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Unusual Hotel Jobs

From Fairy Godmother to beer taster, we know you’d love to have one of these jobs.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009
David Wilkening
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Yes, Virginia, there is a Fairy Godmother. Her business card says so. You’ll find her at Barnsley Gardens Resort, about 60 miles north of Atlanta.

Her job is to arrange special occasions, ranging from romantic nights under the stars with champagne and chocolate to a variety of other requests.

She is only one of a handful of people in the hotel business with unusual jobs such as duck masters, coin washers and drink masters.

The latter is a job held by Scott Kerkmans who, at the age of 28, was named chief beer officer (CBO) for the Four Points by Sheraton chain.

“At first, I thought my friends would be happy for me but it turns out, they were just jealous,” says Kerkmans, who notes that Sheraton received a record-setting 8,000 applicants for the job.

His beer credentials include a job as a brewer at the Alaskan Brewing Company.

He travels the country to help publicize Sheraton’s efforts to offer a variety of interesting and often local beers. He also hosts beer dinners and works with chefs at different properties.

“I’ll talk to breweries and people in a certain locality to help me choose or work with the property to choose the right beer for that region,” he says.

His perks include an undisclosed salary and free beer delivered to his door step. He also writes a beer blog for Four Points and is described as a good will ambassador for the growing number of people who are attracted to local - and often smaller - breweries.

It may be not quite as exclusive to be the world’s only chief beer officer, but the Peabody chain of hotels each have a duck master. Jason Sensat has the job at the original Peabody Memphis.

Every day at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. at the Peabody, a red carpet is unrolled and the ducks march to John Philip Sousa’s “King Cotton March” from their rooftop home to the lobby.

Legend has it the idea started back in 1933 when the Peabody general manager and a friend returned from a weekend hunting trip empty-handed. So the two, reportedly after a few drinks, put live duck decoys in the fountain of the hotel’s grand lobby. Guests loved it.

Sensat says his job requires little training - for the ducks, anyway.

“Ducks are such creatures of habit that it is just a matter of getting them into a little bit of a routine, then they are pretty much ‘good to go’. They only require a week of learning to get from Point A to Point B, then they are ready for the big time,” he says.

Apart from his morning marches, Sensat spends most of his time in the hotel lobby chatting with guests. He is also a concierge. He also offers free tours of the hotel and answers various questions about the ducks such as their diet (a type of poultry food supplemented with various vegetables).

Apart from their performance, the ducks live lives of luxury during their three-month stints at the hotel.

“The Duck Palace is exactly what you would expect for a group of in-house celebrities: they have a spectacular view of Memphis overlooking the Mississippi River, they have a private swimming pool, and ceiling fans to keep them cool,” Sensat says.

Sensat’s job may appear routine but there is one dirty aspect of it. He has to also clean up after the ducks (which are not on the hotel’s restaurant menu).

Another job that is filled by a handful is the Maitre d’fromage. Carolyn Stromberg works at that full time at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland. She oversees an inventory of cheeses worth more than $8,000.

“I try to find cheeses that are difficult to find so our guests can try something new,” she says. “I set up the actual cart, which I then bring table-side so I can describe the night’s offerings.”

Perhaps even more unusual is a coin washer, which is the job held by Rob Holsen at San Francisco’s St. Francis Hotel. That came about more than a half century ago when then manager Dan London noticed that women attending weekly fashion shows were soiling their white gloves on the change used to pay for lunch. He decided that all coins used at the St. Francis would be washed.

“In recent years, when I was a cashier at the hotel, we were required to segregate ‘dirty money’ from clean,” says Holsen. Credit cards have replaced ‘dirty money,’ but coins are still around.

“We continue the tradition of coin washing because it represents a tradition of elegance of times past,” Holsen says.

In California, everything’s up to date. So why not a vibe manager?

John Resnick does that at the Hard Rock San Diego where the Cornell University hospitality program graduate is in charge of all music - everywhere from the lobby to the spa. He also selects music in the hotel’s rooftop bar and lounge. When not selecting music, he takes guests on tours.

There’s also a beekeepers job held by David Garcelon at the Fairmont Royal in Toronto. Three rooftop hives are a natural extension of the hotel’s famous 4,000-square-foot rooftop garden on the 14th floor.

“Our bee colonies deliver irrestable honey for our guests and, at the same time, assist with promoting our ecological commitment to bee culture,” he says.

Also with a claim to unusual fame is Taweesak Keereekaew, who cares for the elephants at the Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle in Thailand. “Elephant camp coordinator isn’t a job title seen in many classified ads,” he says.

And about that Fairy Godmother: She’s Denise Webb, who thinks it fitting that the romantic Barnsley (set up in the early 1800s by a man who started it as a memorial to his wife, who died at a young age before it was completed) has such a job title.

“Children want to be treated as adults, and adults want to be treated like children,” she says. “That’s part of what I do in helping to fulfill those dreams.”
David Wilkening    David Wilkening
Associate Editor
Hotel Interactive® Editorial Division

Bio: David Wilkening is a writer specializing in travel and business-real estate writing. His work has appeared in dozens of publications and dot coms. He never met a trip he didn't like. He is a former newspaperman who worked in Chicago, Detroit, Orlando and Washington, DC, where he was a writer and editor covering a wide variety of subjects ranging from politics to feature stories.
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