Cynthia Billeaud

Cynthia Billeaud

Cynthia Billeaud, VP of Operations & Human Resources for Mina Group, shares her career timeline and words of advice for up-and-coming professionals.

I am true believer in creating someone’s destiny. “If an opportunity does not knock, build a door!” From the time when I first landed in New York, to all the talents and amazing Chefs I had the privilege to learn from, I realized that pugnacity and passion were my keys to success in hospitality.

My experience in the hospitality industry, especially working along the most accomplished Chefs has taught me to always separate myself as a person from the role I worked very hard to build over the years. Criticism is a necessary means in our industry to the quest of excellence, do not take it for yourself but use it as guidance for the position you chose and molded. Learning how to manage your emotions at work especially in the restaurant industry is key. Working on controlling my feelings has helped me to assess myself and overcome challenging situations.

Keeping my team inspired & motivated is an ongoing process. In today’s work environment, there is not a single recipe to encourage your team to perform better. Rather, it’s about how to maximize the ingredients in order to create hundreds of recipes that are authentic and customized; which will provide long-term continuity and impact. Know your talents from their strengths to their challenges, be an active listener. When you spend time with your employees, make it matter!

Chef Alain Ducasse opened my eyes to a world that became my second skin; working along his expertise I learned to always defeat my own limit and move forward. Chef Daniel Boulud is a part of who I became, the trust we built over the years taught me to never ever take anything for granted. Always question yourself and remember where you are coming from.

Chef Gavin Kaysen, our partnership at Café Boulud was enlightening and expanded my vision of HR in hospitality. I retained from him best practices of empowering our talents, engaging creativity, sharing knowledge, passion and diversity.

Working along Chef Alain Ducasse was a lifetime experience. I realized the true meaning of excellence. I remember to this day, our first interview while within a few minutes he had put me at ease and with a smile opened the door to a world I had never imagined.

The one thing I would not be able to live without in my job is the talents of our industry. Recruiting is an essential function of my vision of Human Resources. Always stay close and actively involved in the selection process. I come from a school where Food comes first but in my heart Employees come first. There is nothing more rewarding than selecting a candidate and nurturing him/her to become one day one of the best assets. I feel extremely committed to their success and always try to communicate and develop any tools to make our talents grow and retain them longer.

Knowledge is power as my dear colleague Michael Lawrence would say. Knowledge gives you consistency and allows you to assess yourself in any situation. Therefore I try to stay abreast of all trends, talents, techniques, regulations, openings, ingredients … that fill our world. One of my favorite things to do is sneak into our kitchens to observe chefs creating magic. It is fascinating to see products from scratch evolving into a complex combination of tastes, colors and textures. I am also a heavy consumer of culinary publications, to biographies of Chefs or business models. It triggers my brain and I have become addicted to this daily stimulation.

I candidly walked into the Essex House and discovered what the restaurant industry really meant. Human Resources back then was just an administrative role but with time and hard work, I made it a relevant part of the group and convinced my colleagues and Chefs that together we would build better team and achieve long term results. Among many guidelines and advices I received from Chef Ducasse, the one I cherish the most is the relentless pursuit of perfection. Since then, I have been able to speak the same language and applied his philosophy about savoir-faire, faire-savoir and savoir-être.

My first mentor was not from the hospitality industry; her name is Isabelle Kucharsky - SHRD for CWT France. Her genuine approach of Human Resources was fascinating and confirmed the path I should take for myself and my career.

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