Chef/Owner, Franca; Corporate Chef, Backbase, Atlanta, GA
- Chef/Owner, Franca; Corporate Chef, Backbase, Atlanta, GA
Floyd E. Kellam High School, Virginia Beach Technical and Career Education Center Virginia Beach City Public Schools
- CTE studies: Culinary Arts I and II
- Additional studies: Bachelor’s in Culinary Management and Associate in Culinary Arts, The Culinary Institute of America;
Externship, The French Laundry
by Veronica Garabelli
Chef Justin White can trace his passion for cooking to his childhood.
However, he didn’t know he wanted to become a chef until he participated in the Virginia Beach Technical and Career Education Center’s culinary arts program. The teachers there fueled Justin’s love for gastronomy and introduced him to Alton Brown’s “Good Eat” shows, which explore the science and techniques behind cooking. The culinary arts program also provided him with hands-on experience in a commercial kitchen.
“That was my transition into working in actual restaurants,” Justin says. “Looking back, I realize the Tech Center’s kitchen is pretty close to a real restaurant.”
After high school, Justin headed to California and completed associate and bachelor’s degrees at the Culinary Institute of America. During that time, he began an externship at the critically acclaimed restaurant The French Laundry, owned by star chef Thomas Keller. He eventually worked his way up to chef de partie, or a station or line chef, at The French Laundry and later served as sous chef at Bouchon, another restaurant owned by Keller.
Today, Justin is a corporate chef for banking technology company Backbase, where he’s responsible for elevating the cuisine served at the company’s locations. During his off time, he runs Franca, a French- inspired, pop-up, or temporary, restaurant, which operates in different locations throughout the city. He enjoys the flexibility Backbase provides him (it’s a 9-to-5 job, and not as high-pressure as working at a high-end restaurant) and the improvised nature of Franca where he can cook whatever he wants.
“In the pop-up environment you get to see people happy or not happy immediately,” he says. “You get to see their reaction, which I enjoy.”
Manager, Events and Programs, Washington Wizards and Washington Mystics, Washington, D.C.
- Mount Vernon High School, Fairfax County Public Schools
- CTE studies: Sports, Entertainment, and Recreation Marketing
- Additional studies: Bachelor of Science in Sport Management, George Mason University
Making the mark
by Veronica Garabelli
Each year Nicole San-chez is responsible for coordinating up to 50 events for the Washington Wizards and Washington Mystics, professional basketball teams based in Washington, D.C.
Events are held for the teams’ owners and season ticket members. One of her favorite events is when major and minority owners and members with courtside seat accounts attend an opposing team’s game with all expenses paid. This past year the trip was to a Clippers game in Los Angeles.
“I coordinated that whole event,” Nicole says, including flights, hotels, and dinner reservations.
Nicole was drawn to her current line of work when she took a sports marketing class at Mount Vernon High School. Her decision to pursue sports marketing was further solidified when the class went on a field trip to a Washington Wizards game and met Steve Zarick, senior manager of group sales for the Washington Wizards.
The class, she says, helped lay the groundwork for what she would learn at George Mason University in Fair-fax, where she majored in sports management. At GMU, Nicole continued to gain experience in her field. During her sophomore year, she was the retail intern for the Washington Redskins and then interned with the Wizards and Mystics during her senior year. Before her internship ended, she was offered a full-time position.
She likes that her job changes daily, allows her to be creative, and provides her with growth opportunities.
“We also have one of the best work atmospheres out there,” she says. “We’re more like a family than coworkers and that makes the long, 12-hour game days so much better to deal with.”
Sales Manager, Hyatt Regency, Reston
- Langley High School/Marshall Academy, McLean/Falls Church, Fairfax County Public Schools
- CTE studies: Hotel Management at Marshall Academy
- Additional studies: Bachelor’s in Hotel Management, Johnson & Wales University, Charlotte, N.C.
Advancing through the hotel industry
by Veronica Garabelli
Ashley Pilarski was often in and out of hotels as a child, traveling with her father who was a human resources executive at Marriott.
“I think I threw around the idea of being a teacher a couple of times, but otherwise I was like, ‘I think I’m going to work in hotels,’” says Ashley.
Ashley first interned at a hotel her senior year of high school as part of Marshall Academy’s Hotel Management course. The academy allows students in Fairfax County Public Schools to take career and technical education courses.
“It gave you that kind of … real world experience,” Ashley says about the course. “You rotated through a couple of different departments at the hotel, and I think that gives you a better feel for the industry.”
When it was time to go to college, Ashley enrolled at Johnson & Wales University in Charlotte, N.C., majoring in Hotel Management with a concentration in sales. During the program she got more hands-on experience in the hotel industry, completing an externship at The Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge, a 214-room hotel in the area. After graduating, Ashley worked as a front desk agent at Buffalo Marriott Niagara in New York for about six months until landing a sales coordinator job at Hotel Sierra, a small boutique hotel in Sterling. When Hotel Sierra was bought out by Hyatt, she transferred to Hyatt Regency Reston, where she was a meeting connections manager until she was promoted to her current sales manager position.
As a sales manager, Ashley sells hotel rooms with or without meeting space to corporate and government clients. Her favorite part about her job? Closing a sale. “It’s really rewarding for a client to request a contract and to actually… book it,” she says. Ashley’s ultimate career goal is to become a director of sales, “with a stop in national sales along the way,” she says. The hotel industry provides a lot of room for growth and opportunities to transfer to different departments; aspects she noted when asked what advice she would give to high school students eager to enter the field.
“There’s always something, so just jump in and…take a job in a hotel, even if it’s not exactly what you have your heart set on,” Ashley says. “Work hard, push yourself, and show everybody what you want to be, and you know it’ll pay off.”
The Career Clusters logo and its extensions are the property of the National Career Technical Foundation, as managed by NASDCTEc. Some content on this page is from the publication, R U College & Career Ready? - 2017 Edition; and is used here with permission from the Virginia Business Publications LLC and Trailblazers in the Demographics and Workforce Section of the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service at the University of Virginia.