Regional Mixologist, Fairmont Hotel & Resorts in Canada’s Western Mountain Region Lake Louise, Alta.
Nils Schabert has refined his skills at some of the finest establishments the world over, working in Germany, Australia and being educated in Austria before finding himself in Canada’s west, where he would begin his upward ascent in the Fairmont Hotel & Resorts chain, starting as lead bartender before becoming the manager of Bars and Mixology and eventually being promoted to the position of Regional Mixologist for the Western Mountain Region.
In this position, Schabert showcased his work ethic and knack for working creatively when he conceptualized and launched the concept of “Fairmont’s Regional Bottled Cocktail Program” as well as developed projects such as Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise Signature Whisky “Untamed” as well as Fairview Bar Gin and Fairview Bar Bottled Cocktail Range.
“Anyone who has worked side by side with Nils will agree that he’s a person of strong will and determination. He accomplishes his projects with passion, precision and great research…Nils is a person who takes great pride in his work, he finds pleasure in the creative process and as well in coaching the team,” says Shawn St. Pierre, director of Operations, Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise.
Assistant General Manager, Restaurants, Eataly Toronto, Toronto
Stefanie Cirillo’s vision for her budding foodservice-and-hospitality career began at the age of 15 when she started working at the family-owned Cirillo’s Culinary Academy (a cooking school and event space). She first joined Ritz-Carlton Toronto in an internship position in the banquet/event operation while completing her hotel management program at George Brown College. From the start, Cirillo demonstrated extraordinary leadership, awareness and problem-solving skills. She was quickly hired into a permanent position with the hotel and has grown her career at the Ritz-Carlton over the past 10 years, excelling at every position from server to assistant food-and-beverage manager. She has extensive knowledge of restaurant products, from her WSET accreditation to her fromager certification. Cirillo recently joined Eataly Toronto as assistant general manager to oversee multiple restaurants.
Front-Office Manager, Delta Hotels by Marriott – Vancouver Downtown Suites, Vancouver
As a member of the Delta Vancouver Downtown Suites team since 2018, Amber Douel has become proficient in managing associates and building positive guest relations. While completing her Bachelor of Commerce in Hospitality Management at the University of Guelph, Douel was the president of the Hotel Association of Canada’s Guelph Student Chapter and director of Finance for the Hospitality, Food and Tourism Management Student Association. She was also selected to be one of two students to represent the University of Guelph at the Young Hoteliers Summit in Lausanne, Switzerland in 2018. Since the onset of COVID-19, she has been a key figure in navigating its impacts, identifying key priorities and facilitating a successful recovery for unique guest experiences.
Program Manager, Guest Experience, Sonder, Toronto
Nicole Chan has more than eight years of leadership experience in hospitality, specifically room operations, food and beverage, human resources, capital planning and project management. She brings an acute awareness of the industry, combined with a passion to challenge the status quo, to her role at Sonder, where she’s responsible for implementing guest-experience programs, such as signage, in-unit collateral, amenities, app content, pilot projects and safety and security enhancement, across more than 5,000 listings in 36 markets around the world. Currently, Chan is pursuing a Project
Management Professional (PMP) certification.
Assistant Food & Beverage Manager, Sheraton Gateway Hotel, Toronto
Sneha Nayak has worked in some of the finest hotels around the world, including the Ritz-Carlton Kyoto and the JW Marriott Marquis in Dubai before settling in at the Sheraton Gateway Hotel in Toronto.
Nayak’s vast experience in working around the globe allowed her to quickly impress her colleagues upon her move to Canada and gave her a seamless transition into the Food and Beverage section of the hotel.
“She is always on time, professional, dedicated to the doing her job to the best of her abilities and most importantly a team player,” says Syreeta Dhana, Food & Beverage Operations manager, Sheraton Gateway Hotel.
Restaurant GM – Fairmont Chateau Whistler, Mallard Lounge Pemberton, B.C.
Joel Kaastra learned to cook during an apprenticeship at the Black Dog Village Pub & Bistro in Ontario. After graduating from George Brown College in 2013, he went on to work at a number of kitchens throughout B.C. before assuming his current role as the restaurant GM at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler’s Mallard Lounge. Kaastra joined the hotel in 2018, set on gaining valuable insights and exposure to front-of-the-house operations. He’s earned him the Leader of the Month award twice, as well as the most-coveted award at the hotel in 2020 — Leader of the Year.
Director of Beverage, Fairmont Royal York, Toronto
Responsible for all wine, beer and cocktail programming at Fairmont Royal York, Rus Yessenov consistently elevates the guest experience. Since joining Fairmont Royal York in 2019, Yessenov has designed the cocktail and beverage menu for REIGN Restaurant & Bar and CLOCKWORK Champagne & Cocktails.
