Name: John Reis, CFBE
Occupation: Corporate Executive Chef, Hilton Harrisburg
Chef John Reis has a world of experience in the culinary arts. After coming to the United States from Portugal with his family at the age of 12, Chef Reis started cooking and hasn't stopped since. He worked and learned his way into his first executive chef position at just 23 years old. Since joining the Hilton Harrisburg in 1990, Chef Reis has overseen culinary efforts for the Hilton, The Hilton Garden Inn Hershey, Central Penn College Conference Center and Bricco. Most recently, he led the culinary team in developing menus for the Hilton Harrisburg’s Ad Lib Craft Kitchen & Bar and 1700 Degrees Steakhouse. We asked Chef Reis a few questions to learn more about life as a hotel executive chef.
1. What does a typical day at work look like for you?
I usually come to work at 7am and leave around 6pm unless we have banquets or other events. Then I stay until we serve dinner or I feel comfortable. I will check with all my sous chefs before I leave.
2. Why did you choose this career/industry?
My passion for cooking started growing up as one of 4 boys in my family. I started cooking for my brothers since both of my parents worked. During high school, I helped cook with the lunch ladies to feed the students.
3. What was your first job in the industry?
My first job was in Hartford, Connecticut as a prep cook while I was going to high school. I started working after school at the Hotel America, which then became the Sonesta Hotel and then The Summit Hotel.
4. Briefly describe your career path and how you got to where you are today.
Like I mentioned before, I started working when I was only 15 years old as a prep cook. In those days, kitchens were set up very European style, with stations including:
5. What is the most challenging part of your job?
The most challenging part of my job is to make all my staff feel the passion that I have for their job. Our job is different than any other one—without passion for what we do, the final result is not the best and the customers now expect that.
6. What advice would you give to students interested in pursuing a career in culinary?
The advice that I have is to treat cooking not just as a job, but as a playground, where we need to have fun at what we do.
7. What achievement are you most proud of?
My greatest achievement that I am most proud of was to be able to open two brand new kitchens from the ground up and becoming one of the youngest executive chefs at 23 years old.
8. What do you like to do when you’re not working?
My work is my life, but I still like to cook at home. With three grandkids, and two of them living up the street from me, it is nice to see them almost daily. I also like the sun, so I like to go to our local pool when I am off or work out in the yard on a nice sunny day.
9. Favorite thing to make (or eat)?
Since I am Portuguese, I like foods with a lot of flavors, especially garlic, tomatoes and paprika. I am a very simple eater- some of my favorites are meatloaf, eggplant Parmesan, and pastas.
Thanks for following along this National Culinary Arts Month! To learn more about culinary career options, visit: https://careerpath.chooserestaurants.org/job-titles.html
PA ProStart Blog
The PA ProStart Blog is for Pennsylvania students and teachers of the ProStart Program- a nationwide, two-level high school career and technical education program that teaches culinary arts and restaurant fundamentals.