top: Myk Banas, executive
chef/director of food and beverage
operations at Chicago Marriott
Downtown Magnificent Mile, says
when it comes to hiring, personality
is as important as skills.
The menu is equally eclectic in
Orchids at Palm Court in the
Hilton Cincinnati Netherland
Plaza. Todd Kelly is the hotel’s
executive chef, overseeing
service from Orchids as well as
the hotel’s grill, bar, coffee kiosk
and room service operation.
Kelly supervises a team of 30.
“We keep busy, but it’s always
something different. We’re not
making the same donuts every
day,” he says. Instead, they’re
doing everything from grab-and-go breakfast to fine dining.
And an average day’s task at
work for Kelly is a good example
of the various tasks an executive
chef does. In addition to his
supervisory and management
duties, “I can cut fruit, make
bread, work the line or do
anything I want in the kitchen,”
he says. That variety keeps him
fresh and provides opportunities
for his staff to learn and move up,
or, if they prefer, out, to another
hotel or another city.
So what does one need to know
to succeed in a hotel kitchen?
Everything you can learn is the
short answer. Good basic
cooking skills are the price of
admission. The higher up the
chain of command you want to
be, the better and more
advanced the skill requirements
are. But the nice part about
hotel kitchens is that as your
skills improve, you can move
up. There’s almost always a
job to grow into.
Hotel chefs need more than just
good culinary skills, though.
“A lot of chefs could use a class
in grammar and spelling,
especially culinary spelling,”
Banas says. When you’re doing
a presentation for a client, you
can’t count on the hotel sales
manager to know how to spell
crème brûlée. “Misspelled words
make people wonder how you
can make a dish if you can’t spell
it,” he adds. In the same vein, a
public speaking or speech class
can help put you at ease when
running or participating in
department meetings and
greeting groups of customers.
“Dealing with customers is often
part of the job,” Brookhouzen
says. “We represent the hotel and
present its services to customers.
You need good written and
verbal skills to do that.” Those
skills also help when doing
employee evaluations and
Basic math is another must.
“My chefs and sous chefs manage
the numbers for their areas,”
Banas explains. If you can’t add,
subtract, multiply or divide,
you’re going to have trouble with
budgeting, costing, scheduling
and many other tasks required