Montage Laguna Beach Catering Manager
"When I was a student at the Collins School at Cal Poly Pomona, I went to a ‘Montage night,' and I was sold!" laughs Patty Burns, Catering Manager for Weddings. "I was hired two days later, and I started in Guest Reception right after graduation!"
Patty had had childhood dreams of becoming a chef; however, after working as office manager, hostess and server at the New York Grill near her hometown of Etiwanda, California, she came to a different conclusion. "I loved working with a lot of people," she smiles, "so I decided that working in a hotel would be a perfect career for me. And since Montage is the best of the best, it was an easy decision!"
Perhaps Patty's love of being around many people had its seeds in her early family life. As the second child in a family of four sisters and a brother, she still maintains close ties to her large family and has even shared an apartment with two of her sisters.
Montage was Patty's first hotel job, and as she remembers, "I loved the Front Desk immediately! Since I started right before summer in 2006, I was fortunate to be able to meet a lot of guests right away and to make close friends with so many of my fellow Associates, many of whom are still working at Montage!"
After assisting our guests as a Guest Receptionist for nine months, Patty was promoted to Catering Coordinator for Weddings, and as Jaime Puffer, Director of Catering says, "She was promoted right before our wedding season, and she hit the ground running. She was such a fast learner, and anticipated what needed to be done." It was obvious to all of us that Patty would become a Catering Manager! All of our couples love working with her, and they trust her with anything."
Patty humbly explains, "I'm so happy to be a part of someone's most special day." It's no surprise that, when Patty goes to the movies, she chooses romantic comedies. "I like ‘happily ever after.' That's why I work in weddings!"
In recognition of her exemplary demonstration of the Montage values on a daily basis, Patty was selected as a Montage Master in 2007 and was promoted to Catering Manager for Weddings in 2008. In 2010, her management peers selected Patty as a Masters of Values in Practice (MVP), a prestigious quarterly award.
In addition to eagerly stepping into her managerial role, Patty embraced the Montage value of learning by becoming a Departmental Trainer and a graduate of the resort's Leadership I program. "The opportunities Montage provides are extraordinary!" she says. "I've been able to develop as a leader and as a person, acquiring skills and knowledge that are applicable to every area of my life."
An enthusiastic participant in Hearts of Montage activities such as beach clean-ups and blood drives, Patty joined the board in 2009 in order to co-chair the resort's food and clothing drives for the local homeless shelter. "I've always felt passionate about community service," she smiles, "and at Montage it's part of our Mission statement, which makes me so proud."
Montage Laguna Beach Food Cost Controller
Patrick DeLeon made Montage history in 2011 when he was selected as the first three-time Montage Master, the resort's values-based award, earning the honor as Purchasing Receiver, Food Buyer, and most recently, as Food Cost Controller.
It's appropriate that food would be in some way associated with Patrick's success. A native of Quezon City in the Philippines, Patrick grew up with a passion for cooking, learned under the tutelage of his mother, a caterer. He studied many styles of cooking, including Italian, Indonesian, Chinese and Japanese, which he creatively blended into his mother's dishes. In addition, he became adept at baking cookies, cakes, and muffins, skills he would later use when he moved to the United States.
"A large part of our culture involved cooking for each other and having parties," he smiles. "My passions were cooking and food!"
Patrick studied at the School of Business Arts in the Philippines, and he spent his summers visiting his extended family in the United States, working with his cousin at a local donut shop. After moving to the U.S., Patrick worked at St. Regis Monarch Beach in garde manger, at Mission Hospital in the medical records department of radiology , and as the co-manager of the Monarch Beach Market Deli before joining Montage during pre-opening at the urging of some of his customers.
"I didn't have any purchasing experience," he smiles, "but everyone was so willing to teach me that it all just flowed. I like to have many responsibilities and new challenges, so it's been perfect for me."
"Patrick is the benchmark Associate," says SaraLynne Boch, Director of Purchasing. "He's mastered the art of multi-tasking, and what others regard as magical abilities, Patrick regards as Montage basics."
However, Patrick's professional life does not fully define him.
