Hal Browne says he loves the camaraderie of party planning the most. *Photo by Sarah Lagan
Hal Browne says he loves the camaraderie of party planning the most. *Photo by Sarah Lagan

If anyone knows how to throw a party it’s Hal Browne — Director of Catering at Fairmont Hamilton Princess. 

He’s been with Fairmont for some 30 years and he is a familiar face to most who work there. 

He has been responsible for orchestrating everything from the simplest of meeting events to the most elaborate of wedding parties. 

He spoke to the Bermuda Sun about the job.

What have been some of the more elaborate events you have organized?

We had a relation to the Queen hold an event here and they had a special Scotland Yard branch person hanging around. 

You would be surprised at the calibre of people who come here who speak at these meetings — not necessarily celebrities but  high-powered business executives — movers and shakers in the financial world. The most elaborate would be the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs for the food and wine connoisseurs. There are about 70 of them and they come out and have dinners around the island. Because they are connoisseurs, we have to make them elaborate.

What do you enjoy most about the job?

A happy customer at the end of it all. I like to go into the room at the end of the night and say, “wow, this is fantastic, this is what I wanted”. I like the flexibility, the moving around. You are always doing different things — you are laying out meetings, cocktail parties, dinners, receptions. You work with a big team of people — I have to work with the whole banqueting brigade, the customer and kitchen. Then you have the accounts people behind you trying to get the money! I like the team effort and
camaraderie. 

Have you ever had a disaster just before a party?

The worst thing that ever happened to me was we had a whole rockfish that had been baked and was still in the foil. We were trying to take it to the buffet, the chef was pushing it and the rock fish fell on the ground. 

We get the occasional thing with the wedding cakes when they start to topple over or if the menu that the guest asked for doesn’t match what the chef has made — that’s once in a blue moon. We’ve had guests passing out in the middle of an event —that can be really scary. Once we went all the way to Hawkins Island and forgot the coffee — we couldn’t get any as we were on the island so they partied hard!

What would you say to young people interested in this job?

You need flexibility. You need to enjoy looking after customers — you work with so many different people so you have to bend and move so that you can massage their idea into something that can be done nicely by the hotel. Then there is the bookkeeping aspect —the money — and the creative aspect and you have to be a diplomat so you can calm everybody else in your team down. You have to put out a lot of fires. You try to do as much preparation as you can to avoid the fires. 

It’s scary — you get so many functions going on at the same time, you can get confused between them. You must have a willingness to learn. You need to be a quick thinker. You have to anticipate what they want for their specific event. 

What do you have to consider when planning  events?

Often the customers don’t know exactly what they want or need. They come  to plan a dinner, they get charged $65 per person and they think that’s it but they have to get the people in there, figure out the timing, the invitations, what to wear, we need to know whether it will be light or dark, what time of day it is, the temperature, is it outside or inside. The weather. It’s like a puzzle. When you get the puzzle made that’s when you can sit back and enjoy it.