I stood by the door of my now empty flat and took a deep breath. I was getting used to it, packing my whole life and leaving on short notice. If you had told me 7 years ago when I graduated from New Orleans Culinary and Hospitality School that I would travel around the world, working for one of the most well-known company in the hospitality business, I would have told you that there was no way this small town girl would leave her family behind.
But I did. Right after graduating I had worked as a front desk agent for a small family owned hotel on the outskirt of Bossier City. It had been great, but I knew I wanted more. An email from one of my former teacher was all it took. He had heard about an opportunity, in a resort hotel located in the Rockies. The Canadian Rockies. Nearly 1900 miles away from my hometown of Bon Temps, Northern Louisiana.
I knew my family would support me, but I also knew that my over protective father – newly elected Sheriff of our hometown – would be weary to see his baby girl move so far away. The only reason he allowed me to go to New Orleans for my schooling had been the fact that one of my brother’s best friend Lafayette was already at NOCHS, a sophomore in the culinary department. And so during my time at NOCHS Lala became my roommate and my own best friend. But Lala had been in Paris at the time, expending his cooking knowledge in a 3 stars Michelin restaurant. Daddy reluctantly agreed to let me go, but I had to call home at least 3 times a week.
And so at 22, I left Bon Temps for Jasper, Alberta. The resort was quite remote, located in a national park about an hour from the nearest Wal-Mart or, as some of my colleagues said, from civilization. I ended up working there for 2 years, slowly making my way up the ladder until I was offered a transfer to a newly acquired hotel in New York City. Being an American citizen and being multilingual thanks to my two roommates who were Spanish and French Canadian, I was the perfect candidate.
At 24 I was Front Desk Supervisor at The Plaza. It was my dreams come true. Then 2 years later I was transferred to London at the Savoy. But the novelty of it quickly disappeared. I was missing my family and my friends. Oh, I had amazing colleagues and the job paid really well, but I missed my little corner of Louisiana.
In a way, my father and best friend conspired behind my back. Lafayette who, after backpacking throughout Europe, had won second place at The Next Great American Chef and had opened his own restaurant in a Shreveport hotel gave my résumé to said hotel General Manager. Imagine my surprise to receive a call from Niall Brigant offering me a job at Valhalla Shreveport as Front Desk Manager!
The job title wasn’t what blew me away, although being Manager at such a young age would be quite impressive. No, what blew me away was the company. The Valhalla Hotels were known around the globe as being the top of the top, la crème de la crème in the hospitality industry. Working for them and especially working for them so close to home was Christmas and my birthday all rolled up together.
I had learned about the company background during one of my Hospitality Industry History classes back at NOCHS. The Valhalla Hotels had been founded by a Swedish emigrant back in the 19th Century. What had started as a humble inn in New Orleans’ French Quarter turned into a billion dollars empire. To this day, it was still owned by the descendants of their founder, although they had changed their last name to a more American one at the beginning of the 20th Century. The Northmans were well known in Louisiana. I had the privilege of attending a conference giving by Godric Northman, current CEO of Valhalla Hotels, back when I was a student.
It didn’t take me long to make my decision. As soon as I got off the phone with Mr. Brigant, I called home. Luckily my mom was back from school – she’s the local high school principal, and daddy was on his day off. The first thing mom said was to make a pro and con list. Daddy… well daddy offered to come and help me pack straight away. But even before calling them, I had my answer. I had asked Mr. Brigant for a week to think about his proposition, but I called him the next day asking him when he would need me to start.
And so, here I am. Closing a chapter of my life and ready for the next one.