In 2014, Justin Leff participated in the JKCP Internship Program, interning at The Inn at Penn, A Hilton Hotel. Before the summer started, Justin had an interest in learning more about the Hotel and Hospitality Management industry. His experience with The Inn at Penn proved that he was onto something. JKCP conducted an exclusive interview with Justin to learn more about what he gained from his experience. Here is what he had to say:
1. Where are you from?
I am from Livingston, New Jersey.
2. What is your favorite movie?
My favorite movie is The Hunger Games.
3. How did you find JKCP Internships?
I found JKCP Internships via the Internet.
4. Where did you intern?
I interned at The Inn at Penn, A Hilton Hotel.
5. Have you participated in any other JKCP programs before?
No, I have not participated in any other JKCP programs before.
6. What did a typical week at your internship look like?
Throughout my internship, I worked in all of the departments of the hotel, such as Food and Beverage, Housekeeping, Culinary, Engineering, Banquets, Room Service, and Front Desk. The first day on the job, Hilary, who is the Human Resources Manager, took me on a “behind the scenes” tour of the hotel. I found this to be very interesting since I had always wondered how a hotel operates. On the second day, I shadowed Sebastien, the Director of Food and Beverage. My favorite part of the day was when he allowed me to take part in his daily inspection of the hotel. We checked both public and private areas, including the Penne Restaurant & Wine Bar. We found a piece of fabric hanging off of a booth, and we then went to engineering and told them to glue it back in place. I loved seeing first-hand how different departments work together in order to make the hotel the best it can be for its guests. On the third, fourth, and fifth days, I worked with Cecelia, the Executive Housekeeper. Reporting due outs, setting up carts, and hanging up staff uniforms are all required of Cecelia in order to have a successful day. I was exhausted after shadowing her! On the sixth day, I shadowed Roelof, who is the Senior Sous Chef at Penne Restaurant & Wine Bar. Every morning, he checks in on the restaurant and its kitchen in order to make sure that all foods have been prepped, all orders have arrived, and all tables have been set. After his walkthrough, he talks with Eileen, who is the Head Chef, about upcoming menus and specials. The day that I attended their meeting, they discussed the October menu, in which all dishes contain cancer-preventing foods since October is Cancer Awareness Month. On the seventh day, I worked with April, who is a chef at the University Club, which is the breakfast and lunch buffet in the hotel. At the beginning of the day, she allowed me to prepare the Pasta of the Day. I found this to be extremely fun since I have always loved cooking. After I finished making the dish, April showed me how to set up the foods at the buffet. Lastly, when the University Club opened for lunch, she taught me how to work the Sandwich Station. I found this to be the best part of the day because I was interacting with guests. At the end of the day, I was able to observe as the hotel was being inspected by EcoSure. The hotel is inspected only two times a year, and, as a result, I was really excited that I was able to see it. Tensions were at a maximum, nerves were running, and the stakes were high. The Inn at Penn has always received excellent reviews, and it is always looking to maintain its outstanding reputation. In the end, all of the stress was for nothing, and the hotel, once again, got a wonderful rating. On the eighth and ninth days, I worked with Sam, who is the Chief Engineer, and Cesar, who is the Assistant Chief Engineer. Engineering is always on call because it is the department that fixes anything that goes wrong in the hotel, whether it be damaged showerheads, clogged toilets, or broken doorknobs. A lot of walking is involved, and Cesar was right when he told me that I would fall asleep as soon as I got back to my room! On the tenth day, I worked with David, who is the Director of Banquet Services. The Inn at Penn hosts many banquets throughout the year, including weddings, bar and bat mitzvahs, and business meetings. Luckily, there were a lot of events to set up for when I was there, such as a luncheon and a dinner. Although I enjoyed setting up for the events, I had the most fun when I actually assisted at the luncheon. I was put in charge of refilling guests’ glasses with water and serving bowls of soup. Even though I was assigned simple tasks, I still liked doing them since I loved putting smiles on guests’ faces. On the eleventh and twelfth days, I worked with Daria, who is the Director of Outlets. My favorite part of both days was when she showed me the Inn at Penn’s SALT (Service and Loyalty Tracking) scores. Guests rate the hotel in many categories, such as “Overall Experience”, from one (extremely dissatisfied) to ten (extremely satisfied). I found reading their feedback to be very important since it allows staff to know if they are succeeding in making their guests happy. Finally, on the last three days of my internship, I worked with Mike, who is the Director of Front Office Operations. I really liked working at the Front Desk since I know that a guest’s first and last impressions of the hotel are made there.
7. What is the best trip you have ever taken?
The best trip that I have ever taken was aboard Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas. The ship had a lot of activities to do, such as zip lining, rock-climbing, and swimming. In addition, the food on the ship was amazing.
8. What was the highlight of your internship?
The highlight of my internship was participating in team problem solving sessions.
9. What were your expectations leading up to your internship and how were those expectations met/exceeded throughout the summer?
I did not really know what to expect regarding my internship. I was not sure whether I would just be filing papers in a back office or actually gaining hands-on experience. Fortunately, the staff at the Hilton Inn at Penn made me feel like a true member of their team. Everyone was warm and welcoming, and they were willing to teach me the different aspects of the hospitality industry.
10. After your internship, do you think this is a field you would like to pursue? Why or why not?
Yes, I definitely do think that hospitality management is a field that I would like to pursue. I liked how every day consisted of different challenges, and how no day was the same. I also enjoyed helping all guests, and making sure that they had the best visits possible.
11. If you were stuck on a deserted island and could only bring one item with you, what would it be?
A Starbucks. Having a Coffee Frappuccino every morning would provide me with the necessary energy for the day’s obstacles!
12. What advise can you give to future JKCP interns?
Be open to meeting new people, acquiring new skills, and learning more about yourself.