Cheol Joon Baek
As general manager of the wonderful Drake Hotel, I've got 175 people working for me at every level of the organization. There are probably 20 different job classifications here.
A hotel manager should have a good business sense and exceptional people skills, but also panache. You've got to genuinely show you love what you do. And to survive as long as I have in the restaurant business, you've got to be pretty humble.
I don't have a formal education in the hospitality biz. I have my Wine & Spirit Education Trust certificate and studied various aspects of economics pertaining to restaurant finance and accounting. I have a BA in sociology from U of T, where I graduated in 1976.
Ryerson uses a great restaurant simulation game as a training tool. I still refer to parts of it when I'm mentoring other managers. The course taught me about the demands of the workplace and the social structures that form in a restaurant or hotel. What I do is almost like managing a cultural and social ecosystem.
When I was at U of T, I got a job at a great steak house called the Hayloft. It was a large, American-style chain restaurant that was licensed for 500 people. It was an exciting, busy place. My experience there and what I was learning at school - especially the relationship between managers and staff - turned me on to the vitality of the restaurant business.
I got into management training with the Hayloft and spent six months in its butcher shop. I can still cut meat pretty adeptly.