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Federal Hotel International, my second home

Simon Leong is no longer the spunky young man who first walked into The Federal Hotel as a part-time banquet staff or the young executive who “fought fire” at hotel events.

But the now calmer and composed Simon is able to recall all these events, that spotted his career path, with much humour as if it had only just happened. The young Simon, as his stories soon revealed, was unfazed by problems, no matter how big or severe, and often adopted a cease-the-bull-by-the-horn approach to settle them.

With a little coaxing, the Senior General Manager at The Federal Hotel Kuala Lumpur was enjoying relating the tales, from his 39-year career, as much as those listening to them.

Simon Leong, the wizard behind the F&B outlets

Simon was 17 when he started working as a casual staff of the banquet department. After completing his Malaysia Certificate of Education exams (the equivalent of O-levels), he worked as an electrician for three years before being recommended for a job at The Federal Hotel.

“It was the 2nd of January 1980. I was hired as a waiter. Jimmy Tan the F&B manager hired me after a short interview because he was already acquainted with me as a part-timer. A year and a half later, I was promoted to assistant captain, eight months later banquet coordinator and in less than a year I was made up to become an F&B executive working on banquet operations.

“I was moving up fast because I could speak and write better. Most of the staff didn’t have much education,” Simon was perhaps a mite modest as it took more than just speaking better to move up the ladder.

He was as eager as a beaver to learn and he took every opportunity to ask those who were willing to teach. In two and a half years, Simon moved up several other positions to finally become the F&B manager.

In his era, to make F&B manager in 10 years rising from rank and file was indeed an achievement.

“Getting the bosses to notice you is important! Every time the boss came in (Tan Sri Datuk Seri Low Yow Chuan ) I would be designated to serve him – everyone else was fearful of him. I was also afraid after hearing feedback from other staff about him,” Simon admitted.

But Simon was ambitious and managed to psyched himself to believe that every guest, including the boss, deserved the best of his service and he wasn’t going to let fear get in the way.

Simon at Merdeka Day Charity event

“On one occasion the boss pre-ordered a dish as he was going to entertain guests. Before he arrived, the kitchen found that the oysters were not fresh and no one, including the F&B manager, wanted to be the one to tell him.

“And I was volunteered! So I did. I told him the oysters were not fresh and I had taken the liberty to replace it with another item. He commended me and said I did a good job and that we should not serve unfresh food,” Simon swept his brow and created a good impression with the boss.

But Simon soon found that he actually performed well when his adrenalin is pumped up. He remembers rescuing another incident in the 80s when he was an F&B executive.

“There was cough up with the date for a function between the client and our sales team. Suddenly I found myself in front of 300 guests for a non-existent function, at least according to the F&B schedule.

Simon Leong

“Bosses were away for the weekend and I had to solve the problem. There was no time to waste and no room for negotiation. It was an emergency! This is where I really appreciated our teamwork. I sent someone out to Jalan Alor hawker stalls to buy up as much grilled meats and satay while someone else went to a nearby mamak (indian muslim shop) to buy up all their food.

“And whoever else was available at the hotel helped to set up the only available venue at the banquet hall as there were already 4 wedding dinners going on in our restaurants. We pulled it off by 8 pm to allow the ‘incidental’ function to carry on. The client was angry but appreciated how we rectified the situation,” Simon related and you could still hear the pride in his voice.

Courtly, he excused himself to attend to a matter but promised to return and resume his storytelling.

Soon he walked backed into the room to tell about the crisis when incessant rain had caused the hotel basement to flood and water was rushing in from the street.

“There was a 400-people function going on in the ballroom and I had to cut off the electric supply to the ballroom and moved the function to another location. With teamwork, we managed to move the function without much disruption. We had staff from other departments helping out too,” he said.

Simon is a firm believer in developing the right relationship with his staff to ensure cooperation and loyalty. He was promoted to Senior General Manager of The Federal Hotel in January and also to oversee operations of the Group’s other property The Capitol Hotel.

He remains the go-to man for all things pertaining to F&B in The Federal Hotel International Group owing to his experience and prowess in the field.

The Federal Kuala Lumpur Timeline



  • The Federal Hotel was the brainchild and vision of the late Tan Sri Low Yat, who had the foresight to build for our nation, a new multimillion-dollar international class hotel at that time, to specifically provide accommodation for all the distinguished guests and foreign dignitaries attending the historic day and celebration of Malaya’s independence.
  • The Federal Kuala Lumpur, the Hotel for Merdeka, opened her doors on 28 August 1957 and had the privilege to bear witness to Malaysia’s declaration of independence on 31 August 1957.  The 90-room 9-storey structure was then one of the tallest buildings in the city and the opening was officiated by the first Prime Minister of Malaya, Y.T.M. Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al Haj.  On the eve of Merdeka Day, an official reception was held at the Banquet Room, attended by 175 local and foreign guests.  From the moment at the venue of choice for many government functions, events and meetings, and thus the birth of our renowned hospitality and service known around the world to this day.
  • The first resident to register as a guest at The Federal Hotel was Bunny (Ms Nancy Simmons, a government driver in London who chauffeured Tunku around during his negotiation talks for Malaya’s Independence in London).
  • The second guest registered at The Federal Hotel was Tan Sri Datuk Dr Haji Yahaya Ibrahim.  He was then one of those young Malayan civil servants assigned as a protocol officer to take charge of the 12-man Japanese delegation representing their government at the Merdeka celebrations at Stadium Merdeka on 31 August 1957.


