Kyler Chavez ’11
Hometown: Wilton, CT
Current Location: Maui, HI
Why did you choose SHA?
After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America I knew I wanted to continue my education at a full-fledged university. The three schools I considered seriously were DU, BU, and Cornell. Each school offers impressive programs across the board, not just in hospitality. At the end of the day I chose SHA because of the immediate access to real-world experience. The selection of hotels and restaurants at which I could potentially work was massive. As it happened the ‘summer job’ that I got at the Hyatt Regency Cambridge, just across the bridge from the college, turned in to a career after graduation.
What are some of your favorite BU memories?
My favorite memories are of being a Teaching Assistant for the culinary program at SHA. I was in the unique position of being able to share my knowledge and passion about food and cooking with my peers – and get paid for it as well! It was wonderful being able to see students on day one that barely knew how to hold a knife properly turn in to pretty decent cooks by the end of the semester. Some of the students I had the opportunity to teach have continued on to pursue extremely successful culinary careers.
What was your first full-time job? How did you end up in your current position?
My first job out of school was with the Hyatt CMT program at the Hyatt Regency Denver Tech Center. I have continued on with Hyatt and I am now on the opening crew at the Andaz Maui at Wailea.
Please describe your current role. How did your SHA education impact your career?
Assistant Food & Beverage Manager at the Andaz Maui at Wailea. For opening I will be concentrating on beverage, but we plan on having all F&B managers cover all aspects of the operation once things settle a bit. This will be my first new-build opening, but I just finished opening Root25 Taphouse & Kitchen at the Hyatt Regency Denver Tech Center before I moved to Maui. My focus there was to develop and execute the all-Colorado craft beer concept – which was just downright fun. The Andaz Maui will have a more cocktail-centric beverage concept, but I will be relying heavily on the skills and experience I gained through the Denver opening.
My biggest connection to my SHA education is the concept of servant leadership. At Hyatt we talk a lot about the concept of treating your internal guests (employees) with the same degree of hospitality and care as you would your external guests (paying customers). In my limited experience, this is absolutely the best way to breed a staff that will go above and beyond to exceed guest expectations without having to offer compensatory incentives. I learned about servant leadership from Dean Muller. Since then I have come to realize the benefits of that concept in the context of hospitality management.
Another invaluable learning experience at SHA that has helped my career was all the group projects. I’ll admit, they we frustrating to coordinate at the time, but learning how to work around multiple schedules and collaborate with a diverse range of personalities and skill sets is exactly what you’ll be doing once you graduate. You will need to coordinate up and down the chain of command, communicate with and motivate colleagues who may or may not be engaged in the task at hand, and accept accountability for the results of your team’s work. Most of my educational experiences focused on individual work and individual results. The group projects at SHA allowed me to work in a team and had the added benefit of allowing me to get to know my classmates far better that I otherwise would have.
Any advice for current and prospective students?
SHA has the best access to real-life experience of any hotel school, hands down. Get a job while you go to school, get diverse experiences in different aspects of the industry – especially in departments and job functions with which you are not already familiar. For example, I’m an F&B guy through and through, but my experiences in Engineering during my CMT program gave me valuable insight when we started renovating because I had an understanding of the project from all perspectives – not just that of service, menu, and staffing.
Having an active social life at college is fun and important – it is there that you start building a diverse network of contacts that you can leverage and use as support throughout the rest of your life and career. That being said, remember that you are there to learn relevant skills that you can monetize after graduation. You’re not paying $50k a year to be part of a drinking club, you’re there to learn and work. But, don’t forget to have fun!