Real estate blogs are full of tips on how to make relocation easier. Scholars have focused entire psychology studies on the stress of relocation. But for restaurant industry professionals, relocating for new jobs is all part of the gig. Unless you own your own eatery or have planted firm roots for a career all in one place, packing up will be just one of many vocational hazards.
But relocation doesn’t have to be stressful or unpleasant. On the contrary, several leading hospitality organizations not only roll out the red carpet for new food and beverage recruits, they are helping these individuals and their loved ones feel at home.
As Western North Carolina’s leading lady in hospitality, the Omni Grove Park Inn commands top talent for the Inn’s four restaurants. While this historic property has always attracted culinary masters, the field is competitive. Executive chef Josh Thomsen first heard of the job years before he actually took it – meanwhile another opportunity arose that he couldn’t pass up. When the job became available again, he jumped at the chance to work for the Omni family in Asheville, a thriving culinary centerpiece of the South.
“I had to fly here to have my second interview on property where I met with so many managers, fellow chefs, front-of-house, food and beverage director, and prepared a tasting menu for five people over the two-day period,” says Thomsen, who found it attractive to be an executive chef of a historic property that had undergone a major reinvestment. “The Omni Grove Park Inn offered me the freedom to use every color in the crayon box when writing menus.”
A smooth transition was also about incentivizing talent and making them feel at home. Thomsen says he and his wife knew Asheville was where they wanted to raise their family and where he wanted to work. He can vouch for the importance of sharing as much about the region as possible with new hires.
“For our new cooks, I find time to know them better and welcome them with a gift basket from the resort. For example, one recent hire is a baseball fan, so in his welcome basket we included a mouse pad featuring his team for his office computer, and another is a music fan so we gave them tickets to a great local band,” says Thomsen, who also likes including a book of area sites everyone can explore. “A little personal welcome and connection is important for every team member.”
Across the country at the Enchantment Resort in Sedona, Arizona, new hires find it hard to tear themselves away from the red rocks and cool scene.
“This is a stunning setting unlike any other in the world so staff members are drawn to the beauty of the region,” says Ashley Sheen, corporate director of communications for Enchantment Group. “But our HR team goes above, including recently when we helped victims of the recent hurricanes and wildfires come to Arizona, giving them temporary housing and employment until they could return to their homes.”
That attitude of homespun hospitality permeates throughout the resort. Enchantment pairs employees with similar interests, like when one staffer with a penchant for hiking was paired with an Enchantment sommelier who happens to be an active hiker. The sommelier introduced him to great hiking trails and helped him become acquainted with the region, so he felt at home immediately.
“We subsidize travel expenses and housing, which is huge coming in from out of state, but what our new hires say once they get here is how hard it would be to relocate elsewhere,” says Sheen. “Lunch breaks entail sitting outside staring at these gorgeous red rock vistas and guests are in this euphoric state, so interacting with them is unique to Enchantment.”
At the Ritz-Carlton in Westchester, New York, where monied urbanites retire to stunning homes and host lavish parties, management touts the importance of having new hires get to know the team.
“After they relocate, we invite new staff to orientation where they meet other new hires and we send a memorandum to the hotel staff including information on their career progression and fun facts about the person coming in,” says Maureen Stella, director of sales and marketing. “On the first day of the job, they’ll meet with their new team and shadow someone most similar in position.”
In Stella’s case, she had the opportunity to have an extended interview, see the property and work with the staff beforehand.
The chance to work with famed culinary professionals is one of the major draws for relocation, much as chef Geddes Martin’s Inn at Ship Bay on Orcas Island, off the coast of Washington state, draws culinary wanderers for the chance to spend time in his kitchen, perched high above the picturesque water below.
“Here we listen to new staff members to find out who they are and what they’ve done before,” says Martin, who was doing farm-to-table long before it became buzzworthy. “Mostly it’s about buying into the philosophy of growing your own food and serving fresh ingredients – so many chefs will write a menu and go out looking for ingredients, but we are the opposite in that we see what we have nearby and create from that.”
The biggest carrot for new cooks coming to work for Martin is what they become, the challenges and exhilaration of sustainable cooking at the highest levels.
“This is not a cookie-cutter place, so here chefs develop skills that allow them to contribute, creating dishes that make sense as we buy less and less from mainstream food sources,” says Martin.
For some chefs, the prospect of growth and running your own show is enough motivation to relocate. Greenville, South Carolina-based restaurateur Carl Sobocinski of Table 301 Restaurant Group and the flagship Soby’s New South Cuisine, organizes dinners in private homes or other Greenville restaurants so new hires can become acquainted with the their new restaurant family.
“They are invaluable at setting the tone for who we are as an organization and how tight knit the family really is, but we also host a mandatory new employee orientation where we teach them about the area and how to be an ambassador for the city,” says Sobocinski. “We’ve always introduced our new chefs with some fanfare and while each opportunity presents itself differently, we try to maximize the news whenever possible since in today’s world, diners want to know who prepared their food, created their cocktails, and to know the face behind a dish.”
Sobocinski, who has helped position Greenville as one of the nation’s top secret cities for eating well, introduced an annual event called a Taste of Table 301 during the restaurant’s anniversary week. New hires lucky enough to join the team around this time experience all nine of the restaurants coming together with local media and diners to meet the chefs, sommeliers and beverage directors.
“This is where guests can meet new chefs, general managers and beverage directors who haven’t been formally introduced to the Greenville scene in person,” says Sobocinski, who constantly seeks ways to recruit and retain top hospitality talent like Michael Kramer. “Michael attended Euphoria, Greenville’s food, wine and music festival, in 2010 as a guest chef and loved what the area had to offer, especially the great cycling. He had always dreamed of opening a restaurant where he could make fresh pasta daily, and our restaurant group didn’t currently have an Italian offering.”
That was five years ago. In 2013 Kramer moved to Greenville to take over as executive chef of one of Sobocinski’s existing restaurants while the new team looked for a home for Kramer’s passion project.
“It took us a few years to find the right spot, a brand new construction building that overlooks Greenville’s Falls Park right on Main Street, but in March 2017, Jianna came to life,” says Sobocinski. “Jianna was worth the wait because the space has become one of the hottest spots in town and the views from the indoor/outdoor oyster bar are the best in town – the food is pretty delicious, too.”
Sounds like it was the right move all around.