2018 Top Hat Finalists – Personnel

Back-of-House Food & Beverage Employee of the Year

Charles Guiswite

Executive Pastry Chef
Isleta Resort & Casino

Overview: Charles has been with Isleta Resort and Casino for eight years and as the Executive Pastry Chef for a full service resort and casino, he is responsible to provide everything related to pastry, desserts and bread for this entire operation. He does this with a small team of devoted culinarians that produce huge amounts of product for our restaurants and catering services. Charles’ talent with pastry and chocolate is second to none in the Rio Grande Valley, he designs and executes incredible Chocolate sculptures, ten foot tall Gingerbread Houses and creative desserts for their fine dining Embers Restaurant.

Christina Martinez

Executive Chef
El Monte Sagrado

Overview: Christina discovered her passion for fine cuisine while cooking for her family’s church groups on the weekends. This inspired her to open her own catering company at the age of eighteen. Now at El Monte Sagrado for the past 22 months, Cristina has engineered a transformation of their Kitchen from a hotel concept outlet to an outlet featuring an innovative menu with a farm to table twist. With the transient, seasonal labor market in Taos, she has maintained consistent leadership and training that has lent stability to the operation and a consistent culinary experience. In addition to overseeing the Culinary operation for Restaurant operations, she is also in charge of Culinary Operations for Banquets El Monte Sagrado features luxury weddings, that require a great deal of attention to the guest experience. Cristina’s culinary talents and leadership have supported El Monte Sagrado’s growth in weddings and reputation as a destination wedding resort.

Marcos Gonzales

Banquet Manager
Sheraton Albuquerque Uptown

Overview: Marcos has been with Sheraton for 26 years, as leader of the Banquet Team, Sheraton Albuquerque Uptown has consistently ranked in the top 20 of all Sheraton Hotels in the company. Marcos becomes a friend and ally to meeting planners. He also make sure to accompany sales on site tours to give the planner true insight on what works best in the meeting rooms. After that many years on the job, he knows what works best.

Osbaldo Sanchez

Stewarding Supervisor
Hyatt Regency

Overview: Osbaldo has a hand in every aspect of events he is involved in, but the guests and planner never see his face. He always has a smile on his face. For a typical event Osbaldo orchestrates everything the day before, he has everything cleaned and distributed to banquets. He schedules himself early in the afternoon to ensure they have everything they need in case there are any changes from the planner, and to prep for assisting the Chef with plate up. This is the kind of dedication that makes a hotel run. It is the back of the house, the HEART of the house associates that make everything beat successfully. It will be 4 years in November that he has been a part of the Hyatt team. He is a crucial part of this team. He started out as Lobby attendant, moved to Houseman, then Night Cleaner, over to dishwasher and is now the Stewarding Supervisor.

Peter Vigil

Banquet Chef
La Fonda on the Plaza

Overview: When someone says banquets at La Fonda, they mean Peter Vigil. Peter’s been part of the La Fonda family for 31 years. He started at La Fonda in the kitchen store room doing inventory for purchasing and receiving. He tried his hand at maintenance for a few years, but came back to the kitchen as a line cook and supervisor in La Plazuela Restaurant before former Executive Chef Maurice Zeck saw his potential for the banquet chef position. Peter’s held the title of banquet chef for 25 years, seeing the kitchen staff rise from just 18 people in 1993 to 50 people now. Part of the reason Peter is successful is that he doesn’t think like a “big boss” whose orders are just to be followed. He is in the trenches with his team, doing just as much, if not more, than the others. Successful, respected banquet chefs often have opportunities to go elsewhere, but Peter says he’s never considered working anywhere else. He’s stable, consistent and continually puts out great food. Peter knows how to deliver quality as well as quantity, making everything delicious and beautiful. Consistency is unheard of in a banquet chef. But not with Peter.

Front-of-House Food & Beverage Employee of the Year

Gloria John

Breakfast Attendant
Quality Inn & Suites Gallup

Overview: Gloria has worked for Quality Inn & Suites for 5 plus years. Gloria loves what she does and it shows, her amazing personality shines bright the moment she walks through the door. She always makes everyone feel so welcomed and appreciated. The amount of compliments we get for Gloria pour in on a daily basis. She is the the true definition of Hospitality. Gloria takes the time to get to know all guest that come in for breakfast, we have plenty of repeat guest and Gloria always greets them by name as well as remembers what they like. For instance when Gloria comes in she checks the in house list for any names she might recognize, so that she can make sure to be ready with any special preferences they may have.

