Will Hotel GB celebrate hospitality or turn it into a TV circus?

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Gordon Ramsay and Mary Portas will each put their money where their mouth is next week when they turn hoteliers for new Channel 4 series Hotel GB.

Ramsay has been known to dabble in the restaurant world, while Portas earned her Queen of Shops moniker by knocking about in retail for a bit, but can either of them run a hotel?

We'll find out next week when they take charge of Hotel GB - it reverts back to the Bermondsey Square hotel when filming finishes - as co-general managers in charge of the restaurant, bar and gym, and rooms, reception and spa respectively.
To make things a little bit more 'TV', the two will be pitted against each other to see whose team (boys vs. girls) can raise the most money for two charities, Springboard and the Prince's Trust - both of which help young, disadvantaged people into employment. 

Joined by a host of other celebrities (see below), Ramsay and Portas will recruit unemployed people to the hotel in a bid to find them full-time jobs by the end of the week of filming and nightly screening.

My feelings on this show are mixed. On the one hand the opportunity to showcase the vibrancy and variety of the hospitality industry is not to be missed. Too many young people neglect to consider the stunning array of career prospects in the sector when thinking about their future and hopefully Hotel GB will build on the success of shows like the BBC's Art of Service and Great British Menu, to name just two.

But the idea that a collection of relatively random celebrities can successfully do what many of the industry's brightest young things have worked hard to perfect sits a little uneasily with me. 

My last two days were spent in the company of Caterer and Hotelkeeper's Acorn Award winners - 30 hospitality professionals under the age of 30 who saw off stiff competition to be named this year's hospitality stars of the future. 

Young they may be, but their passion, enthusiasm and dedication is what makes them some of the best in their field. 

So please, Channel 4. Please. Don't make a mockery of an incredible industry and the efforts of the people in it. 

My fingers are crossed that my fears are unfounded though. The celebs chosen to take part each have their own area of expertise so I've no doubt they'll do their utmost to make the project a roaring success. 

* Hotel GB airs on Channel 4 at 9pm for five consecutive nights, starting 1 October.

Meet the Staff

The Boys...

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Gordon Ramsay

Job title: Co-general manager in charge of the restaurant, the bar and the gym

Experience: He's done alright for himself over the years... bagged a bunch of Michelin stars, opened restaurants across the world, turned the air blue in countless television shows. Says "done!" a lot and frequently turns the word "yes" into a question. 

Prospects: Mr Ramsay has exacting standards and doesn't tolerate anything short of excellence - this can only be a good thing in a hotel. But he runs the risk of scaring the crap out of his recruits with his intense (read: shouty) approach.

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Dr Christian Jessen

Job title: Manager of health and wellbeing, gym and hotel doctor

Experience:  A doctor with a burgeoning telly career looking at the 'embarrassing' ailments of people too shy to show their own GP but happy to show the world. These body problems frequently involve the nether regions and beg the question: why would anyone want to be a doctor?

Prospects: Clearly Jessen should have no problem as a hotel doctor but whether he can turn his hand at gym management remains to be seen. If one or two of the guests request quick checks of something unsightly on their bottom, he should be in his element. 

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Gok Wan

Job title: Bar and events manager

Experience: Flamboyant Mr Wan has helped style a nation of frumpy women by singing the virtues of control pants and super-wide belts in order to emphasise the all-important waistline of even the most apple-shaped of ladies. 

Prospects: Wan knows how to turn the mundane into the fabulous without blowing the budget, as witnessed in his High Street Vs. High Fashion stand off with the irritating American woman. This should prove handy when it comes to events, where margin and the meeting of client needs are not always happy bedfellows. 

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Phil Spencer

Job title: Maitre d'

Experience: One half of the property-finding duo on Channel 4's Location x 3 and Relocation x 2, Spencer advises people with cash to splash on what home they should buy. 

Prospects: Given what unsympathetic characters his house-hunting clients often make - poor Margot and Tristan just can't find anything they like for £1.5m. Boohoo! - Spencer will probably make a very good maitre d' with just the right amount of patience and willingness to accommodate his guests.

The Girls...

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Mary Portas

Job title: Co-general manager in charge of rooms, reception and the spa

Experience: Portas is a retail guru known for her straight talking advice and champion of customer service. She also rocks a mean bob.

Prospects: The Queen of Shops knows what she wants from a service-based business and, crucially, has the creativity to achieve it. Like her rival Ramsay, Portas won't accept anything less than 100% but her less intimidating manner might prove to be her team-winning strength.

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Kirstie Allsopp

Job title: Concierge

Experience: On-screen missus to Spencer and other half the dynamic property-finding duo outlined above. Also keen on arts and crafts and her bit-by-bit transformation into a modern day Emma Peel (as portrayed by Diana Rigg in the original Avengers series) is almost complete. 

Prospects: As with Spencer, Allsopp has had to deal with her own fair share of demanding clients. However, when it comes to venting about how ridiculous their demands are, Allsopp will generally be the first to let off steam. A risky attribute to have in the role of concierge.

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Katie Piper

Job title: Spa and salon manager

Experience: A former model whose burgeoning media career was almost cut short in 2008 when she fell victim to a vicious attack in which sulphuric acid was thrown in her face. 

Prospects: If there is anyone who epitomises the idea of overcoming adversity it's Ms Piper. She has since become an advocate for people with facial disfigurements and founder of the Katie Piper Foundation. Her modelling experience will most likely help in the spa and salon and her grit and determination will certainly make her a force to be reckoned with.

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Kim Woodburn

Job title: Head of housekeeping

Experience: Lots of time spent transforming filthy homes into ones that are actually safe to set foot in, let alone inhabit. 

Prospects: Woodburn should shine in this role. A formidable character who truly understands the difference between vaguely tidy and full-blown cleanliness, the bedrooms at Hotel GB should sparkle.

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Hilary Devey

Job title: Manager of the hotel shop, the House of Devey

Experience: An entrepreneurial businesswoman who made her money by launching Pall-Ex, a palletised freight network (yeah, I'm not totally sure what that means either), before becoming Channel 5's the Business Inspector and taking a spot on the panel of BBC's Dragon's Den.

Prospects: Her down to earth manner should go down well with her staff but her 80s Dynasty-power-woman style may turn up some interesting wares in the hotel shop. 

P.S. The photos above came from the Hotel GB press pack. They are also evidence that over exuberance with Photoshop can turn up some pretty weird results. 


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