Dana Hauser didn’t start off her university education with aspirations of being a chef. In fact, she dabbled in a number of subjects including psychology, sociology, criminology and French, before she ended up in a culinary program. And from there, she has never looked back.
Hauser is currently Executive Chef with Fairmont Waterfront in Vancouver, and has built her career in Fairmont properties over the past 17 years. It started with a work placement at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge, and from there she was offered an apprenticeship where she attended Calgary Southern Alberta Institute of Technology and received her Red Seal.
“Mentorship is a big part of where I am today, and Fairmont is great with this. People invested in me as a young cook,” says Hauser. But her success has not come without incredible work and dedication. “Tourism is in general very fast-paced, but you get out of it what you put into it.”
Hauser is not only an executive chef, but she was also the first female executive chef with Fairmont. She admits that being female made her career journey challenging at times. “There are not too many female chefs in luxury hotels, but today at Fairmont, the kitchen is about 30 to 40 per cent female,” says Hauser. For aspiring female chefs, her advice is simple: “Have confidence and be yourself; don’t get caught up in being a woman. Mentorship is also key.”
The work of an executive chef is fast-paced and requires strong leadership skills on top of culinary expertise. “Every morning I make rounds and say good morning to the team, conduct quality and line checks, and touch base with the sous chef,” says Hauser. Following that, she attends an operations meeting with department heads. Her afternoon usually includes more meetings related to the many facets of hotel management, such as catering, menu development, staff coaching and training, marketing, media events, clients, and generally being on top of what is happening in the next three to six months.
On top of her busy schedule, Hauser also enjoys contributing back to the community and her volunteer pursuits include working with Hives for Humanity, which teach homeless people how to raise bees and take care of a garden, cooking a Thanksgiving dinner for 400, and raising money for children with rare diseases. “I became a different person through volunteering. I forget about the stress – this is what’s real,” comments Hauser.
When asked for advice for those considering a career in tourism, Hauser suggests to not be afraid to take some risks, and to take time to build relationships with people. “For cooking, don’t stop learning. Read, be passionate, and go all in. People get caught up in the celebrity chef idea, but there are so many levels and opportunities.”