"I like to be on the move," he explains. At least twice each week, he plays tennis with fellow Montage Associates, and 3-4 times a week, he works out at the gym where he met his wife Mary Ann, to whom he was married in May, 2011. He's also an avid mountain biker and runner. And that's not all! He also builds and races remote control cars from ⅛ to mini size.
With his customary gratitude, Patrick smiles and says, "At Montage, I'm home. This is my calling. The satisfaction of providing service, mentoring and being mentored - I can't see myself being anywhere else! When I joined Montage, I was looking for a job, but what I found was a family."
Montage Laguna Beach Loft Sous Chef
"I've always worked with food, but never with a chef until I came to Montage," says Manny Medina-Ramirez, Loft Sous Chef. An almost-Laguna Beach native (his parents moved here when he was only 3 months old), Manny began working as a cashier at Papa's Tacos when he was 14.
"I always wanted to work," he laughs. Following his graduation from Laguna Beach High School, Manny attended Saddleback College, where he chose several culinary classes, and, as he remembers, "My passion for food was born!"
In July, 2007 during a summer break, Manny joined The Loft's culinary team as a prep cook, an experience he thought would only be for the season.
"I started soaking up all the knowledge I could," he smiles. "Since I'd never been to culinary school, it was exciting and scary at the beginning, but everyone taught me-it's all about the learning for me-and they all helped me grow. I'm here for life!"
Manny hones his craft by watching programs like Iron Chef, and then practicing at home. "I make a lot of things at home by trial and error," he laughs, and he recreates Montage dishes at home as well. His favorite "guest" is his 4-year-old son Michael, a big fan of Manny's breaded chicken.
One of his goals was to become a leader in the kitchen, a goal he continues to accomplish, moving through each challenge presented to him with humility and determination.
In November, 2011, Manny was promoted to Sous Chef of The Loft, a position for which he was grateful. "Everything I know, I've learned here at Montage," he explains. "When I was hired, I didn't have any culinary experience, and I'd never gone to culinary school, yet the chefs saw something in me, and they never gave up on me. Even though I felt as if I didn't know anything, they mentored me and believed in me."
"I want to continue to learn to lead," he says. "I really enjoy hosting people through food, trying different combinations of tastes, textures, and colors."
Manny's culinary artistry is paralleled by his poetic acumen. "I used to write poetry and express myself through words. Now, I express myself through food," he says. "I've realized that how you feel determines the range of what you create."
In his free time, when he's not playing with Michael or enhancing his culinary skills, Manny can often be found watching Clippers basketball games.
Restaurant Sales Manager, Montage Laguna Beach
Tiffani Munsey, Catering Manager at Montage Laguna Beach, loves planning parties!
"I'm a 'Theme-aholic!'" she laughs. Whether it's organizing an O'Munsey Pub birthday party for her husband Seth or creating an elegant evening at the Chef's Table at Studio, Tiffani is masterful and innovative.
Recently, while planning a dinner at the Chef's Table, she learned that her guests were tequila fans. With the help of one of Studio's bartenders, Tiffani created a personalized tequila menu for the group, including such custom offerings as "Three Amigos," a unique three-shot selection, and she presented the menus to the surprised guests as they arrived for dinner.
"I love making people happy and creating memorable, personal experiences," she smiles. "It's not just a dinner, it's a memory!"
A California native, Tiffani grew up in Modesto and Pacific Grove and graduated from Sonoma State University in business administration with a focus on marketing. An accomplished artist, she also studied photography, painting, and line drawing at the university, all hobbies she continues today.
Tiffani began her career at Montage Laguna Beach in 2004 as a hostess in The Loft and became Assistant Manager of Restaurant Sales nine months later. Her meticulous artistry was so frequently praised by her guests, that Tiffani was promoted to Manager of Restaurant Sales and then to Catering Manager.
Always an enthusiastic learner, Tiffani eagerly absorbed the vast array of food and beverage classes offered at Montage, including cheese, chocolate, and food-wine pairings. She also passed the qualifying exam for the Introductory Course administered by the Court of Master Sommeliers at Montage Laguna Beach. In addition, Tiffani continued her personal growth by becoming a Departmental Trainer, and by completing "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People" and Leadership I.
