Diana Palmer

Women in Hospitality | Diana Palmer

Women In Hospitality | Diana Palmer

Diana is the co-owner of Kemptown Project, a local company that owns three of Brighton’s most popular eateries, Redroaster cafe (by day) Lucky Khao restaurant (by night) and seafront based Lucky Beach. They also import, roast, pack and sell fairtrade and organic coffee from single origin small farms with whom they have developed a trusted relationship. 

Diana Palmer

Kemptown Project as a company is pinned on their commitment to sustainable working practices and produce, they have been awarded a three star sustainability rating, Lucky Beach came top three in BRAVO 20 for most Sustainable Eats and all three of the eateries have a string of top 20 listings for best international cuisine, best bunch, cafe and best cocktail.  

Please can you share a whistle-stop tour of your career?

After graduating from Robert Gordons in Aberdeen, I worked for the council running their hospitality units which varied from cafes in the park to the Beach Ballroom on Aberdeen seafront. After a couple of years, I decided to work for a ski company and run their club hotels in France. This is where I met my husband Mike! After a couple of years and a bit of backpacking, we decided to head back to London. I worked for Whitbread and ran a small group of restaurants called Dome. After a variety of different roles we decided to move to Brighton. I didn’t want to commute and the equivalent role did not exist. So, I decided to go back to university and train as a nurse. I wanted to do tropical diseases but that role didn’t exist in Brighton so I decided to specialise in Renal. During this time we thought it would be quite nice to have a small sustainable café on the seafront where we could do some stand up boarding and chill out on the beach. Well, a small café did come up but after the first sunny day in Brighton that fantasy soon evaporated. I gave up my role running the Home dialysis unit at Sussex County and that was pretty much the beginning of Lucky Beach and the Kemptown project.  

How and when did you train in hospitality, was there a particular reason for this career path?

I trained at Robert Gordon’s Institute of technology in Aberdeen. I’ve always been interested in cooking. My mother was from Malaysia and my father from Scotland so watching how she merged the two cuisines was fascinating. I also grew up on an apiary and small croft so always had access to the most amazing foods. 

Diana Palmer

Describe your job in three words?

Challenging, collaborative and interesting.

 Favourite aspect of the job? 

Meeting people.

 What excites you most about your role?

I get to meet so many interesting people. One day I can be working with farmers in Costa Rica or Rwanda, talking about coffee, and another day I can be having a laugh with customers about their dog’s antics.

Diana Palmer

 The toughest aspect of your job?

Getting my work done within a 5 day week!

What has been your biggest challenge?

Covid.

 Have there been any obstacles in the way of your professional development?

Time – I never have enough of it.

Do you have children?

1 daughter.

Has raising a family effected your career development?

No, but it is not without its challenges.

 If so, how and why do you think that is?

Owning my own business I have been able to work around childcare but I had to work long days, seven day a week. If I worked for someone it would have been difficult. I have also been lucky because my husband and I work together so we were able to make it work.

 Who have been your mentors?  

My mum and dad – they worked hard and encouraged me to think big. I helped my dad build our family home when I was 14. I personally would never do it again but I learnt a lot from the experience. 

 Who has inspired you along the way? 

I have met so many interesting people along the way and they all inspire me but I guess the person who probably pushes me most is my husband. If I want to do something he’s always very encouraging

What has been your philosophy that has seen the successful development of your career?

I always do my research and put the time in to make things happen. Collaboration and kindness are also vital, I couldn’t do it on my own.

What advice would you offer for women looking to embark on a similar career? 

Do your research and don’t be scared to ask for help. Speak to people in the industry and get as much information as possible. Find a mentor in the business.

 Words of encouragement for women who aspire to reach a senior position in hospitality? 

It’s hard work but if you are willing to put in the time and effort it’s very rewarding.

Do you have a go-to or failsafe plate of comfort food? 

Roti Canai, cake and chocolate.

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