Leah Fryer and Sam Beatty are the hidden heroes of the hotel world – the people guests never see but couldn’t do without.
Both are key employees at the Best Western Plus Apollo International, Newcastle, where Leah runs housekeeping and Sam the kitchen.
“You don’t know until you open the door,” says Leah, who as Executive Housekeeper at the Apollo neatly sums up the challenges faced by all housekeeping staff.
Her working day is a numbers game: 94 rooms, 169 beds and up to 18 staff who have between 15 and 30 minutes to turn their rooms around depending on whether a guest is staying or has checked out.
“Housekeeping is a very tough job because it’s hard work and you have to work to a time-frame,” says Leah, who has always been very particular about keeping things clean.
But the work is also satisfying. “We’ve got some girls here who just love to clean. It’s something they get a real sense of achievement out of.”
Like Leah, who started as a room attendant, Executive Chef Sam Beatty has worked his way up at the Apollo and was appointed Executive Chef one year ago. Sam grew up in Christchurch, New Zealand, and was working in Manchester, England, when he met the reason he landed in Newcastle – his wife Cassie.
Running the Apollo’s busy kitchen is a huge job and there’s never a dull moment with Sam’s team preparing breakfast, lunch and dinner for guests and visitors seven days a week.
Sam loves to cook and people obviously like to eat his food with the Apollo’s restaurant, Babbington’s Bar & Grill, growing in popularity over the past couple of years.
Weeknights they used do a dozen covers but that now regularly reaches 40 while Babbington’s is frequently booked out on Fridays and Saturdays.
“I love my Asian influences and it’s sometimes hard to steer away from that but with my autumn menu I’ve tried different cuisines and it’s working well,” says Sam, who adds that Braised Beef with Capsicum Coulis and Charred Asparagus is “selling like crazy”.
Outside of work, Sam loves the beach, gardening and spending time with Cassie, their 16–month-old son Sullivan and two King Charles Cavaliers. “Newcastle’s my home town now,” he says.