We were visiting the Ritz Carlton for a behind the scenes tour of their kitchens but ended up with a once in a lifetime experience of service; and we weren’t even guests of the hotel.
Let me step back and explain how we arrived there. Spending Thanksgiving week in Tahoe we were looking for fun things to do around the area when we stumbled across this, free, kitchen tour. No questions asked the Ritz put us down for the visit at 3:00.
Located on the hillside above the Northstar Resort, the only parking optionwas through the valet at $20. Yikes… did we have a choice? Not really, but after expressing our concern, the valet offered to park our car, with our dog inside, in the heated garage at a much reduced parking rate.
Having arrived early we wandered around the lobby and were ultimately drawn by the huge windows which looked out over a massive fire pit, and in the distance, the ski slopes. I ordered a warm drink and while my husband and daughter had a quick snowball fight, sat at the fire pit enjoying the warmth and the view.
When it was time for our kitchen tour we went to their Flagship restaurant, Manzanita, created by famed chef, Tracy des Jardins. “Do not touch anything,” I warned my daughter, who immediately reached out to see if the huge, wooden bowl sitting at the bar was real. No problem… as I scolded her, the bartender, Tamaniqua, came over and told us that there was a ton of wood all over the hotel and everyone loved touching it. What did my daughter think of how it felt?
Moments later, Anthony, the Executive Sous Chef came over and began our tour, which covered much more than I had imagined. Vats of soup and homemade stock simmering in the catering kitchen, two huge walk in fridges,
thousands of square feet of prepping area, introductions to many of the chefs preparing for meals coming out of two restaurants and the catering area; the tour took 45 minutes and had us all entranced. At one point my daughter noticed a big bin of pre-wrapped s’more bundles. Anthony told us that every day at 4:00 the marshmallogists showed people how to create the perfect s’more out at the fire pit. Then he handed my daughter her own bundle so she could be prepared.
It wasn’t only Anthony who gave us his full attention. Along the way, any staff who ran into us greeted us warmly and asked what we thought, as though we were professional food critics. It was one of these staff members who
handed over this extra hot chocolate referred to in the overhear. My daughter was dazed, it was like magic to her. And at the end of the tour, after being shown the perfect cut from a huge halibut and the crackling duck fat in the open Manzanita kitchen, we met the managers of the restaurant who greeted my husband by name and reiterated the invitation to the marshmallogy.
Later, after we had roasted our marshmallows and picked up our car with our nice warm dog inside, we talked about our experience with each other. I explained that there are many hotels out there that will treat you well if you are dressed in designer clothes or have the last name Kardashian, but only a truly great hotel knows how to make every single guest, even the smallest among them, feel like a star.
This had hit home for me while we were roasting marshmallows. The marshmallogist had asked the kids there what they liked best about the hotel. There were the normal answers of the skiing, the pool, the game-room, but when a seven year old answered the bed, and another child said the food, I knew this was a hotel I would save my pennies to return to… as a guest.
Impressing adults is one thing but impressing a child is practically holy.