Phil Talbot (1957-2022): hospitality veteran lit up rooms
A popular restaurateur and hotel staff member was a “legend in hospitality”, former colleagues and friends said yesterday.
Flags were flown at half mast this week at the Hamilton Princess Hotel, where Phil Talbot was head of banqueting, as a mark of respect.
Tim Morrison, the general manager of the hotel, said: “Phil was a beloved and longstanding member of the Hamilton Princess family.
“Everyone who worked with him was impressed by his calm personality and can-do attitude as well as the depth and breadth of his experience and knowledge.”
Mr Morrison said Mr Talbot would “truly be missed by all”.
Mr Talbot, who was born in Stroud, Gloucestershire, in the UK, had a career in Bermuda that included a series of major hospitality roles.
He started as a waiter at the White Sands Hotel in Paget and later ran the Greenhouse Restaurant at the old Sonesta Beach Hotel in Southampton.
Mr Talbot also managed the restaurant at the former Palmetto Bay Hotel on Harrington Sound.
He left Palmetto Bay in 1995 for MR Onions, a bar and restaurant on Par-la-Ville Road in Hamilton.
The English-style pub was popular with journalists from The Royal Gazette and its sister weekly, the former Mid-Ocean News.
Rick Olsen, a restaurateur who joined forces with Mr Talbot to buy MR Onions, said: “Phil was always respected by all staff and I loved him like a brother.”
Mr Talbot was the general manager at the Robin Hood when Mr Olsen ran the Richmond Road bar and restaurant.
Mr Olsen said: “Phil had tremendous experience in hospitality and formal training in terms of silver service. He was great at training Bermudian staff at MR Onions.
He added: “Phil was a cool operator who never got flustered.”
Mr Talbot remained landlord of MR Onions with his wife, Lori, after Mr Olson left to pursue other business interests.
The couple, who have a daughter, Samantha, ran the restaurant together until 2007.
Dexter Smith, Editor of The Royal Gazette and former Sports Editor of the Mid-Ocean News between 1994 and 2000, said the news was “like a death in the RG family”.
“MR Onions was more than a watering hole – it was an institution and Phil and his wife, Lori, were such an integral part of that.
“Yes, they were businesspeople, but they were so warm and welcoming that the concluding transactions felt no different than a parting embrace.
“Those Thursday nights after getting the Mid-Ocean News off to the presses were memorable, as were the big boxing nights just as pay-per-view was coming into force.”
Mr Smith added: “Phil loved his football and often shared his passion for Swindon Town, which was both admirable and instructive of what a true supporter should be.
“When I returned to the island from England in 2002 to bury my mum, he and Lori were so, so supportive --- allowing me to camp out in between the grief and stress that came with handling her affairs.
“My deepest condolences got out to Lori, daughter Sam, whom he doted over, and the extended MR Onions family. Because that’s what we were – a family.”
Ivan Clifford, a former Assistant Editor at the Mid-Ocean, said: "Phil and I shared a common kinship, coming from the same area of Gloucestershire and it was always a delight to hear his West Country accent, which brought back happy memories of going to school in Stroud, his home town.“
He added: "Phil was a true professional with an impeccable eye for detail.
“After MR Onions closed it was always good to see him looking after guests at the Princess – ever the dedicated member of the island's hospitality industry. He will be sadly missed."
Hal Browne, the director of catering and conference services at the Hamilton Princess, said Mr Talbot worked there for 14 years, running all the hotel’s meetings, catering and banqueting.
Mr Browne added: “He was a professional, very good humoured, liked a good laugh and was respected and loved by the whole team from executives to servers.”
He said: “Phil had no bad bone in his body, was proud of his team and considerate of his co-workers.
“Phil’s banqueting brigade received many complimentary notes, letters e-mails over the years, praise for excellent caring service, thinking ahead, anticipating.
“Phil worked long hours and could be just as easily found in a tuxedo servicing a black-tie banquet as he could be in his polo shirt, with a cap to save his bald head, while looking after a beach event in the blazing sun.
“He leaves a big gap in the team, and it hurts.”
Peter Clark, who worked as a chef with Mr Talbot at the Greenhouse, said: “Professionally, you couldn’t get better as far as service goes. He was brilliant and trained so many people.
“From a personal standpoint, he was always upbeat, always jolly and smiling wherever he went.
“He brought light to the room.”
· Phillip John Talbot, a prominent figure in Bermuda’s hospitality industry, was born on November 17, 1957. He died in March 2022, aged 64.