"These classes inspired me to look at things differently," she explains. "They brought to the forefront what I inherently knew, but they took me out of my daily routine to look at things with a fresh perspective. I recognized that to be successful at work, I also needed to focus on myself. Hospitality is all about giving of ourselves, and we need to take time to give to ourselves as well. Montage reminds us of this through the way we all are appreciated."
Montage Laguna Beach IT Specialist
"I've been tinkering with computers since I was 12 years old," says Kevin Allen, IT Specialist. "I started out by taking apart my dad's computer and actually breaking it. I knew right then that I needed to learn more!"
Kevin's innate patience and his attention to detail propelled him into eventually making his hobby his career. However, he quickly adds, "At first, I didn't take any classes. I learned the hard way by breaking things and putting them back together."
A southern California native and the son of a Vietnam veteran, Kevin joined the military right after high school because as he says, "I felt a larger calling, and I wanted to help our country."
He joined the Army and was sent to Georgia to complete his basic training. "I stayed on to complete Airborne School and became a paratrooper because it was the best of the best. Initially it was for ‘bragging rights,' because it wasn't something that everyone could do, but it was also nerve-racking. Jumping out of a perfectly good airplane looks doable until you're up there. Before my first jump, I was as nervous as I've ever been, but you go from noisy chaos to absolute calm and peace, so that sold me."
For the next four years, Kevin was stationed at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina, where he was molded into the leader he is today and groomed himself to become a sergeant in only 3-1/2 years by focusing on the lessons of his mentors as well as by guiding those who reported to him. He developed a keen awareness for what affected others, often learning personalities before names.
Kevin distinguished himself in the military by serving three deployments: one to Afghanistan, and two to Iraq. During that time, he jumped into a combat zone and earned a bronze combat jump star on his Airborne wings.
Now in the Reserves, following an accelerated 6-month class to become a computer technician, Kevin teaches military personnel and finds that he often does not wear this special medal. "I want to earn their respect without the medal," he humbly says.
At the recommendation of an Army buddy, Kevin decided that working in the security field would most duplicate the discipline and sense of urgency he valued about the military, and that Montage and the hospitality field would be a great fit for him.
"I knew that Montage was a values-based company, so I was eager to work here," he smiles. He began working in security at the Montage Residences, and with his clam, gracious demeanor, he was encouraged to transfer to Montage Security one year later.
"Montage provides and implements growth," he smiles, "and when I wanted to return to the IT world, they helped me make that happen. Our culture helps us collectively accomplish the same goal, that of creating an unsurpassed guest experience. The teamwork and the sense of purpose remind me of some of the best aspects of the Army."
Montage Laguna Beach HR Manager
Linda Castaneda, HR Manager, has a gift for reading people, a gift that has contributed to her success in our recruitment process.
"I've always been a people-watcher," she smiles, "so it's been a phenomenal experience for me to learn to blend that enjoyment into the pleasure of recruiting new Associates for Montage."
A native of El Paso, Texas, Linda moved to Juarez, Mexico, before returning to the U.S. after first grade and settling in Lynwood, California. She began her first job when she was 13, working as a cashier and hostess at Pancake Corner, a restaurant now owned by her mother. Intent on becoming a psychologist, Linda graduated from Cal State Long Beach with a degree in psychology, but soon realized that the field was not for her.
In an effort to try something completely different, Linda became a mortgage loan processor, a position she held for four years before deciding to enroll in the HR certification program at UCI.
"Until I began learning about HR, I hadn't found my passion," she smiles, "but I felt that my psychology background would be transferrable to that world. I really joined the hospitality industry because of my love of HR."
Linda became a member of the Montage HR team in 2008 and has thrived in this environment. She initially served as HR Coordinator and Timesaver Editor and quickly became recognized for her professionalism, attention to detail, and compassion. In 2009, she was selected as a Montage Master, the resort's prestigious values-based award. One year later, as Linda continued to embrace the Montage value of learning; she was promoted to HR Manager and became a Departmental Trainer. She also graduated from the intensive 10-week Leadership I Class to further equip her for her expanded role in recruitment.