    • “In 1959, Prime Minister of Australia, Sir Robert Menzies visited The Federal Hotel during his visit to Kuala Lumpur together with his delegation’ recalled Frank Murray, the former Australia High Commission in Kuala Lumpur.


    • Federal Hotel Extension behind the original 10-storey designed by Japanese architect, Yozoshipada was completed in 1963 with a revolutionary Revolving Bintang Restaurant located on the 18th
    • Another 300 rooms were made available making a total of 450 rooms. The Federal Hotel then had added more facilities for the convenience of Hotel guests, Coffee House & Bar, Piano Bar, Coral Bar, Mandarin Palace (night club), Kontiki Restaurant poolside), Bintang Revolving Lounge, Federal Bowl (the country’s largest bowling alley), Federal Health Club, Laundry & Valet services, several of these features were previously unknown in Malaysia’s hotel history.
    • Federal Hotel became the home for British movie crew while filming The Seventh Dawn and the Durian Tree starring by international actors and actresses namely William Holden, Capucine, Suzannah York, Michael Goodlife and Tetsura Tamba, which was released in 1964.
    • Sir Robert Menzies, former Australian Prime Minister also stayed at the Federal Hotel as did Sir Malcolm MacDonald who occupies an important place in Malaysian history owing to his involvement in the making of the Federation of Malaya (the prelude to independent Malaya) which was inaugurated on 1 February 1948.
    • Other dignitaries who frequently used The Federal Hotel’s facilities included the late Tun Dato’ Mustapha, Federal Ministers such as Mohd Khir Johari (the late Tan Sri); and the late Tan Sri Dato’ Dr Haji Abdul Majid Ismail.
    • From that moment on, the Federal Hotel became the choice for renowned personalities who came over to Kuala Lumpur. Among them are Pulitzer Prize winner, James A Michener, former World Heavyweight Boxing Champion Muhammad Ali, Jose Frazer, author of South Pacific and his wife Mari Yoriko Sabusawa.


    • The Big Fight in 1973 – Former World Heavyweight Boxing Champion Mohammad Ali and Joe Bugner were guests of the Federal Hotel


    • 28 August 1985, Tan Sri Dato’ Low Yow Chuan launched the Hotel Management Company, Federal Hotels International (FHI) (to replace Federal Hotels Management Services established on 16 August 1961) together with its FHI Corporate Logo.
    • The late Y.T.M. Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj was invited to launch Federal Hotels International (FHI) & the new FHI Corporate Logo on 28 August 1985.
    • Hong Kong TVB Stars namely Kenneth Tsang Kong, Meg Lam Kin-ming, Lau Dan, Rebecca Chan Sau-Chu and Simon Yam Tat-Wah were guests at the Skyroom on New Year’s Eve Celebrations.
    • American Pop Singer, Johnny Tillotson performed at the Skyroom on Christmas Eve on 24 December 1987.


      • 3-Phase expansion and renovation programme to provide and further upgrade it to an international deluxe standard be completed over 5 years.
      • First phase – intensive renovation of the original 10-storey building which was completed in 1990, and the entire block was renamed as Merdeka Wing with 150 rooms and 4 suites.
      • Second phase began in November 1991 and completed in May 1992. The Hotel then had new mini computers from Hewlett Packard, Sanctuary Café & Bar and an all-glass exterior at the Hotel front thus completely changing the façade of the Hotel.


