In this new Interview Series, titled One on One, Mogogo met and conversed with Director of Banquets Brandon Foster from The Hilton Baltimore. From childhood memories to his personal ambitions, and his unique approach to excellence in service and quality, we were fascinated to discover all that goes on behind the scenes!
Have you always had a passion for the hospitality industry? What sparked it?
Hospitality has been a huge influence and part of my life since I was old enough to be in the kitchen. When I was very young I would watch my grandmother and mother cook and always wanted to learn more. When I turned 16, I got a job working for a catering company as a prep cook and waiter. This began to give me the fundamentals of what the industry was and the hunger for more. I studied Baking and Pastry Arts at Johnson and Wales in Charleston SC- associates degree. I received my Bachelors in Food Service Management. Cooking was my passion for the better part of my early 20’s and then my direction began to change.
Did it inspire you to strive for the position you currently have?
My early years in hospitality were all about cooking and being in a kitchen. It wasn’t until the fall of 2006, that this all changed. I was given the opportunity to work for the hotel group Hyatt. I left the kitchen and moved into a management role. I never would have thought at the time, that I would never set foot in a kitchen as a cook again. I found my direction opened new doors and enlightened me to a different perspective in the view of hospitality. My 11 years I spent with Hyatt in various management roles helped build the foundation and skills for where I am today.
How important it is for the Director of Banquets to be involved in design beyond the plate?
The culinary team does a great job planning, tasting and creating amazing food. It is the job of the banquet department to take the Chef’s masterpiece and deliver it to the guest with the same level of intensity as the Chef had when he created it. Having a second pair of eyes to observe all food before it reaches the guest is crucial in the overall success of each event.
What have been your biggest challenges, and how does Mogogo help you solve them?
My greatest challenge in banquets is pushing the envelope and giving our guest a new experience with each event. Mogogo tables have been a gift for the food and beverage industry. The possibilities for buffet tables are fueled by the imagination & creativity of individual designs. When you have events that last multiple days sometimes it’s hard finding ways to give the guest a new look for each meal period. My team and I are always contemplating ways to make things better and bigger. We treat Mogogo F&B banquet stations as if they were Lego blocks building and stretching them to fit the needs of the event we are working on. Seeing my team come up with new ideas and strive to make the guest experience better every day makes all the hard work worth it.
Did switching to linenless buffet tables help you save money?
Not right away. Our previous tables were also linen less but didn’t have the same look and functionality as the Mogogo tables offer. Mogogo has helped cut labor cost with its functionality you are able to showcase more buffet with less space.
Describe your job philosophy in 3 words.
Creativity, Timing, Fun
In the age of social media and the power of visuals, where do you find inspiration, and how does Mogogo enable your creativity?
Inspiration comes from everyone and is all around us. Social media has really helped captivate and collaborate new ideas from around the globe. I love LinkedIn, Instagram, magazine articles, food network & communication among my peers for ideas and seeing what other hospitality professionals are doing.
What would you say to young professionals aspiring to become a banquet manager in a large hotel like Hilton?
To become a good banquet manager you need to first understand all areas of the hotel in food and beverage. I worked in stewarding, facilities ( house person/room setup), & outlets before I ever stepped foot in the banquet arena. There are so many things that affect a banquet event. Knowing how to look at a room and see if the tables are set correctly. How long it will take the kitchen to plate up a meal for 100 people and the timing it takes stewarding to deliver it to your banquet function. These are all very important traits to learn before you step foot in banquets. Banquets gives me the freedom to showcase my creativity, imagination, love for food & the passion to delight our guests.
What is your dream in hospitality?
I am not sure where my future will take me. I love banquets and want to continue to learn in grow into larger venues. In the far future I am aspiring to lead my own food and beverage team in a hotel or private business establishment.