Holston House Nashville dining

Hospitality Careers Offer Suite Perks

ICE alumni working in three facets of the hospitality industry share the benefits of balance, travel and diverse opportunities.

Holston House Nashville's signature restaurant, TENN

In the culinary world, hotel restaurants and food operations get a bad rap. Such places are perceived as lacking creativity and limiting environments for chefs and dining providers. But nothing could be further from the truth.

Several ICE alumni have found careers in hotels — some as chefs and others in hotel dining management and concierge services — that offer rich rewards. For starters, hotel careers reportedly offer more flexible schedules than standalone restaurants.

Chef Andrew Rodriguez
Chef Andrew Rodriguez

“The older you get, the more you realize the importance of work-life balance, and hotels give you that,” says Chef Andrew Rodriguez (Culinary, ’09), who worked at A Voce in New York and Adele’s, Pinewood Social and Little Octopus in Nashville before becoming the executive chef at Holston House, a Hyatt hotel in downtown Nashville in March.

“It’s still a nine to 10-hour day, and it starts earlier — I come in at 5 a.m. on Sundays — but I’m generally out by 4 p.m., so I’m able to spend evenings with my family, which is nothing short of wonderful,” he says.

Another selling point of the hotel side of the business, says Chef Andrew, is the focus on seasonal menus based on local products to manage ingredients in accordance with occupancy. He uses the “tremendous amount of stone fruit” available locally to make peach ice cream, as well as a peach crostada. Local beef and coffee brewed exclusively for the hotel also are used.

Serving at the helm of a hotel dining operation does involve more meetings and a greater focus on financial results than working for a fine-dining restaurant, Chef Andrew admits. “I don’t think its a negative; it’s making me a more well-rounded chef,” he says.

Jeanie Voltsinis (Management, ’05) served as a concierge at many top New York City hotels and is now head of dining at Four Hundred, a luxury dining and travel provider, where she has her preferred schedule as well.

"When I was a restaurant manager, I didn’t have a life. Even when I was off duty, I’d get calls in the middle of the night,” Jeanie says. “But as a concierge, you work your hours and that’s it. I can work remotely anywhere now.”

Studying Restaurant & Culinary Management at ICE prepared Voltsinis for her current role, where she relies on her connections at restaurants around town. “The networking was great and as an alumna, there are constantly events where you can meet the right people.”

Chef Jennifer Etzkin O'Brien
Chef Jennifer Etzkin O'Brien

Jennifer Etzkin O’Brien (Culinary, ‘09), senior manager of culinary development for luxury properties at Marriott International, finds that hotel kitchens expose chefs to more types of dining and experiences, while careers in hospitality generally offer more types of opportunities.

“We work across different tiers, such as select service and premium brands, and we help chefs with menu or program development,” Jennifer says. “We also have the opportunity to work with other disciplines, such as the National Restaurant Association’s ProStart program, a youth engagement initiative,” and she is “leading the charge” on Women of F&B, a Marriott program highlighting and elevating women in the industry.

Jennifer also travels in her position. She is helping to develop the second annual Venice Food & Wine Festival, hosted by JW Marriott, has attended industry trade shows and worked with PepsiCo’s test kitchen.

“The scope of what you can do and where you can go is exponentially greater in hotels than in restaurants,” Jennifer says. “You really have the resources to grow and be creative, with opportunities in banquets, as food and beverage directors and even general managers.”

ICE’s location and externship program helped Etzkin’s career, she says. “ICE definitely opened the door. Being in Manhattan is a huge plus, and [the school] helps you get the right names on your resume and the right people to support you, which was key.”

Jennifer also subscribes to the better work-life balance view of hotels. “The culture for chefs can be toxic, and in the end, it’s not about the accolades, it’s about your life.”

Explore the perks of a hospitality career with a diploma from ICE.

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