Trina Jojola

Restaurant Manager
Isleta Resort & Casino

Overview: Trina manages three of the busiest food operations at Isleta Resort and Casino, serving over 800 meals and food items each day. Trina excels at her work, and serves as a true mentor to the younger staff members. Trina is an excellent example of dedication and reliability, as she will cover shifts of staff members in need to make sure operations run smoothly. Over the past year, Trina implemented a new menu, a new POS system, and a new onboarding program built to ensure new team members were fully immersed in the culture of service that defines her operations. Trina has also spent the past year focusing on guest service and financial accountability, which has allowed her to improve profitability in Chile Ristra by 30% over the prior year.

Larry Flemming

Lead Bartender
Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado

Overview: Like many in the profession, Fleming is a well-rounded, broadly-educated individual with a thirst for knowledge, a zest for living, and an over-arching, genuine affection for people. He is an accomplished communicator and story-teller that has embraced his creativity to be a leading force in showcasing artfully crafted cocktails that speak to Terra’s signature flavors and heritage. Fleming plays an iconic role in the community as a whole, with guests and locals alike flocking to the bar to enjoy his signature style of service. Drawing inspiration from his surroundings and utilizing local ingredients from New Mexico’s bounty, Fleming works closely with the food and beverage team at Terra at Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado to create and execute a unique and exciting cocktail program. Fleming not only crafts creative and delicious cocktails, he engages with each customer to provide an entirely personalized experience for each guest.

Robert “RJ” Romero

Banquet Manager
Indian Pueblo Cultural Center

Overview: IPCC’s Banquet Manager, Robert “RJ” Romero, provides clients comfort and relief as he calmly and expertly guides them through the planning and execution of their special day. RJ’s confidence, experience, and quality checks reassure the client, and ensure that every detail comes together for a memorable and successful event. His attention to detail and continued support throughout the process consistently brings in wonderful feedback from the clients about how great he is, and how much they enjoyed our venue. RJ has taken the time to become familiar with Pueblo culture. He’s representing Pueblo communities not as an outsider looking in, but from a genuine standpoint as a friend and advocate of our Pueblo communities. By taking the time to learn about our culture, RJ is able to represent Pueblo people, communities, and the land through his personal experience.

Tony Romero

Lead Server
Hotel Albuquerque at Old Town

Overview: In March of 2000 Tony started as a busser and worked his way to Lead Server. Tony is one employee that will consistently go out of his way to help the team. He is always the first to volunteer to help the team. He is never afraid to jump in and help when he is needed no matter the task. A few years ago, Tony took it upon himself to make sure that the bar cleanliness standard was improved. He organized the bar and implemented cleaning protocols that everyone follows to this day. He is always looking for ways to improve the restaurant’s operations in all areas. He has shown the team more efficient ways to work and how to ensure the details are not missed. Tony goes above and beyond for his guests, he treats them like they are family. He is a perfectionist and it shows in every plate and presentation he delivers. He never lets his presentation lack, he always makes sure that what he serves is how he would want it served for himself. Tony is truly an asset to this company and has been for 16 years.

Back-of-House Hospitality Employee of the Year

Derek Morganti

Assistant Engineer
Hyatt Regency

Overview: Derek Morganti has been an employee at the Hyatt for 7 years, he has held numerous titles with the company. Derek goes above and beyond in every aspect of his job. Derek shows great respect to his teammates and the entire staff at the Hyatt. If you ask anyone around the facility, Derek is willing to help or find a solution to any task or any problem that may arise in any department within the facility. Derek truly has a “we can handle that” philosophy. From helping IT with getting the access to the system when they took over, helping front desk with problems with printers, credit card readers and solving issues with guest keys. He has jumped in to strip rooms with housekeeping, served water in the restaurant and flipped banquet rooms with the banquets team. Derek understands and leads by knowing he is part of a team and knows that the Hyatt’s successes are a team effort.

