Leaders are where they are now because they've put in the work and had a lot of different experiences along their paths. We asked hospitality leaders to reflect on the early days of their careers.


"Early in my career, I made a deliberate effort to explore various opportunities, immersing myself fully in my passion. Post-college, I actively sought diverse experiences across different companies, roles, and locations. It was crucial for me to dedicate myself entirely to a job I loved. This dynamic journey has allowed me to recognize my strengths as both an employee and a leader. Each day, my diverse background equips me to tackle a myriad of challenges and opportunities with confidence."

Ahris Kim, Director of Operations at NA:EUN Hospitality

"When I was early on in my career working at an advertising agency, I committed to myself that I would get a job in or around the restaurant industry. I networked, cold called, talked to restaurant owners I met while dining at their spots, attended any event I could, and after dozens of meetings and calls, I found a job in restaurant PR and marketing. I learned from that process that if you have the right type of passion and commitment, you can achieve what you want, but you need to work to create a network that also supports you and sees your potential."

Aaron Ginsberg, VP of Restaurant Partnerships at Resy/American Express Global Dining

From the first day I walked into the kitchen at Stars, Chef Jeremiah Tower allowed me to have creative freedom on the line and I was in love with the kitchen."

Dominique Crenn, Chef / Owner of Crenn Dining Group

"I will be forever grateful for the two jobs I had early in my career at Sons & Daughters and Frasca Food & Wine. Sons & Daughters was the opportunity of a lifetime and put me in the situation to sink or swim, which taught me so many valuable lessons. Moving to Boulder, Colorado, to work at Frasca Food and Wine was the most significant decision of my life and has allowed me to learn from incredible mentors every day and thrive in a growing company."

Carlin Karr, Wine and Beverage Director of Frasca Hospitality Group

"I spent a lot of my early career looking at finished dishes and trying to break them down to the techniques that built them. I don't necessarily look at what things are as a whole, but rather how they are put together. Once I have broken a dish down to its elements, it helps me rebuild it into something new that is mine."

Tavel Bristol-Joseph, Director of Hospitality, Pastry Chef & Partner at Emmer & Rye Hospitality Group

"I knew from the moment I started my career in advertising that I should not be doing that. I knew I needed to be in hospitality. But it wasn't until 7 years later that I really began playing with the idea of making that happen. From the moment I got my feet wet there was no looking back. I loved and still love every second of it – even the ones we hate (i.e., working the line for brunch, cleaning a backed-up grease trap, putting out fires...). "

Felipe Donnelly, Culinary Director & Managing Partner at Co. Hospitality (Colonia Verde, Comodo & Comparti)

"While attending Clearview High School, I worked delivering pizzas and even at McDonald’s in Santa Monica where I held a record for the most burgers cooked in a day (which stood for years!). When I went to college, a professor pulled me aside and told me not to waste my time and think about what I really wanted my life to be. After that, I decided I was going to dedicate my life to cooking and shifted to working full-time at Straton's, a burger joint in Westwood. I went on to working ALL the time, bouncing around to work day shifts at one place, somewhere else for dinner shifts and then work a door or bar at a nightclub — six or seven nights a week."

Russell Jackson, Chef / Owner of Reverence