The Somm Journal

Dec 2015-Jan 2016

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Page 32 of 124

32 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } DECEMBER/JANUARY 2015/2016 { real somm stories } YOU WOULDN'T KNOW IT BY SITTING in Ryan Littman's office (because he needs to close the window-blinds to prevent glare on his computer monitor) but the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa is large—even by Texas standards. Among the amenities are a 36-hole championship golf course, a six-acre water park, and more than 1,000 guest rooms. Littman was Executive Chef for the entire property, steering seven restaurants, until last June when he became Director of Food & Beverage. From his unassuming office Littman now oversees the big F&B picture, con - centrating on the finances, human resources and constant staff training as well as other areas of infrastructure, especially the forecasting of how many guests will be dining on-site every night and where to put them all. It's more difficult than it might sound, considering the property lies within a growing neighbor - hood landscape that's just close enough to downtown San Antonio to both gain and lose guests for dining choices. "Forecasting is probably the number one issue we deal with from week to week," Littman says. "We typically dedicate the better part of two days each week to forecasting. Our goal is to be within five percent accuracy." While working toward that goal, Littman says his new position pro - vides "endless opportunities for creativity," especially when it comes to elevating the overall service of the place—a place with so many guests and so much space that it added a food truck to its culinary opera- tions not too long ago. He's excited about another of the resort's recent Ryan Littman DIRECTOR OF FOOD & BEVERAGE, JW MARRIOTT SAN ANTONIO HILL COUNTRY RESORT & SPA story and photo by Anthony Head initiatives, "Make the Wait Great." "If there's a wait in one of our restaurants, we'll set up a pop-up vendor operation and do food and wine tastings in the lobby while guests wait for their tables," he explains. Not only does it soothe guests' hunger pains, it's a clever way to get a product into their hands for consideration right before they make dedicated alcohol purchases with dinner. Though still new to the position, Littman is overcoming a previous dearth of formal front- of-house knowledge by drilling down into the nuances of the beverage industry. There are constant tastings to attend, and because the property likes to support local industries, there are plenty of Texas wineries, distilleries and brew - eries to visit. With the size of the property and its sheer volume of business it can be a formidable challenge to stay abreast of current consumer trends while also building his own beverage acu - men. "There is a lot of product out there that I should know about, but there is so much happen- ing—just in this state alone—that it can be very difficult to keep up." So that means spending even more time in his office, hitting the books and other publications in order to broaden his knowledge. "Yes, I do miss the kitchen sometimes. I miss getting dirty. When you're wearing a suit, I guess you're not supposed to jump behind the line when the guys need an extra pair of hands," Littman says. But he quickly adds that retiring his chef 's whites for a blue blazer has produced this unex - pected but significant benefit: "I haven't had to put in a 15-hour day, yet." Ryan Littman reads The SOMM Journal is his office in San Antonio.

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