Editorial Board   Guest Author

Mr. Parsons

Brad Parsons

Executive Chef, The Fairmont Chicago, Millennium Park

Brad Parsons, Executive Chef at the Fairmont Chicago, Millennium Park and aria restaurant, first joined the Fairmont team as Chef de Cuisine at the acclaimed aria in 2004. Since then, Chef Parsons has reinvented the cuisine at this luxury hotel with American comfort food inspired by flavors from around the world. Chef Parson’s goal at the Fairmont Chicago is to raise guests’ expectations about hotel dining. “Food is constantly changing and evolving,” he explains, “and as a chef, you have to change with the times and learn about new products and ingredients. You have to constantly reinvent.” Chef Parsons is always in search of what’s new. When adding new dishes to the menu, he solicits input from his cooks, who have a variety of ethnic backgrounds – including Thai, Korean, South American, and Chinese – to give his menu an authentically global feel. Now responsible for a culinary staff of nearly 60, Chef Parsons feels strongly about empowering the people who work for him. During his tenure, he has hired and promoted nearly all of his key staff members. “If you don’t hire and train the right people, you’re not doing your job as a manager,” he says. “I want my team to be able to make decisions without me and I value their feedback.” An advocate of locally grown and seasonal ingredients, Chef Parsons and his purchasing managers regularly visit local farmers markets – especially the chef’s favorite Green City Market – for food served at the Fairmont Chicago, Millennium Park. Chef Parsons earned a degree in hotel and restaurant management from Northern Arizona University, but fixed his sights on becoming a chef after taking a college culinary class. After his first kitchen job preparing breakfasts in Flagstaff, he received a degree from the Culinary Institute of America. Despite the fact that he had never cooked in a professional kitchen until college, Chef Parsons quickly rose through the ranks in some of the country’s best restaurants, including Thomas Keller’s Bouchon in Napa Valley, Rick Tramonto’s Tru in Chicago, and Alan Wong’s restaurant in Honolulu. Chef Parsons currently lives in the Taylor Street Neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side with his daughter.

Mr. Parsons can be contacted at 312-565-8000 or brad.parsons@fairmont.com

Coming up in February 2018...

Social Media: Engagement is Key

There are currently 2.3 billion active users of social media networks and savvy hotel operators have incorporated social media into their marketing mix. There are a few Goliath channels on which one must have a presence (Facebook & Twitter) but there are also several newer upstart channels (Instagram, Snapchat &WeChat, for example) that merit consideration. With its 1.86 billion users, Facebook is a dominant platform where operators can drive brand awareness, facilitate bookings, offer incentives and collect sought-after reviews. Twitter's 284 million users generate 500 million tweets per day, and operators can use its platform for lead generation, building loyalty, and guest interaction. Instagram was originally a small photo-sharing site but it has blown up into a massive photo and video channel. The site can be used to post photos of the hotel property, as well as creating Instagram Stories - personal videos that disappear from the channel after 24 hours. In this regard, Instagram and Snapchat are now in direct competition. WeChat is a Chinese company whose aim is to be the App for Everything - instant messaging, social media, shopping and payment services - all in a single platform. In addition to these channels, blogging continues to be a popular method to establish leadership, enhance reputations, and engage with customers in a direct and personal way. The key to effective use of all social media is to find out where your customers are and then, to the fullest extent possible, engage with them on a personal level. This engagement is what creates a personal connection and sustains brand loyalty. The February Hotel Business Review will explore these issues and examine how some hotels are successfully integrating social media into their operations.