In early April, Robert Ash joined the Encore Boston Harbor Hotel as executive director of culinary operations. That means he oversees the Wynn Resort property’s banquets, catering and in-room dining as well as its 11 restaurants (including a Shake Shack and possibly the only 21-and-over Dunkin, which is located on the casino floor) and 4 bars and lounges.
Ash got his start cooking “out of necessity,” as he said, making dinner for himself and his brother because his parents weren’t around much. He started washing dishes at an Italian trattoria in Buffalo, N.Y., and by the time he was 16 he was a sous chef there.
Noticing that a lot of chefs were lacking in pastry skills, he got a second job at a local country club to learn pastry and in the late 1990s got a job in Las Vegas at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino in the pastry kitchen of legendary chef Jean-Louis Palladin. He rose to the rank of pastry chef and took those skills to Chicago, and before long switched back to savory, cooking for N9ne restaurant, a steakhouse concept that he helped to expand to Las Vegas and Dallas.
Back in Chicago he started working for the Japanese-Peruvian-Brazilian concept Sushi Samba, eventually becoming assistant corporate chef as it expanded.
His next stop was back to Las Vegas, working for Wynn for the first time, and then moved to Milwaukee for his first job as head of all culinary operations at a hotel at the InterContinental there.
He went on to oversee 21 Omni hotels as a regional executive chef, then spent four years at Fairmont hotels in Canada before landing in Boston at the Encore.
He recently discussed what he has learned over the years, especially about training and supporting cooks, spotting talented and managing the labor and supply chain woes that are plaguing everyone these days.
Contact Bret Thorn at [email protected]
Follow him on Twitter: @foodwriterdiary