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History in the mix

Published on Friday, 15 Feb 2013
Johnny Chung at The Bar
Photo: The Peninsula Hong Kong

Some of the deepest insights into The Peninsula’s 85-year history come from pioneering staff who have witnessed pivotal points in its evolution.

Johnny Chung is known to everyone who’s ever had a drink at The Bar. But Chung wasn’t concocting cocktails and drink recipes when he first joined the hotel as a 16 year old in 1957.

“I was hired as a messenger boy. From there, I moved to being a trainee at The Bar, where I would observe the bartenders and learn how to make drinks and the differences between the various types of alcohols and mixers. Subsequently, I was promoted to bartender where I was able to make and serve drinks,” he says.

Entering his 56th year of service, Chung – who is now a senior bartender – says staying with The Peninsula has been an easy decision to make.

“At the heart of The Peninsula brand is a caring family culture, good working environment, great benefits and dynamic colleagues. These are some of the many reasons that made me stay through all these years,” he says.

Loyalty has a personal significance for Chung. His father also worked for The Peninsula all his life. “By continuing to work here, I am able to better preserve those memories and have a deeper connection with him,” he says.

Having witnessed the hotel’s history from the late ’50s onwards, Chung considers the changes made during the hotel’s 50th and 75th anniversaries, as well as those in 1994, as the most significant.

“The two anniversaries brought large renovations to the hotel. Meanwhile, 1994 saw the addition of the new tower. These three events in The Peninsula’s history created a major shift in how work efficiencies and procedures were done. They were not only renovations to the physical aspect of the hotel, but also an enhancement to the internal processes as well.”

One of his most memorable days on the job involved another icon. “When I was a young bartender, cocktails were not very popular, so I did not know how to make many of them. One day, a man came to The Bar and asked for a screwdriver,” he says. “I procured for him an actual screwdriver – the tool. He then patiently taught me how to make the classic drink with the proper amount of orange juice, vodka and six ice cubes. I remember being nervous when he was teaching me how to mix it – but you would be, too, if your teacher was Clarke Gable!”

Another long-time employee, Rosemary Lam, joined The Peninsula 33 years ago when she was only 19. She started as a cashier, and happily recalls paying $2 for a lunch meal at the staff restaurant when the average meal outside the hotel cost $10. These days, employees enjoy free meals at the hotel’s staff restaurant.

“What encouraged me to stay through all these years is the working culture here at The Peninsula. The whole staff bring me happiness and motivation to work every day,” Lam says.

In her current position as security officer, Lam has learned to be responsive, long-sighted and quick to act. She is especially appreciative of the humility and approachability of the hotel’s senior management.

“Our general manager, Miss Rainy Chan, would call every staff by first name, and would take the initiative to greet us personally and show concern for our personal well-being,” Lam says.

Going beyond the call of duty is often a part of her work. “Five years ago, I met a couple who travelled here by cruise. The husband accidentally choked and I was one of the security staff who took him to the hospital. Under such stressful circumstances, his wife was very worried and emotionally unstable. My team and I took turns in accompanying her while her husband was at the hospital. I even took a half-day off from my personal time to stay with her.”

Lam and the couple have since become close friends and have stayed in close contact.

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