Joshua Arnold

Co-Owner; Maintenance Manager
Routes Bicycle Tours & Rentals

Overview: As Lead Mechanic, Josh oversees maintenance for over 3,500 bicycles (fleet, customer, and partner) on a yearly basis, and has presided over 7 years of straight growth in terms of revenue and volume in this department. As Tour Director, Josh has been responsible for helping to develop and manage a series of over 20 ongoing bicycle tour experiences; and oversees a staff of 10 guides in Albuquerque and in Santa Fe. As co-owner, Josh helped found a successful small business that has seen continuous growth within the New Mexico tourism sector, and that has been recognized/received awards from multiple hospitality and tourism-related entities and organizations throughout the state. Josh works every day to ensure Routes is at the top of our field in the active tourism hospitality sector. He interacts with partners in the hospitality and bicycling-product sectors to guarantee our guests have a unique experience.

Pearl Alford

Housekeeping Inspector
El Monte Sagrado

Overview: Pearl started with the property as a Room Attendant, and has progressed to a Housekeeping Supervisor, as well as overall supervision of the department. During this time, she has been a source of stability and consistency for the department and its employees through property management and ownership changes. She has exceeded the goals and expectations for her role through the application of her knowledge of the property and the rooms layout. Her guidance helps her team complete up to 84 rooms daily, including suites.She actively partners with Housekeeping Leadership, and is a source of stability and support to the leader of the department. An employee like Pearl, who displays consistency and reliability, is an unsung hero in keeping the business operating at a high standard. When new employees join the company or come in from out of town, she is one of the most welcoming team members that help make El Monte feel like home. Her politeness, smile, and kindness have made countless coworkers feel welcomed into the El Monte family.

Rocio Duran

Room Attendant
Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi

Overview: For just over six years Rocio has worked at the Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi. Rocio is one of their quieter Associates. She works quietly, but with an amazing smile and they would put her up against any other Room Attendant in the nation for having a miraculously clean room and all the while in an efficient manner. Rosewood has significant brand standards in the Housekeeping department and she is spot on with all of our standards and does so consistently! She is a trainer to many new staff members who enjoy her welcoming demeanor and eagle eye for details. Rocio is focused and listens to guest’s needs. She looks for cues in the guest’s rooms to offer special amenities or tailor their room’s cleaning beyond what might be on a tracer list. She has an incredible sense of intuition and puts her heart and soul in making our hotel’s rooms look like they are always “photo shoot” ready.

Veronica Corona

Housekeeping Manager
Sheraton Albuquerque Uptown

Overview: Veronica is a quick study and very bright, and although starting her career at the age of 16, she has gone from Housekeeper to Front Desk and ultimately to the Group Rooms Coordinator for the Sales Office. Although the Sales office wanted very much to keep Veronica, she was offered the Housekeeping Manager position of which she has been in for the past year very successfully. As all of us in the Hotel business are quite aware, turnover percentages tend to be through the roof, especially in Housekeeping. But all that has changed with Veronica’s turn at the helm. For the past year Veronica has impacted turnover percentages by playing an important role in making sure housekeeping staff are well trained and have what they need to be set up for success! Veronica has gone out of her way to assist customers and personalize their experiences. She has instilled in her team how important it is to have an efficient lost and found department and goes out of her way to make sure guests are returned their forgotten belongings. She has taken it upon herself to make sure things are overnighted or we have seen she and her team chasing guests into the parking lot with their forgotten item.

Front-of-House Hospitality Employee of the Year

Amanda Gesten

Catering Manager
La Posada de Santa Fe

Overview: Amanda Gesten began her career with La Posada as a concierge and front desk agent. Her job knowledge, enthusiasm and superior customer service skills quickly led to her promotion to reservations agent. The exemplary performance she displayed in that position ultimately resulted in a promotion to her current role as a catering manager, specializing in the wedding market. She has also taken the added initiative to become a Certified Wedding Planner by Marriott. Amanda began this journey as a rookie catering manager and continues to grow in her career path. She is truly a rising star. Amanda is always ready to assist other departments as required. In cases where an employee has had to leave suddenly due to sickness, or a department requires last minute assistance, Amanda has dropped everything to assist at the front desk, in the reservations department and with conference services – without adversely impacting her already significant responsibilities.

