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Building menus and relationships

Australia’s QT Hotels & Resorts recently hired Georgie Neal as the boutique hotel brand’s first “QT forager.” Neal’s professional background includes experience in fields ranging from food-industry consulting to TV production, but one thing that ties it all together is her experience building relationships — a key component of her new position.

I asked Neal about some of the specifics of her pioneering role for QT and what goals are at the top of her to-do list.

Ann Bagel Storck: What most attracted you to this job?

Georgie Neal: It was the perfect combination of all the things I love: collaborating with inspirational, creative producers and having the opportunity to showcase the extraordinary work they do; celebrating seasonal diversity and regional specialties; and helping to develop a greater understanding of the work that goes into producing the food we eat and the intrinsic value we should place on it.

ABS: How do you expect your role to be different from a more traditional food buyer position?

GN: I could never envision buying from someone unless I had taken the time to go and see them — to understand how they work, to see things first hand but most importantly to show an interest and respect for what they do.

There is also scope to work with producers to grow especially for us, which offers amazing diversity in a typical day. Consequently I’m in the car and on the phone all the time, but I wouldn’t change a thing — it’s the most rewarding position I can think of.

ABS: What is one concrete way you hope to establish close relationships with farmers and growers?

GN: In a very simple way I think this comes down to being sincere in the desire to support and promote what they do. It’s about investing in their years of expertise and knowledge.

“I could never envision buying from someone unless I had taken the time to go and see them — to understand how they work, to see things first hand but most importantly to show an interest and respect for what they do.” – Georgie Neal
“I could never envision buying from someone unless I had taken the time to go and see them — to understand how they work, to see things first hand but most importantly to show an interest and respect for what they do.” – Georgie Neal

True commitment to the importance of quality, provenance and freshness in the produce we use will always come back to this.

ABS: What is the biggest thing you hope to have accomplished in this position a year from now?

GN: I’d like to see a strong presence of local produce featured on all the menus of QT Hotels & Resorts properties, a real celebration of the seasons and an eagerness in us as diners and cooks to embrace the underlying importance of the food choices we make.

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