Tampa is well on its way to becoming a “foodie city.” Just ask Tom Haines.
Haines is the general manager of the Epicurean Hotel, the first food-focused hotel in the United States.
Developed in collaboration with the legendary Bern’s Steak House, the Epicurean is located in the heart of South Tampa, which continues to evolve into a vibrant and diverse dining scene.
“Being associated with the Bern’s brand, an owner and partner in the hotel, has been an amazing honor,” said Haines. “They were one of the original food and beverage trail blazers in Tampa Bay, and they continue to be trail blazers.”
Given Haines’ background, it’s fitting that his career brought him to the Epicurean.
From a young age, Haines learned the art of food and hospitality. He spent hours working in his father’s restaurant before attending the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York.
With nearly 30 years of professional experience in the hospitality industry, Haines played a large role in developing the service design of the Epicurean.
In this week’s “5 minutes with Tampa locals,” we ask Haines about his favorite spots, Tampa Bay’s dining scene and more.
♦ Is there anything that has surprised you about the Tampa Bay area?
When I left Tampa 13 years ago, there was not a progressive food scene. Returning 10 years later, I was pleasantly surprised to see how much that had changed and how many great chefs and restaurants now do business here. And we have only scratched the surface.
♦ Tell us about your favorite event in Tampa Bay.
Having worked at a downtown hotel (Hyatt Regency Tampa) for 15 years and being responsible for food and beverage and catering operations, I found myself at ground zero of the Gasparilla Festival for all of those years. I think it is a great event that helps to put our city on the map and helps us compete with the annual events of other major cities.
♦ What is your favorite local restaurant and what is your go-to dish?
Other than our own Élevage Restaurant, my favorite restaurant is the Rooster & the Till and my favorite dish is anything that Chef Ferrell Alvarez is putting in front of me. I always sit at the kitchen bar, don’t look at the menu and let him serve me what he’s excited to cook that day.
♦ What is the best part about your job?
I was given the opportunity to develop the service design for a one-of-a-kind hotel. No other hotel in the country has embraced a culinary-themed hotel the way the Epicurean Hotel has. We are responsible for many firsts in the industry, and the industry is watching. I love working for Mainsail Lodging & Development because it is a cutting-edge, fast-growing company that has allowed me this privilege
♦ How has Tampa’s dining scene evolved within the past five years? Where do you see it going in the next five?
Prior to five years ago, Tampa was recognized as a great city to launch a new corporate concept restaurant. Today, it is recognized for its great chefs and restaurants, not to mention a thriving craft beer scene. I see the city’s food and beverage scene doubling in the next five years and finally being able to compete with other foodie cities.
♦ What do you feel is a “hidden gem” in Tampa Bay?
I think one of the most incredible hidden gems in Tampa is the HB Plant Museum at the University of Tampa. Maybe it’s because I am a hotel geek, but to be able to go back in time to 1891 and to see how the first affluent travelers to Tampa liked to splurge is nothing short of superb. It is the best two hours I have spent in a long time, and I can’t wait to go back.
♦ What are three must-haves on Élevage’s menu?
That’s easy. Shrimp and Grits (it’s the only item on the breakfast, lunch and dinner menu), Homage to Bern steak sandwich and Snapper Veracruz.
♦ What advice would you give to young professionals in Tampa Bay?
Do a great job of interviewing the companies that you are considering to work for. There are many great organizations to work for in Tampa. Find the one that best fits your personal core values, focuses on quality and is willing to take risks. I find it makes life a lot more interesting.
♦ What’s one tip you’d offer to people who are new to the Tampa Bay area?
There is a lot that is going to happen in the downtown corridor, Seminole Heights and in SoHo in the next few years. These are the areas you should be looking to live in or invest in. Exciting times are ahead for sure.
♦ Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about you?
When I am not wearing my GM hat at the Epicurean Hotel, I have the pleasure of assisting my wife with her vintage chic and antique business, known as the Rusty Gate. She got in the business 15 years ago after a 15-year teaching career in Hillsborough County and is as passionate about it as I am about the hotel industry. If there is free time left, I love freshwater kayaking and fishing or anything that takes place on or near the water. My wife and I met when I was still in high school, and we have been happily married for nearly 32 years.
Editor’s note: This post was edited for style and readability.
Author: Olivia Stacey, TBO seen
Retrieved from: http://www.tboseen.com/seen-and-heard/5-minutes-with-epicurean-general-manager-tom-haines-20150407/
Date of published: April 7, 2015
Date of visited: August 4, 2015