Desiree Quintana

National Sales Manager
La Fonda on the Plaza

Overview: For most hospitality sales people, once the contract with the client is signed, it’s time to move on and hand off the relationship to others. Not for Desireé Quintana. She remains involved with her clients, who range from the legal, association and medical profession, first timers and repeat customers who return again and again to La Fonda. For the 20 years that Desireé has been with La Fonda she has proved that she is dedicated, highly passionate, and wholly committed to the hotel and its clients. She never stops caring about them and how to make the relationship between the hotel and the guest better, stronger and more beneficial to them both. Desireé is so committed to learning new things, and about how her clients experience the hotel, she made a goal this past year to better understand the sales and event process from the client’s point of view. She is volunteering to work the registration table at an upcoming event of 500 people, just to see how that process works and how it could be improved from the hotel’s perspective. Desireé’s reputation for improving things extends beyond her own job and even the hotel, too. She acts as a mentor to other hotel sales and catering staff, because she genuinely wants them to succeed.

Diana Roman

Front Desk Agent
Home2 Suites by Hilton Albuquerque

Overview: Diana Roman is the best customer service agent that we have. When she is around, everybody is happy. The hotel and her coworkers light up every time she walks in. In fact, I have never seen somebody able to affect people’s mood in such a positive way as she does. Every situation, every minute, is an opportunity for her to find positivity. Our guests love her, and she loves them. I have always found her dependable, efficient, and unfailingly punctual. I have never worked with a person who gives as much attention to detail as she does. Also, her willingness to do her job and help with other tasks, to serve our guests with a smile, and her willingness to help her coworkers have repeatedly impressed me. Diana is responsible for the 30% year-over-year growth of our guests’ positive scores. Whenever Diana is on duty, we receive 0 guests complaints and average 3 to 4 more positive reviews than when she is not around. Every month, she surpasses our loyalty program enrollments goal by signing up more than 50% of our new members.

Hunter Bienvenu

Assistant Front Office Manager
Eldorado Hotel & Spa

Overview: Hunter has worked for the Eldorado Hotel & Spa for two years. He assists in training other departments in customer service and is known within the hotel for his ability to solve difficult problems with creative solutions. He is the go-to person for any billing issue, unusual question, or unique guest request. An expert in the hotel’s PMS system, he is always willing to teach his shortcuts and tricks to making the check-in and checkout experience run smoothly. Hunter goes above and beyond for our guests. An example of his exemplary service was when he retraced the steps of a family’s day in Santa Fe to find their daughter’s missing stuffed animal. He was able to successfully hunt it down at a local restaurant and return it to the little girl.

Jennifer Leighton

Catering and Conference Services Manager
Sunrise Springs Spa Resort

Overview: In November of 2017 our only Sales Manager left us for another opportunity. We, of course, began an active search but, after a series of events, offers declined and other delays we were not able to fill the position until late May of 2018. At that time Jen Leighton held the position of Catering and Conference Services, a full-time job of itself. From December 1, 2017 until June 1, 2018, 7 months, Jen did both jobs! She was our Catering and Conference Services Manager, as well as our only Sales Manager. She had to learn the job as she went along, never complaining, never overwhelmed, steady eddy, nose to the grindstone. In selling and servicing these groups, Jen took the opportunity to exceed the groups’ expectations and turn around and re-book them. I have attached the BEO’s of some very large events that Jen managed and in return, re-booked at quite a value. Jen’s dedication not only served the guest well, but also resulted in additional revenue for the resort.

Leslie Sanchez

Night Auditor
Hotel Albuquerque at Old Town

Overview: A Night Auditor completely controls the transactions of the day. They check all reservation discrepancies, post charges and generates folios, updates housekeeping status and closes cash counters. Basically, this person is tasked with running the hotel during the graveyard shift and most important allows the GM to sleep at night! Most people would not take on this important role and responsibility. Except Leslie, she has been doing this for over 31 years. She has the most incredible work ethic I have seen in an individual. She has had life changing events which most people would be devastated and might crumble, but Leslie is standing strong. To say that Leslie is a loyal and committed team member is an understatement. She always takes pride in making sure no detail is left to chance.

Stay tuned as we announce the remaining 2018 Top HAT Awards!

Premier Awards – Friday, Sept. 28