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Stacy Calles

Resort Executive Chef | Kalahari Resorts and Conventions Pocono Manor

Briefly describe your job and responsibilities.

My main job responsibility is to oversee the culinary and stewarding team throughout the resort. Everything from onboarding new associates to training and mentoring them on a daily basis, to setting our team of culinary professionals up for future success while ensuring the business is successful as well.

What does a “typical” day at work look like for you?

Typical day starts with a good morning in our main kitchen which is where most of our entry-level associates start. Friendly hello and check-in with them is important to feel a part of the team. After that, I do a check-in with the multiple outlet leaders including front of the house and back of the house. Checking on
any needs from staffing, product, supplies etc. Reviewing any upcoming events planned and business levels current and future. Sometimes this keeps me in one spot for extended period of time depending on business projects.

What was your first job in the hospitality industry?

My first job in hospitality started in middle school as a dishwasher. All my friends worked together, and it started to feel more like a hang-out than a job. Because I loved cooking very young I moved along to be a prep cook very quickly.

When did you know this industry was right for you?

I knew from a young age that I wanted to be a chef. I always found the industry as a form of art that you can express yourself with. I also knew I couldn’t draw well, so cooking was perfect for me. I was never a “brain smart” student but anything that I can use my hands for I excelled relatively fast at. Early on I felt it was something I didn’t have to work hard for and something I did well and enjoyed doing.

Briefly describe your career path and how you got to where you are today.

After graduating high school, my parents were huge supporters in college. Because of this I took the jump and went to culinary school—Johnson and Wales. After getting my associate degree I landed a job in Las Vegas as a cook. I wanted to experience the big world of food and spent 10 years working my way around
the city. I found my love of art filtered into pastry and I took some fun classes on pulled sugar. I was a sponge in Las Vegas, met as many people as I could, and learned everything I could from fellow peers.

Family happened, and I later moved back to PA. I had a couple of new resort and casino jobs, loving the “big houses”. Then a couple front of the house manager roles, but always found myself back in the kitchen. I am a very loyal associate and returned back to Kalahari 4 years ago running the waterpark food and beverage department, the largest operation in the company of which I was very proud of. One year ago, the executive chef position presented itself and I am back to my true love—cooking! I am very passionate about not only my craft, but my team and their growth. If it wasn’t for many colleagues in my career pushing me out of my comfort zone, I wouldn’t be where I am, and I want to do the same for my team.

What is your favorite part of your job?

The growth of a team and their success stories is by far my favorite part, and the memories we make for our guests.

What is the most challenging part of your job?

The most challenging part is teaching associates to think outside of their comfort.

What advice would you give to students interested in your profession?

Be a sponge, try anything whether you fail or succeed. Think outside of the box, be open to feedback

What achievement are you most proud of?

The achievement I’m most proud of is my own personal growth from a beginner leader to now. Learning to accept feedback and grow from it. Learning to be open-minded and being okay with failure still becomes a struggle but I’m working on it every second.

What do you like to do outside of work?

I spend a lot of time with my family when I am not working. Because of the industry we have minimal family time during holidays so it is most important to me to make up for the times i cant be with them.

What is your favorite food to make or eat?

My favorite food to eat is simple—sticky rice, dippy eggs and
fried spam—comfort food that mom makes and feels like home.

What’s at the top of your bucket list?

Top of my bucket list is to continue growing professionally and keep learning other areas of the hospitality industry.