How did your career start in the beginning?
Ron started his career in high school as a dishwasher at a local hotel. He would work after school and on the weekends. From working at the local hotel, he was then hired at a country club where he trained as cook. Two days before he turned 18, Ron enlisted to join the Navy where he hoped he would become a cook. Instead he found himself working as a mechanic on jets. This proved to be a useful skill later in his career when things needed to be fixed in the kitchen at his restaurants; he was able to do the repairs himself without having to hire someone to do it for a fee.
How did you transition from the Navy to the hospitality Industry?
For three years Ron was based out of the Lemoore Naval station in California. He had planned on reenlisting with the Navy because Viet Nam they needed smore airmen. When Ron went to inform his parents of his plans, his mom refused the idea and told him he was going to go to chef school. His parents drove from Pennsylvania to California to bring him back home where he worked a brief stint with the country club again before studying at the Culinary Institute of America in New Haven, CT for two years.
While enrolled at the culinary institute Ron worked several jobs in the restaurant industry. He started out cooking breakfast at a Holiday Inn in New Haven. From the Holiday Inn he went to work for an Italian restaurant until the business was shut down. He then found himself at the French restaurant which proved to be critical experience for his career. During the summer between his first and second year at the culinary institute he went to work with one of his instructors for a country club in Cape Cod, MA. Ron describes the experience as, “absolutely brutal.” The ten weeks he worked as a sous chef for the country club proved to be a very challenging time. There was very little time off as there were only 3 of us and the chef.
What did you do after you graduated from the culinary institute?
Once he graduated from culinary school, Ron went to work for the Elbert Pick Corporation. His first assignment was in Harrisburg, PA at one of their hotels. During his time with Pick hotels he was invited to move around to many of their locations to help with operations. He lived in Atlanta, Houston, Columbus, and South Bend during two years. Ron’s German boss was hired to open up a hotel in Switzerland and was invited to join him but was unable to do so because the hotel ran out of work permits. Shortly thereafter, Ron resigned but was approached by a friend who needed help opening a resort hotel in Minnesota.
After two months at the resort hotel in Minnesota, the then food and beverage manager was fired and Ron was offered the job. The hotel still exists today and is owned by Radisson. During his time at the hotel in Minnesota he worked several positions, including chef and general manager. The long hours eventually wore him down. At the time Ron was on the Board of Directors for the Southwest State University’s HRI (Hotel, Restaurant, and Institutional Management) program. The university had lost one of their HRI instructors; as a result Ron was invited to fill the role. He says “it was a tough transition going from working 60-70 hours a week to only working 24 hours.” He taught at the university for two years. One of the Board members who held a management position for the Ramada Inn invited Ron, after his teaching role was completed, to go work for them in Phoenix.
Ron worked at the Ramada Inn for 15 years during which time he filled many different roles, from teaching to being the food and beverage director, hotel manager, regional food and beverage manager, and finally VP of Operations where he oversaw 16 different hotels. Eventually Ron found himself missing the restaurant business and moved back to Minnesota. In Minnesota he worked for a restaurant conglomerate that purchased the franchise rights for Fuddruckers. Over the next 2 years Ron helped to open 6 Fuddruckers locations in multiple states. An opportunity arrived in Colorado with Breckenridge Brewery as the director of Breckenridge Brew Pubs restaurants until he retired.
What is your biggest success and biggest failure?
The biggest success for Ron was establishing the Ale House of Amato’s, owned by Breckenridge Brewery. The first year they exceeded all their projections. “To this day I have no idea how we survived, we weren’t prepared for that kind of success,” states Ron. His biggest failure, as he jokes “is getting into the restaurant business in the first place,” due to the long hours and grueling work days.
He admits to having a typical chef’s disposition in the kitchen at times but because he loved to teach and develop his employees, they would put up with him. One of his employees, Mark “Sparky” Eriksen is a Certified Master Chef that he is the most proud to have worked with him. Currently he is the Provost at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY He has had many failures but says “the worst failure is when you don’t learn anything from your failures.” Out of every failure he was able to turn it around into a success, either personally or professionally. As someone who truly loves people, Ron has always had a difficult time having to fire someone, which he took very personally since he was not able to help them reach their full potential.
Facts About Ron
- Where are you from? Lewis Run, PA
- What do you consider to be your first career break? Pick Hotels
- What are the top 3 skills you needed to be successful? People skills, hard work, and open to learning
- Who had the largest influence on your career? Lou Weckstein with Ramada Inn
- What is your proudest career achievement? Ale House of Amato’s
- What’s the best advice you have ever received? Always remember the people that you work with and work for are critical to your career. Advice from his father.
- What is your biggest regret? Not being a better student in school.
- What is your favorite hobby? Cooking