Name: Dupree B.
Position: Executive Chef
Hotel: Marriott Bethesda Downtown at Marriott HQ
Dream destination: I have a few and they are either centered around food or sand and water. One is New Orleans (Food), Seattle (Food), Napa Valley (Food), Paris (Food), Spain (Food), Italy (Food), Virgin Islands (Sand & water) Aruba (Sand & water), Hawaii (Food and Sand and Water), Maldives (Water).
Drink or treat of choice: My drink of choice is a Dr. Pepper and for those that know me well, which would be all my past hotel coworkers, I LOVE Reese’s.
When you work at the Marriott Downtown Bethesda right across the street from Marriot’s Headquarters, it is very likely you’ll run into executives and other company VIPs — or, if you’re Executive Chef Dupree, you might even end up grilling burgers with Marriott’s Chairman of the Board.
Before he was teaching David Marriott his best tips to make a Mighty Mo Burger, the Washington, DC chef got his start in hospitality as a culinary intern and later as a manager after finishing culinary school.
“I have been fortunate to spend all of my 18 years with Marriott in the Washington D.C metropolitan area, which is where I grew up,” he says. “I am now working at my 10th hotel.” Before joining the HQ-adjacent hotel, he worked as Executive Chef at the Washington Marriott Georgetown and BWI Marriott, and before that he was an assistant sous chef at Crystal Gateway Marriott in Arlington, Virginia.
When it came to deciding between the traditional restaurant route vs. the hospitality lane, it wasn’t a hard choice for this chef.
“My mom and dad have worked for Marriott for over 30 years each, and every time they brought my brother and me to work with them, it always felt like everyone there was an extension of my family,” he says. “A lot of the people I have worked with over the years have known me since I was five years old.”
Today, as an executive chef at the Marriott Downtown Bethesda, which opened its doors just last year in February 2022, he decides the culinary direction for the hotel, working in tandem with the director of food and beverage and a team of culinary leaders to create seasonal menus for the hotel restaurants and all their food offerings.
“When we opened the Marriott Downtown Bethesda at Headquarters, 99% of us had never opened a hotel before and most of us had never worked together before. Most of my culinarians were hired from outside the company with no hotel experience and some of my staff were fresh out of high school and this was their first or second job ever,” recalls Dupree. “For our team to come together, learn together, build [what we’ve built] together in that short amount of time is amazing, and I could not be prouder of our team!”
Learn more about how Dupree got to lead “the number one food and beverage operation in the region,” in his own words below.
What does a good day at work look like for you?
When all the restaurants in the hotel are busy plus banquet operations [banquet refers to the food and beverages prepared for catering, pre-ordered, and special events] and there are no mistakes, everyone is working hard and if you stand back and watch the operation, it looks chaotic but it’s smooth.
What have been some of your team’s biggest accomplishments?
By the end of our first year of opening, we had the number 1 food and beverage operation in the region and were the number one in restaurant food quality in the region, number 10 food and beverage operation in US and Canada, number 14 restaurant food quality in US and Canada. Currently we are still number one in the region in both food and beverage and restaurant food quality, we now are ranked number two in the US and Canada for our food and beverage operation. To do all of this in this short amount of time is amazing.
What is your favorite part of the job?
Mentoring others and watching them grow. I love to watch people achieve their goals and see them work hard to get there as I try to mimic what my mentors have done for me. I also enjoy the creative process when the time comes to change our seasonal menus. I love having a blank canvas, going through the research and learning process to try to create something out of nothing that is relevant and speaks to the concept and identity of who we are as a team and where I believe we can go.
How has Marriott supported you as a chef and an artisan?
I have been blessed to meet some talented chefs throughout my career and still keep in touch with them. Some of them are even my mentors today. They are all successful in their chosen paths, and I am trying to catch up with them. I have also had the opportunity to work with amazing leaders that gave me creative freedom to create, mess up, and try again, which is important as a chef, and as a manager.
Which of Marriott’s core values resonate with you the most?
With my mom working in HR and my dad in the kitchen, I was able to see them live and breathe the culture of taking care of your employees and they will take care of you. It became second nature in our household.
When have you felt like part of a community at Marriott?
When I was much younger, we used to go to all of the company picnics and holiday parties with my parents and there would be food and gifts everywhere to the point where I thought that was what work looked like for them daily, so I wanted to partake in that too as I got older — LOL!
What has surprised you most about working for Marriott?
How “small” the company feels. We know that Marriott is the largest hotel lodging company in the world, but you don’t feel it. Everyone is connected somehow and people that you don’t know in this company know someone you worked with which helps build your connection to them.