Be Our Guest

It’s hard to believe it was already a week ago that I was checking into The Hotel at Kirkwood Center in preparation to attend the Beyond Rubies conference.

While it’s not standard practice to praise the competition, I have to give credit where credit is due. And this community college has definitely got it going on in the hospitality/culinary arts arena.

I can say this because I grew up in the hospitality business.  My first couple of jobs out of college were at The Worthington Hotel in downtown Ft. Worth and DFW Hilton Lakes Executive Conference Center in Grapevine, Texas.

I had arguably the best job at these facilities.  I supervised or managed the health clubs, taught fitness classes, and was the buyer for the Pro Shop.  This meant I got to shop a lot and purchase anything from ties to tights to t-shirts and sportswear.  Consequently my uniform was an assortment of shorts, polo shirts, socks, and shoes in every color.

Like Julie on The Love Boat, if there was fun to be had, it was my job was to make sure people had it.

Thanks to my employee discount, I also got to stay in fabulous hotels whenever I traveled.  I learned to spot an exceptional facility and pick up on the code of conduct or mission statement that guides the actions of the employees from the maids to the maître d’. 

The Hotel at Kirkwood is a teaching facility.  A four diamond teaching facility, I might add.  What better way for students to learn about the hospitality business than to work in it and learn firsthand what it’s all about?

Believe me, after my share of manager on duty weekends, there’s more to running a hotel than most guests ever want to know.  The notion of gracious hospitality was so ingrained in me that I still can’t step foot in a public restroom and not feel obligated to pick up after people.

Needless to say I was impressed with everything about the experience. From the facilities to the event to the attendees, it was well worth the price of admission and the effort required to catapult myself out of my comfort zone.

While my overt mission was to bring back ideas on how we might host a similar event at our college, my covert mission was to learn something new about myself.  What do I know now that I didn’t know a week ago other than I don’t know my way around Cedar Rapids and attempting to figure it out at night in the middle of a rainstorm is not advisable?

I know I’m incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to do what I do at work and at home.  I’m lucky to have adventures but even luckier to share them with you… although I’m still trying to figure out how you might sample the superior salad I had with chocolate shavings sprinkled on top.

We’ll attempt to savor that some other day when a sensory delight is called for.  Right now some shut eye is what we need.

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