In fact, CLOCKWORK was voted number 23 for Canada’s 100 Best Restaurants, Bars and Chefs under Yessenov’s leadership. He went on to create the cocktail menu for a holiday themed pop-up bar, Thirsty Elf, modified the menu at CLOCKWORK Terrace in response to COVID-19 restrictions and developed a line of at-home beverages. Yessenov is also preparing for the anticipated re-opening of Library Bar. Previously, Yessenov worked at the Four Seasons Hotel in Vancouver as bar manager and daydreamed about the next big move in his career.“
“Rus immediately hit the ground running, and has taken full ownership of the entire beverage program at the hotel, taking it to new heights,” says Anna Chartres, regional director of Talent & Culture, Fairmont Royal York.
Guest Experience Manager & Chef Concierge, Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge Jasper, A.B.
Naji Khouri lives and breathes Jasper. The Concordia University graduate completed his Bachelor of Commerce with a major in management in December 2016 and began his career at Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge as a guest-service agent at the age of 22. Now, at the age of 26, his eager mind for listening, learning and supporting others has earned Khouri the position of Guest Experience manager, chef and Concierge. Additionally, Khouri holds the position of secretary/treasurer at Jasper Park Chamber of Commerce and won the Voluntold award in October of 2020. With dedication to the task at hand, he volunteers his time and contributes ideas to the team.
“One of Naji’s most brilliant assets is his smile and the honesty it brings to every situation. Never failing to wish everyone a good day, never failing to be there for any member of his professional or volunteer teams, Naji is always the ‘go to’ when it comes to any bump in any road, anywhere and at any time,” says Pattie Pavlov, executive director, Jasper Park Chamber of Commerce.
Director of Member Relations, Indigenous Tourism Ontario, Mississauga, Ont.
Jasmine Burji began her career as a Special Programs Intern at the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario (TIAO), primarily working on marketing and promotion activities for TIAO events, in addition to assisting with management of the association’s awards program. She worked for the Hospitality and Tourism Research Institute at Ryerson University, taking on various roles as a communications manager, research assistant and event planner, and she’s credited for outlining best practices of Sustainable Indigenous Tourism. Additionally, she was accepted for an exchange at the Auckland University of Technology in New Zealand to complete her Bachelor of Commerce in Hospitality and Tourism Management.
She was awarded the Best Concept for Climate Positive Hotel by the Genio Worldwide Innovation Summit and received the MTCC Walter Oster Award from the Metro Toronto Convention Centre in recognition of her significant contributions to the growth of tourism in Canada, while demonstrating impeccable leadership, vision, values, and business strategy.
Burji is now director of Member Relations for Indigenous Tourism Ontario, improving the socio-economic conditions of local Indigenous communities while providing a platform for cultural expression through tourism.
Director, Sustainable development, Diversity and Inclusion – Accor North and Central America Toronto, Ont.
Marina Elsener has worked around the world and continues to grow the Accor brand in North and Central America. After graduating from The Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management in 2014, she began her career at the St. Regis Aspen Resort as a trainee before working her way up to Food & Beverage supervisor.
Later she moved to Canada’s west coast, working in the front office of the Fairmont Express. “I had the pleasure of working with her at the hotel as we launched the new AccorALL loyalty program to the region. She was instrumental in developing training and refining processes for the betterment of the guest and the operation and demonstrated leadership potential with her sound approaches and advice,” says Andrea Torrance, senior vice-president, Guest Experience at Accor North & Central America.
Elsener has since been promoted to director, Sustainable Development, Diversity and Inclusion – North and Central America where she leads the company’s Watch program, a training program designed to educate the company’s employees on the protection of children against sexual exploitation and is currently spearheading a movement to eliminate single-use plastics across the hotels in her region.
Executive Chef, The Bruce Hotel, Stratford Mitchell, Ont.
Even before finishing high-school, Brandon Clemens began his career in the foodservice industry, working as chef de partie at the Elmhurst Inn & Spa. The young chef moved on to work at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise as senior chef de partie before working for Michelin-starred restaurants, including The Savoy in the U.K..
“I’m impressed by Brandon’s natural leadership abilities and the relationships he had fostered as an ambassador to the Savoy brand,” says Bryn McArthur, executive sous chef, Fairmont Grand Del Mar.
Clemons helped secure the Savoy three-straight Best Seafood Restaurant in London Bookatable Diner Awards by Michelin from before joining The Bruce Hotel, a 4 Diamond Hotel & Restaurant in Stratford, London, where he garnered the Best Young Chef award at the British Restaurant Awards.
Director of Events, Fairmont Empress Hotel, Victoria. B.C.
Lynsee Yee has used her poise and problem-solving skills to tackle even the toughest challenges put in front of her on her way to becoming the director of Events at the Fairmont Empress Hotel.
As part of her responsibilities, she runs more than 100,000 sq. ft. of event space at both the Fairmont Empress and The Victoria Conference Centre. It’s a tall task for someone so young, but Yee has risen to the occasion, impressing her superiors from the first time they interviewed her.
During her time at the Fairmont Empress, Yee has collected multiple awards for her department and earned the respect of her colleagues in a short period of time.
“Lynsee handles last-minute changes with ease and grace and always has a back-up plan. Her leadership style is confident, fair but firm and professional, showing empathy when needed and a wonderful sense of humour,” as says Lisa Klimek, former director of Conference Services and Catering, Fairmont Empress Hotel.