"Hospitality has been a bonus-it's been the best of both worlds!" she says. "I like understanding what motivates each person and embracing that person's unique traits." Linda's skills are a valuable asset to Montage. From February-July, 2011 HR conducted 750 interviews!
One of Linda's professional goals is to cross-train in every department in the resort in order to enhance her recruiting skills.
Montage Laguna Beach Director of Guest Services
With the career goal of becoming an executive hotelier, Tim Ward joined Montage Laguna Beach as a Security Officer in October, 2003, following his graduation from San Francisco State University with a BS degree in Hospitality Management.
Tim had heard about Montage while he was still a student; he knew he wanted to work at the resort in any capacity in order to begin learning about hospitality.
"I had worked in a restaurant before college, and I realized that I wanted to be around people, not food!" he laughs. "I could see that Montage was a place where the Associates are all on the same page, sharing the same values and striving to live the Mission statement every day. It felt like family from the very beginning."
Tim's versatility and determination have been cornerstones in his career growth at Montage. "I was fortunate to have the opportunity to learn the entire Resort during the six months I was working in Security. It was a terrific experience and one that was very useful to me as a Guest Receptionist. Our guests have an intense curiosity about Montage, and it's rewarding to be able to answer their questions," he continues.
In recognition of his exemplary demonstration of the Montage values on a daily basis, Tim was selected as a Montage Master in October, 2004, and was then promoted to Assistant Manager of Guest Services in March, 2005, to Guest Reception Manager in February, 2006, and to Director of Guest Services in June, 2008. Tim's management peers recognized his contributions to the Montage culture, selecting him as a Master of Values in Practice (MVP) for the first quarter of 2008.
"I really like seeing our guests' reactions when we've exceeded their expectations. That's what it's all about," he smiles. Tim is an active listener who takes the time to really listen to what our guests' needs are. His upbeat attitude contributes to the positive outcome of every task he undertakes.
Tim is well-known for his ability to create emotional attachments with our guests. One example is the family from Jacksonville, Florida, with whom he has connected during their many visits to the resort. When their daughter was ready to begin college, the parents brought her to Montage while they looked at schools in the area. After listening to what they wanted to do during their visit, Tim sent them information regarding local apartment rentals, school information, and local surf information, since their daughter is an avid surfer. When the young woman decided to attend Saddleback College, she even ended up moving into the apartment complex where Tim used to live! Now, the parents frequently come and stay at Montage while they visit their daughter.
In addition to his passion for delivering extraordinary guest service, Tim is passionate about spending time with his new bride, Julie, as well as surfing and playing golf.
Montage Laguna Beach Studio Captain
Lisa Padilla is passionate about food and wine! "When most kids were coming home to wash the dirt off their faces for dinner, I was washing the flour off my face from my zealous attempts at making tortillas!" she laughs.
Lisa grew up in Huntington Beach with her mother and grandparents and took an active interest in the kitchen at a very young age. "It's hard not to, when the topic of conversation always centered around what the next meal of the day was going to be!"
"When my grandmother cooked for us, I could always see the smile, not just on her lips, but in her eyes and heart. It made her feel good to feed us. That's what led me to hospitality. I recognized at an early age that it feels good to feed people." Thus began Lisa's rewarding career in the front of the house, a place where, as she says, "I could work with, and be inspired by, the talent of a kitchen, a place where I could continually learn about food and wine, and a place where the gratitude was evident in the smiling faces of the guests." Lisa joined Montage as a member of Studio's pre-opening team after many years serving restaurant guests at Aqua in the St. Regis, Ruth's Chris Steakhouse, and the Claim Jumper.
"Montage is such a wonderful place to explore my passion for taking care of people and for continually learning" she smiles. "We have weekly wine tastings and a team of three sommeliers with a wealth of experience to share with us, and we have a culinary team that is on the forefront of gastronomic trends while still adhering to the fundamentals of seeking local, organic, and sustainable food sources. There is never a day that passes where we are not challenged to perfect some basic knowledge or learn something new!"