      • The late YABhg Datin Paduka Endon Mahmood graced the occasion of the Merdeka Fund Raising Charity Gala Dinner to commemorate the Federal Hotel’s 46th Anniversary Celebrations on 28 August 2003.
      • Favourite Dishes from Tunku’s Kitchen Cookbook was launched by the former Minister of Tourism, YB Datuk Dr Leo Michael Toyad on 29 September 2005.
      • Hidangan Kegemaran dari Dapur Tunku (the Favourite Dishes from the Tunku’s Kitchen cookbook) was launched together with FHI Merdeka Charity Event by the former Deputy Director General of Tourism Malaysia, Datin Dalilah Ahmad on 24 August 2006.
      • The Federal Hotel as at 2007 entered the grand golden era with a complete makeover to ensure total guest comfort while retaining the old world charm and traditions that has made the Federal Hotel so special. The Federal Hotel comprised 3 sections – the original 10-storey Merdeka Wing, the 21-storey Federal Tower, and the complex which housed the swimming pool, ballroom and banquet hall as well as the former Federal Bowling Alley.
      • New York based Malaysian designer, Zang Toi designed limited-edition bags to commemorate The Federal Kuala Lumpur’s 50th Anniversary Celebrations, launched by the 13th Yang Di-Pertuan Agong of Malaysia, Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin and Raja Permaisuri Agong Tuanku Nur Zahirah at Bintang Revolving Restaurant (now known as Bintang Lounge & Restaurant) on 21 August 2007.
      • To commemorate the 50th Anniversary Celebrations, Federal Hotels International (FHI) & The Federal Kuala Lumpur (The Hotel for Merdeka) together with Malaysia Airlines (as part of MAS Let’s Fly Malaysia Campaign) & LSG Sky Chefs Brahim, were proud to present the Merdeka Inflight Dining Experience with Favourite Dishes from the Tunku’s Kitchen on board Malaysia Airlines (on all classes) from 1 August until 30 September 2007 on selected routes to Europe, Australia and New Zealand regional & domestic (Sabah and Sarawak) routes.
      • The 5th Prime Minister of Malaysia, Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Tun Jeanne Abdullah graced the 50th Anniversary Celebrations of The Federal Kuala Lumpur on 28 August 2007.
      • Datuk Lee Chong Wei (Malaysia No. 1 badminton singles shutter) and Tan Boon Heong (former World No. 1 Malaysian badminton player in the men’s doubles) attended the Proton Malaysian Open Super Series 2007 Welcome Dinner on 16 January 2007.


      • Former Deputy Minister of Federal Territories, YB Datuk Dr Loga Bala Mohan (5th from right) graced the launch of The Merdeka Wing and The Verandah on 24 November 2015 at The Verandah- another unique new revolution unveiled by The Federal Kuala Lumpur with the official opening of the Merdeka Wing and The Verandah – Celebrate, Stay, Dine and be entertained!
      • The Federal Kuala Lumpur celebrated her 60th Anniversary Celebrations on 28 August 2017 with meaningful activities lined up on our Calendar of Events:
      • The Federal Kuala Lumpur played host for one of the SEA Games Team Contingents, the Myanmar Team during the KL SEA Games 2017.
      • Modern Grand Hotel – A Story Telling musical concert held on Friday, 8 September to Saturday, 9 September and Friday, 15 September to Sunday, 17 September 2017
      • Official Hotel of the Hands Percussion 20th Anniversary Concerts namely Percussion Paradise and Inner Voices which is part of DiverseCity’s KL International Arts Festival (KLIAD) 2017
      • The Federal Kuala Lumpur joined hands together with its sister hotels namely Hotel Capitol Kuala Lumpur and The Grace Sydney launched the Anniversary Indulgence room package.
      • The Federal’s Fun with 60 creative photos social media contest.
      • HE Mr Andrew Goledzinowski graced the Inaugural Launch of Discover Australia – A Taste of Australia at The Federal Kuala Lumpur from 13 July – 29 July 2018. Discover Australia – A Taste of Australia food festival was jointly organized by Federal Hotels International (FHI) together with its FHI Hotels in Kuala Lumpur and Sydney Namely The Federal Kuala Lumpur and The Grace Hotel Sydney, with the support from the Australian High Commission, AUSTRADE, Tourism Australia and MLA Meat & Livestock Australia and Citibank.

      Today’s Grand Dame of Kuala Lumpur

      • The Federal Kuala Lumpur has renovated its Merdeka Wing Rooms, Ballrooms, Kontiki Restaurant and the brand new lobby lounge, The Verandah.
      • The Federal recently unveiled stylish new looks and introduced new facilities showcasing our FHI Group’s philosophy of creating an effortless experience and venues that allow guests the time and space to focus on and make the most of what is important to them, includes guestrooms, meeting spaces, innovative restaurants and lounge, to enhance their stay with us, as our guests are our best ambassadors.
      • The Federal Kuala Lumpur’s newly renovated Merdeka Wing Rooms, with a super comfortable bed, plus down duvet, bathroom and a rain shower, quality amenities plus exclusive privileges, are designed with pleasure and convenience in mind.

      Federal Hotels International (FHI) has over six decades of experience in the Malaysian hospitality industry. FHI is the pioneer Malaysian Hotel Management Company, established in 1957, to manage the first international hotel in Kuala Lumpur – The Federal Kuala Lumpur – that opened its doors on 28 August 1957. Today, FHI manages The Federal Kuala Lumpur, Hotel Capitol Kuala Lumpur, The Grace Hotel Sydney and Tribeca Serviced Suites Bukit Bintang.