Chef Jaco Smith of Lechon in Portland, Oregon, Shares How His Time Working In Resorts Advanced His Culinary Career
Whether you’re just starting in the back-of-house or you’ve been in it for a while but keep getting looked over for those higher-paying roles—it can be frustrating.
How do you get experience if you are still waiting for someone to give you a chance?
While it might not be your ultimate goal—landing a job in a large hotel or resort can be an excellent way to take your culinary career to the next level.
Chef Jaco Smith, Executive Chef of Lechon in Portland, Oregon, got his start working in an apprenticeship program at the Greenbrier Hotel in West Virginia.
From there, he held a long career as Chef de Cuisine with the Ritz Carlton and finally became Executive Chef at The Joule in Dallas, Texas, before running his own space.
So naturally, we turned to Chef to learn how working in hotels and resorts helped develop his career. Here’s what he said.
Working in professional kitchens of various hotels offered Smith a unique hands-on culinary education you don’t get anywhere else.
“You work long hours, and it’s just very high volume. It’s busy in the summers, people are traveling, and you’re working in restaurants and banquets,” Chef Smith shared. “I think once you work with the amount of volume that you get used to, there really isn’t anything you can’t do.”
Being comfortable in a high-volume environment while working on a culinary brigade of 250 other chefs is a valuable skill many employers would be excited to see on a resume.
You learn how to work under pressure and maintain communication and leadership to execute service successfully night after night—it’s impressive. It could help you land higher-paying roles moving forward.
In addition to the sheer volume a resort will expose you to, Chef Smith said he was able to bounce around different roles as he was starting out to build up his resume.
“As you move around the property, you gain a lot of valuable knowledge from everybody around you and other Chefs,” Smith explained. “If you’re open to things, then you can move around the property. You can say, I worked here for six months, then you move on to a different kitchen area, then get that under your belt. Then you know, it’s growing at one place instead of just working at restaurants, and you don’t really get that opportunity.”
Many resorts have more than one restaurant offering different cuisines. You get more opportunities to learn new techniques and meet new people while staying with a single employer.
Chef Smith’s career trajectory shows that working in resorts can lead to more travel—which can be extremely rewarding and exciting if you’re into that kind of thing.
If you land a job at a large resort or hotel group, they likely have locations across the world, and while you might not start at the property you most desire, you could have a better chance to move around once you get started.
Additionally, there are a ton of resorts and lodges in remote areas looking for people to fly out and join their team. Occasionally, these places even offer discounted apartments or living quarters to help make the transition easier.
“We had seasonal contract employees on a visa program coming from Jamaica and Barbados to help us out,” Smith shared while speaking about working at the Ritz Carlton. “They had a motel in town, and everybody would stay there. It was a flat rate, and each person would pay XYZ, which would be taken out of their paycheck.”
More Opportunities on Poached
If you’re ready to advance your culinary career, I’m happy to share that you’ll see more opportunities like this on Poached! We just launched our National Posts, an excellent option for luxury hotels, resorts, lodges, and cruises looking to attract nationwide talent.
You’ll see these opportunities listed on Poached as “Destination Jobs.” You will find all the details, including location, pay, and anything else the employer wants you to know.
While some of these jobs require travel or even moving to another part of the world, you could gain some extremely valuable skills and truly take your culinary career to another level.
If you want to stay on top of these opportunities, sign up for our email list below, and we’ll notify you when new destination jobs are posted!
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