food and beverage director marriott career story
Courtesy of Will S.

Name: Will S.
Position: Food & Beverage Director
Hotel: Marriott Bethesda Downtown at Marriott HQ
Dream destination: I would love to spend an exorbitant amount of time and money in Japan.
Drink or treat of choice: Cold black coffee

Will fell in love with the kitchen by watching his mother experiment with different cuisines and techniques when he was growing up. “Learning with her and expanding our appreciation for different cultures was invaluable to my passion for food and beverage,” he recalls.

Will got his professional start at 14, when he was hired to wash dishes at a little family-owned restaurant in his town. “The camaraderie was enticing but it was the flames in the air, the smells and sounds of crackling meat that enthralled me. To see these larger-than-life chefs tossing ingredients in a pan, knowing when to flip steaks and sending dishes out at an incredible pace was mesmerizing to me and I knew that was what I wanted in life.”

Fast forward to today, Will is working as a Food & Beverage Director at the Marriott Bethesda Downtown at Marriott HQ, located literal steps away from the company’s corporate headquarters just outside of Washington, DC. In that esteemed position, Will gets to shake hands and serve Marriott’s top leaders — and even make mocktails with David Marriott [and there’s a video to prove it].

Before getting his start at Marriott, Will worked in kitchens and restaurants all over the US, from Portland to Savannah and Las Vegas. He even opened his own restaurant, Bluegrass Tavern, in Baltimore. So, what made this chef pursue a career in hotels?

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“Growth opportunities within Marriott were a major bullet point for me as I had worked my way through pretty much every position within a traditional restaurant,” he says.

Fortunately, once he joined the company, he was surprised with the creative possibilities that opened for him. too.

“Having come from a background of independent restaurants, a major concern of mine was that I would lose a lot of creative freedom joining such a large company like Marriott, but it’s been the complete opposite,” he says. “Marriott challenges you to think outside of the box and create unique experiences for each guest.”

Dive into Will’s journey to becoming Food & Beverage Director in his own words below.

What is your favorite part of working at Marriott?

I am given a lot of freedom to create in my position, which is very important to me. I can try things and learn from my failures, which is integral to growth. Working at a traditional restaurant you are confined to a specific idea, but with Marriott there are so many different avenues to discover. Banquets and events were a world I wasn’t very familiar with prior to joining Marriott and I knew that if I wanted to gain more knowledge and become a more well-rounded hospitality expert then I would need to dive into the unknown. Having the ability to learn new skills while honing those you already have is special.

food and beverage director marriott career story

Courtesy of Will S.

When are you able to explore this creative freedom the most?

Menu creation has always been a passion for me. Doing the research, developing and working on the recipes and seeing the finished product is so rewarding.

What is your favorite part of the job?

Menu creation for sure. I love the entire process from pulling sales results and seeing what the hot items were, to planning out the execution of each dish and drink. Meticulous trial and error of cocktails and dishes to create new records. And when it’s all done you get to see the faces of the guests enjoying what you worked so hard to create for them. It is intensely gratifying.

What does a good day at work look like for you?

Very busy. I love seeing our restaurants and bars packed with guests. From breakfast, lunch and dinner to our rooftop bar full on a beautiful spring day. If I can step behind the bar and assist our bar team or help run food for our servers then I know we are rocking, and I couldn’t be happier.

food and beverage director marriott career story

Courtesy of Will S.

How would you describe your experience as a Marriott associate?

Incredibly fascinating. Truly, working in hotels is such a unique and interesting experience. It’s not an understatement to say every day will be different and there will be new challenges you haven’t faced before. The people you meet will broaden your perspectives on so much, you will be an entirely different and well-rounded person after spending time with fellow associates from completely different backgrounds and cultures. Everyone becomes family and learns so much from each other. It’s an incredibly rewarding experience.

What was your Marriott interview process like, and any tips for candidates who want a role like yours?

I enjoyed my Marriott interview process very much; it was extremely organic. Instead of a tight and rigid traditional interview process, I was able to really sit down and speak to how my skills would translate into growth for the property, myself and the team around me. Marriott does a great job of ensuring that both parties are a match for each other by being transparent and open about what the position entails and what is expected, which is not easy considering every day is different in the world of hotels. My advice for anyone looking to pursue a career in hospitality and the Food and Beverage field is to be open-minded, have a positive attitude, be willing to learn and ask questions. Do your research and be ready to show passion for the industry. Also, make sure to show that you are a team player and willing to work collaboratively with different departments.

food and beverage director marriott career story

Kelly Loss Photography

How would you describe Marriott’s culture?

Diverse. It’s amazing how there are so many people from different backgrounds and cultures able to come together and work so hard to create something special. Each Marriott property has its own style, character and personality yet you will always find the same values within them, that allows you to feel like you are still a part of it all.

Describe a moment you felt like a part of a community at Marriott.

Being part of the opening team for Marriott Bethesda Downtown allowed me to work closely with the HQ beverage team. When they brought me to the HQ Bar Studio to assist in the beverage concept ideation session, I was pretty intimidated at first. I was making cocktails next to the industry leaders in Food and Beverage, but instantly I was greeted with a warm welcome and a sense of excitement that simultaneously relaxed and invigorated me. They displayed a sense of support for my ideas and our collaboration was so successful. I didn’t realize I would be working alongside people that I would forever be able to reach out to for guidance and a helping hand.

And what was a moment when you felt supported at Marriott?

Opening this hotel meant there were plenty of blank canvases for us to put our names on. From menu creation for our two restaurants to how our banquet buffets and receptions would be set up to optimize aesthetics and functionality. Also, in every collaboration session I had with our executive chef, director of operations and/or General Manager, I would always come out excited and energized. Even when there was push back from some of my ideas I understood why, and everyone was so open and honest. We all just wanted what we thought was best for the hotel at the time and everyone was always on the same page because we had that focus and goal. I felt supported during those moments because I was heard. Everyone was working so hard for the shared goal and we all really had each other’s backs.

Proudest moment of your career so far?

Seeing my team grow. Being a leader can be challenging and not always spelled out for you. I know I am on the right path as I watch my managers step into their own and find their own voices. This job is not all about singular growth and your associates will speak volumes of your skills. To see my team from where they started to where they are now, I could not be prouder of everyone and all their dedication.

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