WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — For the last 22 years, Anthony Cawdron has managed the president’s residence at Purdue University, where he’s looked after thousands of guests throughout the years.
“It may be faculty, it may be students, it may be guests of honor, maybe speakers. So, a wonderful variety of guests to come through the doors here,” he said. “Everyone who comes through the door is made to feel important.”
Cawdron’s resume in hospitality spans not only decades but all the way to the U.K., where he spent years looking after different members royal family.
“I went to finish my college career in Oxford and had the opportunity to work at, sometimes during the school year and then after I graduated, at Blenheim Palace, which is the home of the Duke and Duchess of Marlborough,” he said.
Cawdron called it a “fluke opportunity” when reflecting on how he stumbled upon the position while turning in a paper to a professor.
“They said ‘What are you doing for Christmas?’, and I said ‘Nothing much’, and they said ‘Do you want to work in Blenheim Palace?’ and I said ‘Certainly, alright’,” he recalled, “and they said ‘Go tomorrow and interview with the duchess.’”
“It’s one of those happenstance occurrences that turned out well,” he added.
During his time at Blenheim Palace, Cawdron talked about his regular encounters with the duke and duchess and helping look after regular visitors, like Princess Margaret.
“It’s nice to see sort of the real side of people when they’re staying for family visits rather than state occasions where it’s all very orchestrated,” he said. “All of the occasions that I worked with the royal family, just wonderfully easy to work with.”
Cawdron would stay on as an assistant butler at Blenheim Palace for about 2 and a half years before he’d move on to Sutton Place. That’s where he stayed for another two and a half years, but this time as a butler.
“When I became the butler at Sutton Place, I was only 21,” Cawdron recalled.
“That’s where we got the opportunity to meet the Queen Mother, who was a delight,” he said. “A lot of the characteristics that Queen Elizabeth has are definitely, you can see her mother.”
A year after his time at Sutton Place, Cawdron went into the restaurant field, where his royal expertise would help land him another chance opportunity through Le Talbooth, where he was currently working.
“We had the opportunity to even put in a bid to be one of the potential serving restaurants for the Queen’s luncheon,” he said. “We went as a team from the restaurant to present our offer to the council.”
Through that presentation, when Cawdron shared his experiences of looking after royal family members, Le Talbooth was awarded the contract to cater for the luncheon. At about 23 years old, he’d be back helping serve the royal family, including Queen Elizabeth II.
Cawdron remembered the queen’s demeanor as warm, polite, but also vibrant from the colors she wore to even her drink of choice.
“Always enjoyed a gin and dubonnet cocktail before lunch. We had to have that ready,” he laughed.
Cawdron also recalled the queen’s ease in striking conversation with anyone in any setting.
“I was very impressed with how, the ability to talk to an enormous range of people, from someone in the street handing her a bouquet of flowers and then thanking them, but also being able to talk to an ambassador, or a Lord Mayor,” he said.
However, the luncheon didn’t go totally as planned. Cawdron remembered a mishap in city hall, where the luncheon was held, causing the ovens to fail.
“All our chefs had to walk downstairs with the entrée and go to a hotel next door, and basically walk into the kitchen and say ‘We need your ovens now!’” he recalled, “We had a police escort of the entrée being walked back into the city hall, all at the same time while the queen is arriving and being greeted.”
“Luckily everyone was able to eat as planned,” he laughed.
Those experiences, and seeing the human side of royalty, are what Cawdron said stands out most about his unique career, one he just happened to stumble on.
“If somebody had said to me, you’d be working at Blenheim Palace, you’d be working at Sutton Place, you’ll be serving lunch to the Queen Mother, you’ll be talking to Prince Phillip and you’ll be making a cocktail for Prince Charles at that time, all while seeing Princess Diana jump onto a sofa saying ‘Oh these are comfortable,'” he said. “No, I don’t think you ever expect that.”