Four Seasons New Orleans sets out to hire hundreds in a rare bit of positive hospitality news

The Four Seasons Hotel and Private Residences, which is set to open in late spring, has started a hiring drive to bring on 500 staff by year-end, a rare bright spot in a New Orleans hospitality sector that has been devastated by the coronavirus pandemic.

The $530 million renovation of the former World Trade Center, located at the Mississippi River end of Canal Street, is nearly completed and some of the private condominiums have been sold. The hotel part of the operation, which will have 341 rooms and include two restaurants, a pool and spa, and several ballrooms, will gradually be opened from around late May, according to general manager Mali Carow.

Most of the senior directors have now been hired and the Four Seasons has begun to seek online applications for hundreds of other positions it expects to fill by the end of the year, Carow said.

“In February, we’re getting the word out about what we’re hiring, who we are and the type of personality that we’re looking for to make sure everyone has an opportunity to be aware and knows how to apply,” Carow said.

The new jobs offer a small bit of hope in the still moribund New Orleans tourism industry. Thousands of cooks, waiters, housecleaners, bartenders and other workers have lost jobs since the pandemic virtually halted tourism last year.

The slow vaccine rollout and still-high coronavirus case count has scuttled most of New Orleans’ spring festival season as well, but hospitality leaders are hopeful that visitors may start to return in the summer or fall.

Most of the Four Seasons jobs will have a start date later in the year. Initially, Carow said she expects to hire up to 30 people for food and beverage jobs, another 25 for housekeeping and other room service jobs, and 20 for the security division.

By the end of the year, Carow said she expects that half the hiring will be for food and beverage jobs, including chefs, servers, bartenders and those in “stewarding” roles.

Essence Banks, a native of the Ninth Ward who cut her teeth at the Sheraton on Canal Street and other area hotels, was hired in January as head of training for the hotel. She said she knows many people in the New Orleans hospitality industry who have been furloughed or lost their jobs during the pandemic, including her husband who works at seafood restaurant GW Fins in the French Quarter.

“It breaks my heart to see so many of my colleagues furloughed and then their positions eliminated,” said Banks. “We really are fortunate to be in this position during the pandemic and I’m really looking forward to things improving this year.”

Some of the key positions Carow is looking to fill now include an executive chef for the yet-to-be-named ground floor restaurant under development by Pomegranate Hospitality, the firm founded three years ago by Israeli-born chef Alon Shaya and his wife, Emily.

The hotel is also looking for a general manager for that restaurant who will also run the adjacent lobby bar, which will be located immediately to the left as guests enter the hotel from Convention Center Boulevard.

Another key search is for a guest services manager, the person who will run the lobby area.

One recent senior executive hire was Christopher Jordan as director of food and beverage. He has been in a similar role at Four Seasons hotels in the Middle East for most of the past decade. Jordan started out in the business in California as a baker and pastry chef.

The Four Seasons hiring drive will be done mostly online, with phone or video interviews initially, Carow said. Final interviews will take place at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in March.

The hiring event will be the first at the convention center since it was shut last year and partially converted to a step-down medical center for patients recovering from COVID-19.

Tim Hemphill, the convention center’s marketing manager, said they have set aside 50,000 square feet to host the event for several hundred people.

It’s far from the multi-thousand-people events the center usually hosts.

“But the fact they’re new neighbors and a big part of the hotel room block when we get back to normal, we’re very happy to have them,” Hemphill said.

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