Think you’re obsessed with food and restaurants? Try walking a mile in James Lin’s proverbial Crocs. As our new Senior Vice President of Restaurants and Bars, James lives and breathes F&B (that’s food and beverage for you non-industry types). His epic Epicurean task is to make sure our nearly 70 restaurants, bars and lounges are humming along at peak performance, while also developing the next generation of Kimpton dining destinations. We made a reservation and checked in with James about his new gig and asked him a couple of food-nerd questions, too. Meet the man who keeps Kimpton restaurants cooking.
LiS: Describe your job in five words or less.
JL: Dynamic, challenging, high energy, fun, beer.
LiS: What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever eaten?
JL: Coagulated pig blood soup. Don’t think too hard when you have it — it actually tastes like liver (I think).
LiS: What would you like for your last meal on earth?
JL: Not coagulated pig blood soup, but a meal made by mom which would probably include her famous egg rolls and zong (Chinese: 粽子), which is made of sticky rice with different fillings and wrapped in bamboo, reed or some other large, flat leaf. They are cooked by steaming or boiling and served with garlic-soy sauce and cilantro.
LiS: What’s your favorite food/restaurant-related movie?
JL: Jiro Dreams of Sushi. It’s a documentary that came out a few years ago, and it’s about an 85-year-old sushi master, Jiro Ono. He has a 10-seat, Michelin-starred restaurant in a Tokyo subway station. He has two sons who are also sushi chefs, so there’s some interesting drama around that, but mostly it’s just a great portrayal of someone in constant pursuit of perfection, and having respect and mastery for your craft.
LiS: What’s the hardest thing about your job?
JL: At this point, it’s striving to be in a position where I can (more often than not) be proactive/strategic vs. reactionary/putting out fires.
LiS: What’s the best thing?
JL: Working with passionate professionals inside and outside of the restaurant division who embrace the mindset of: “It’s amazing how much you can accomplish when you don’t care who gets the credit.” And come to work looking to push the limits of what’s possible
LiS: What’s the short-term goal for your job?
JL: To stay employed past my 90-day probation period [laughs]. In all seriousness, I’m working with our team in developing a strategic plan for the restaurant division and where we want to go as a company. Lots of exciting things ahead.
LiS: What long-term goal have you set?
JL: Ultimately, my goal is to help create a clear vision for our division so we can continue to evolve. It’s a very competitive landscape so we need to continue attracting and retaining top-level talent, and making sure we remain a preeminent player in the hospitality industry. We’ll need to continue to be very focused on developing exciting new restaurant and bar/lounge concepts that attract both locals and hotel guests. And that might include creating some interesting partnerships that bring new daylife and nightlife entertainment to the properties. We’ll also be very focused on maximizing our banquet and catering operations as we continue to develop properties with larger meeting and private dining spaces and evolving the overall hotel food-and-beverage experience, which is becoming increasingly more integrated to the overall hotel guest experience. Not to mention our chefs are doing some really tasty and creative things for private events.