Meet the Makers Series – Part 2

This holiday season we are thinking about those special moments that stand out to us year-after-year. While the holiday season looks different this year, what makes it more special than ever in some ways, is the ongoing commitment that our Sonesta family has to exceptional hospitality, a warm welcome, and going above and beyond for our guests.

In our Meet the Makers series, we go behind the scenes to learn what some of our associates love about the holidays, their traditions, and what they look forward to. Stay tuned for future blog posts to help you get in the spirit this year and perhaps create your own traditions with inspiration from ours!

Read the first post in the series.

Jason Routzahn
Executive Chef, Royal Sonesta New Orleans

What puts you in the holiday spirit?
Decorations! I always put up my Christmas decorations the day after Thanksgiving. The first box I unpack is the one that has all my favorite Christmas music in that I like to play as I decorate. It takes me a little over two weeks to do all my decorations, so I have plenty of time to get into the spirit ha-ha.

Describe your favorite November/December holiday tradition.
One of my favorite traditions is during the day I decorate. The day after Thanksgiving while decorating I always stop to have lunch. That’s right a COLD turkey sandwich! Nothing fancy… just some fresh white bread, cold leftover turkey, salt & pepper, and Lots of mayo! I dream about this day even during Thanksgiving Day when I’m cooking the turkey! ha-ha

What’s your favorite holiday food and what makes it special?
Have you ever heard or sung the song “We wish you a Merry Christmas” Well Figgy Pudding is a real thing!…it’s not just a song lyric… it’s really good…. Warm, fluffy, not to sweet but just the right comfort for a dessert and it screams Christmas…..it reminds me of a warm bread pudding. My Figgy Pudding is special to me because I got the recipe from my grandmother who said she always wanted to make it but never did. So, in honor of her the first Christmas after she passed, I made it…took a couple of tries and tweaks but I had a perfect Figgy Pudding then on out. Even till this Holiday I make some every year for friends or family at my annual Christmas party.

How does your hotel go above and beyond to guests during the holidays?
I’d like to think my property goes above and beyond all year long! However, one thing that I love is that our hotel does amazing decorations. From all the entrances to the balconies on bourbon and lobby that is lined and lined with beautiful REAL Christmas trees decorated differently every year…it’s like walking into a stunning winter wonderland right here in New Orleans!

Pete Ells
General Manager, Royal Sonesta Houston

What puts you in the holiday spirit? Thanksgiving kicks off the holidays for me. We put lights and decorations up, etc. . . and enjoy that great smell of food all day in the kitchen.

Describe your favorite November/December holiday tradition
The tree lighting and fireworks display in the Galleria has been a lot of fun to attend. We always let the kids open a present the night before Christmas and its always pajamas. They are now 34 31 and 29 and they still get a pair of pajamas at Christmas.

What’s your favorite holiday food and what makes it special?
We do a smoked prime rib that is awesome. Smokes all day and is incredibly tender when done. Also Banana Cream pie that my wife makes from scratch. Kids demand the Banana Cream Pie.

How does your hotel go above and beyond to guests during the holidays?
We do the tree lighting package that has become a nice tradition for local families to come stay and enjoy the champagne / dessert buffet on our parking deck while watching tree lighting and fireworks.

Rick Nickle
Director of Sales & Marketing, Royal Sonesta Chicago Riverfront

What puts you in the holiday spirit?
The weather! The first snowfall in Chicago is typically mid-November and will always make me think the holidays are approaching! I love the first snow as it looks so clean and peaceful.

Describe your favorite November/December holiday tradition.
Christmas Eve at my parents’ house! Every year, my parents’ host an open house party where as many as 200 people come in and out of their small Chicago house. My mother, who was formally a banquet captain, is from Italy. So the feast of the 7 fishes is always present (in actuality, it is the feast of the 12 fishes). My father reads “Twas the Night Before Christmas” for all the children there in a semi-liquored state just before midnight and games are played all night. The party always goes until at least 3AM. A favorite memory of mine was cooking breakfast at 7AM for 20 people, six of whom we had just met the night prior that became lifelong friends!

What’s your favorite holiday food and what makes it special?
Coquilles St. Jacques! If you are asking what this is, you need to try it (scallops are the main ingredient for anyone who may be allergic to them). My father taught me how to make the soup with him when I was 3. It takes a few hours to make, so the conversations we have had while making this meal together for over 40 years is something I will always cherish. It is delicious, but the company I make it with means so much more to me!

How does your hotel go above and beyond to guests during the holidays?
We always have a “Festival of the Lights” party! As the city turns on the holiday lights on Michigan Ave., the hotel creates a gathering spot for attendees by bringing in the big guy – Santa! There are games, gifts, cookie decorating for the children. But, we do not forget about the adults either. Craft Holiday Cocktails are sought after to warm the adult bodies!

Kara Mason
Revenue Manager, Sonesta Suites Scottsdale Gainey Ranch

What puts you in the holiday spirit?
I have always loved celebrating Thanksgiving and then seeing people decorate the outside of their homes over that weekend! I loved driving around and looking at Christmas lights as a little girl and something about seeing them brings back the magic of the holiday season!

Describe your favorite November/December holiday tradition.
My immediate family gathers for Christmas, whereas my whole family gets together for Thanksgiving. Since it is a much smaller group, we keep things very casual. We all wear our pajamas all day and enjoy a relaxed day! It is just a lot of fun, food, and family!

What’s your favorite holiday food and what makes it special?
I love my Nanny’s pumpkin pie! It was a recipe handed down to her from her grandmother and we use the same recipe today. My aunt and sister have taken over the pie baking responsibilities, since my grandmother celebrated her 90th birthday in January, but it is still my favorite part of Thanksgiving and Christmas. . . pumpkin pie!

How does your hotel go above and beyond to guests during the holidays?
While we don’t have any property specific holiday events hosted here, our hotel has always had “family” mindset. We always welcome every guest and treat them like they are part of our Sonesta Suites Scottsdale Gainey Ranch family. I think this impression is felt even more during the holidays! Our lobby is decorated and we have Christmas lights around the exterior of the hotel as well. It is like a home away from home for our guests and I feel like they feel that they are at “home” for the holidays!

Interested in learning more about our team’s holiday traditions? Visit our Holiday Recipes series.

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