Sun, Jan. 19

Rising above disaster

Like so many other Katrina refugees, she hasn't been back to New Orleans. Not since Aug. 20, when what began as a whitewater rafting trip for Jaime Goldsmith morphed into an unexpected odyssey that landed her in the new director of restaurant's position at the Hilton Sedona Resort & Spa.

Goldsmith fulfills general manager Lynn Ericksen's vision of a great "front door" manager for Hilton's Grille at ShadowRock.

"Although the circumstances around Jaime's coming to us are tragic and difficult, we feel very fortunate to have someone of her talents with us. She is a wonderful addition to an already great team."

As a rising star in the Hilton family, Goldsmith supervised Hilton New Orleans Riverside complex's 150-person team that included Kabby's Sports Edition & Grill, Kabby's On The River fine dining and the Riverside Conference Center. August, being hot and slower, afforded Goldsmith some time for an adventure and a visit to her mother's home in Missouri. When Katrina hit she was heartsick not knowing where her friends and colleagues were.

"I was supposed to be back at work on the Tuesday just two days after Katrina hit the city. On Monday I was watching CNN and saw people I knew going into to the Superdome. Then I watched in amazement as our hostess at the Hilton's La Croissant restaurant was interviewed. That was really hard. I still don't know what happened to her."

More news came via e-mail. "My girlfriend's boyfriend and his mother were rescued off their roof. One of my cats was rescued, but I don't know about my other one," Goldsmith says.

After getting a status report from the regional office of Hilton, Goldsmith began to look for another job in the Hilton family, updating her resume and sending it out through the Hilton network.

"When I got an e-mail from Hilton Sedona, I got really excited," she remembers.

Encouraged to come out for an interview, Goldsmith headed to the Hilton Sedona with a newly purchased wardrobe and a good job offer from Hilton's Palmer House in Chicago.

"I still wanted to interview in Sedona, and when I met with some of the key staff, I liked them immediately. Then I sat down with general manager Lynn Ericksen. He sold me. Lynn has such great energy and vision for the resort. He is totally committed to making the Grille at ShadowRock an exceptional eating establishment. He offered me the position on the spot and I accepted."

According to Goldsmith, Hilton has the resources to create affordable, high-end restaurants in places like Sedona where the cuisine is localized, unique and allows the executive chef to be really creative.

"I am especially excited that the Grille at ShadowRock's menu has been transformed into regional Southwest cuisine. It's taken months to get just the right balance. I'm scrambling to learn all the local ingredients and exquisite flavors that make up authentic Southwest dining. The renovation at the Grille was recently completed, and it feels very warm and inviting," asserts Goldsmith. "We really have something very special to offer our guests and the greater Sedona community."

Overseeing Sunday brunches for 300 and Super Bowl parties for 600 at Kabby's, Goldsmith is finding ways to infuse that experience into the Hilton resort.

"Thanksgiving is just around the corner and we plan to serve 300 guests in the ballroom. We'll have an a la carte menu in the restaurant. We also have plans for the holidays that will be very attractive to our guests and local clientele as well. We're looking at presenting wine pairing dinners and we're just completing plans to offer special chef's tables for dinner parties of eight."

Goldsmith also plans to continue to be visible as the word gets out that great Southwest dining is being offered at the Grille.

"I do a lot of table visits and meet a lot of locals. All they can talk about is how great the food is. At the end of the day that's what it's all about."

The Grille at Shadowrock is located in the Hilton Sedona Resort & Spa complex, 90 Ridge Trail Drive, in Sedona. Call 284-6909 for reservations.

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