AHL Insider:

Ray Pirkle

  • WHAT DO YOU DO AND HOW DID YOU GET HERE?

    I am Senior Food & Beverage Director for Grandlife Hotels. Not too long after moving to the city, I landed a job in private events for Brian McNally’s 44 at the Royalton Hotel. Jonathan Morr made me the VIP liason, which somehow led to my opening Bond St and eventually becoming a junior partner in Jonathan Morr Group where I opened APT, Townhouse and Condesa Hotels. I went on to work with Ian Schrager, Amy Sacco, Serge Becker and Morgans Hotel Group before finally landing at Grandlife and working with Tony Fant.

  • WAS HOSPITALITY SOMETHING YOU ALWAYS WANTED TO DO? WHAT DID YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOU WERE GROWING UP?

    I’ve always been interested in social dynamics and what people respond to, but I wasn’t interested in hospitality specifically. I always thought I’d be some sort of architect, industrial designer (without knowing what it was called) or creative director. Turns out, with hospitality you get to touch on all of those areas and more.

  • WHAT'S YOUR GREATEST INSPIRATION?

    I’m inspired by people who move things forward. I’m not nostalgic at all and truly believe the best is yet to come.

  • WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE HOTEL IN THE WORLD AND WHY?

    That’s difficult. I love places that capture their location and couldn’t exist anywhere else. San Jose in Austin comes to mind or Costes in Paris. But my favorite (and I can’t believe I’m going to say this) has to be Chateau Marmont in LA.

  • WHAT'S THE BIGGEST CHANGE YOU'VE SEEN IN THE INDUSTRY IN THE PAST 5 - 10 YEARS?

    It’s become homogenized and formulaic. 95% of hotels hire from the same pool of PR firms, managers, djs, programmers etc… there are very few visionaries.

  • WHO ARE YOU CURRENTLY ADMIRING IN THE INDUSTRY AND WHY?

    Liz Lambert. I think Bunkhouse management is the single best small hotel group in America because everything she does is singular to her and her experience. I never feel like she’s trying to be Ian or trying to be Sean MacPherson. She is consistently stylish, thoughtful and engaging - it never feels forced or cloying, not even when you’re glamping in a teepee in Marfa, Texas. That’s not an easy trick to pull off.

  • WHERE WILL YOU BE ON YOUR NEXT DAY OFF?

    Hudson, New York.

  • WHAT'S THE NEXT BIG IDEA? WHAT ARE HOTELS MISSING?

    Individualism. Be something specific, anything at all. Just don’t offer me the same copied experience that I can get at every other hotel in the world.

  • WHAT WILL YOU BE DOING IN A FEW YEARS FROM NOW?

    I’m about to start a fledgling hotel group called Ramshackle Properties. Our first hotel is in a town called Hudson in Upstate NY. It’s a 28 room hotel with a small restaurant and bar. Hopefully, I’ll be working on that and growing the brand. I’d also like to continue working with Grandlife. It’s a great group and they’re always interested in pushing the envelope.

  • CAREER ANECDOTE YOU'D LIKE TO SHARE?

    Chateau probably seems like a strange answer, but I always have a great time there. It’s less about the food and beverage for me, more that it’s amazing looking and it feels like you can get away with whatever you want. A few years ago I was staying there with a large group of friends on our way back from Coachella. We were drinking by the pool, playing music and generally being obnoxious (and eventually skinny dipping). When we heard the door creak, we were sure it was security to tell us to break it up, get dressed and to keep our voices down. We all turned to make our argument for skinny dippers everywhere, when a lonely pool attendant enters with huge stack of towels, puts them down on a chair, and exits without even saying a word. Now that’s what I call a hotel!