
Now two years after COVID first crept onto the seen, Howard's career continues to shine. She was involved in the creation and opening of The Dorchester Rooftop, which saw incredible success when it opened in spring 2021 and the restaurant's next adventure is taking place at the Royal Ascot, in which she will be leading a pop-up restaurant at the famed racecourse for one week. No two days are ever the same for Howard and it's clear that no task is too big for her to tackle hands on.