Name: Thomas Medl
Campus: Les Roches Bluche, BBA in International Hotel Management with Finance, 2006
Current job: General Manager of La Mar Cebicheria, San Francisco, USA
Born in Germany, educated in Austria and a graduate of Les Roches Bluche, today Thomas Medl is General Manager of La Mar Cebicheria San Francisco, USA. With restaurant locations around the world, La Mar is inspired by Gastón Acuario, a man credited with bringing Peruvian food onto the global gastronomy scene. La Mar San Francisco is on the waterfront, right by the city’s downtown area, and the restaurant counts 250 seats plus a bar. Here, Thomas shares with us his enthusiasm for F&B, the diversity of America’s booming restaurant industry and the magic of Peruvian cuisine.
Thomas’s passion for F&B began as a teenager: “Before Les Roches, I worked in a lot of different restaurants. Since I was 14, I have been very comfortable in that environment,” Thomas says. “My high school in Austria was a vocational school, and there was a heavy emphasis on serving and cooking.”
After completing his BBA in International Hotel Management at Les Roches, Thomas was hired to go to Baltimore as a management trainee. Although his traineeship was meant to last for a year and a half, within six months Thomas was promoted to the role of Assistant Banquet Manager. “What I got from my vocational school and Les Roches put me at a point where I was ahead, I could progress so much quicker at work. And America definitely felt like the place to be. It’s an excellent market to work in.”
Thomas quickly worked his way up to managerial positions. His career has taken him to the Hyatt Regency in Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and Chicago; the Waldorf Astoria in Chicago; Rivers Casino in Des Plaines, IL; and the Hermitage Hotel in Nashville. While experiencing life in different regions of the US, he also witnessed the transformation of the nation’s food and beverage industry.
“In the last 10 years, the U.S. has made quantum leaps in food and drink. When I first arrived, they were serving burgers, fries and Coke at hotels. But today, if you come and experience the diversity of the food — you can’t match that anywhere. Very few places, perhaps countries like Singapore, have that kind of diversity.”
“In San Francisco alone, you can eat out every single day for six months and experience a different dish every day. Two weeks ago, my wife and I went down to LA – every single day we found something different. Because there has been so much immigration, you can find Latin cuisine, Asian food, fusion dishes… It’s nothing short of amazing, and I think it’s just starting. It’ll only become more sophisticated.”
Diversity and fusion are essential ingredients at La Mar. As Thomas explains, “Peruvian food is unique. You get such a broad array of different influences and styles of food: Japanese sushi and sashimi, Chinese stir-fry, Southeast Asian cuisine, European cuisine, big meat items and indigenous Peruvian ingredients. Our chef, Victoriano Lopez, is just a ball of creativity — he tries to add Californian components into our cuisine. We go to the local farmer’s market, and he truly does an outstanding job of mixing flavors.”
In the fast-paced role of General Manager of La Mar, Thomas feels right at home. “No day is like another. I have 130 employees, and every day there is something new. One day I’ll spend more time in the kitchen, another day in front-of-house. We do banquets, bar operation, a nice wine program, and in one day, we take care of up to 1,000 covers. Cranking that out, making it all work, gives you an amazing sense of accomplishment. Sure, you get home at the end of the day and you’re exhausted — but boy, does it feel good.”