Chit Chat: Carmen Graham

2011-06-03 15:26

Hotel Lamunu is one of the trendiest spots in Joburg’s CBD, with folk dropping in at any time of the day or night. Thirty-five-year-old Carmen Graham has only been around for the past three months as general manager, but already she’s added extra sparkle to the hip hotspot. Janine-Lee Gordon caught up with her.

When did you decide to go into the hospitality industry and why?
I started waitressing at the Mount Nelson when I was still at high school during the holidays. I loved it purely because of the variety of people I met on a daily basis.
I then went on to study law after school (matric), but I was only 17 at the time and found it was no fun at all.

Then I started doing some training at Sun City (in North West) and I worked at The Cascades and moved on to The Palace.

Where did you first work and what is your most enduring memory of that time?

I worked at The Westcliff Hotel after my training and I got the fright of my life. The pressures of working in the industry became too much
for me and I thought I wasn’t cut out for the job. Then I was doing a training course in Cape Town and had lunch with my mom one day and I burst into tears and asked her: “How am I going to do this?” But then my mother made me realise I was made for this.

Does being in the industry take a toll on your family life?

Yes, it does. But I try to create a good balance. However, finding that balance is a challenge, especially because I am a single mom. My family comes first, and then I try to make time in the evenings for my studies. I am a nocturnal creature; I try to do a little bit at a time.

How do you spend the little bit of leisure time you have to yourself?

I love the outdoors. I enjoy things like hiking and anything else related to the outdoors. And I love eating; I’ve become a self-proclaimed food connoisseur.
I love Johannesburg and eating out; and I also enjoy books and always read when-­ ever I can.

Do your children think you’re cool because of your job?

They do. They even brag about me at school. I try and take my boys everywhere I work so that they know what space I’m in when I’m working.

What’s the most difficult aspect of your job?

Being away from my boys at night, but at the same time it brings a sense of accomplish­­- ment.

What’s your favourite part of Braamfontein?

It has to be the hustle and bustle of this area. Lunch times at our hotel are crazy as the reception area is open to the public and there are always people coming in for meetings.

What’s the history of the artwork in the hotel?
Hotel Lamunu has only been open for a year and all the artwork is made from recycled material like the painted hub caps on the wall.
We keep in touch with the artists so they can let us know if they have anything new.

How has Braamfontein changed since you’ve been at Hotel Lamunu?

It has definitely become more accessible and safer than what it used to be, and it is very encouraging to watch (it develop like that). It is the same with the Newtown Project. It’s inspiring to see people make an effort.

Name one place, anywhere in the world, you dream of working at and why?

I would like to experience a seven-star hotel. So I would most likely dream of doing that in Dubai – just to absorb that level of service.

What is the funniest or most awkward situation you have come across with guests?

There are so many I can’t even mention. But the one that always gets me is when I have to go to guests’ rooms and ask their visitors to leave. You see the strangest characters coming and going, and it’s always so embarrassing for me.

» Hotel Lamunu is situated at 90 De Korte Street in Braamfontein

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