Last week, the White House celebrated the one year anniversary of the Pledge to America’s Workers. This executive order, which was signed on July 19, 2018, established the National Council for the American Worker, a group charged with developing a national strategy for training and retaining workers across high-demand industries.
The American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA), as well as the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Foundation (AHLEF), signed the Pledge to America’s Workers and have worked extensively to develop training programs that bring new talent to the hospitality industry, such AHLEF’s Empowering Youth Project and AHLA’s apprenticeship program. AHLA President and CEO Chip Rogers, along with graduates of AHLA and AHLEF’s programs, attended the celebration. One Empowering Youth Project graduate, Johnny Brummit, addressed the celebration attendees, which included President Trump. Now a breakfast cook at the Aloft Hotel in downtown Orlando, 19-year-old Brummit described how AHLEF’s program helped him build the foundation of a lifelong career in hospitality.
LODGING caught up with Johnny after the event to talk about his experience at the White House, what he learned through the Empowering Youth Project, and what he sees in his future in hospitality.
How did you first get involved in the hospitality industry?
I first came to hospitality in my hometown of Orlando, Florida, with Second Harvest Food Bank [Editor’s note: AHLEF supported Second Harvest’s initiatives with a $25,000 grant this past March]. They were helping me learn the skills and earn the certifications I needed to get a job in the hotel industry.
What was the training experience like?
The job training was great because it was hands-on. Second Harvest gave me great instruction on knife skills, presentation skills, and plating food. Not only that, they gave me a real-life example of how to go about things when you’re in the kitchen. This was really good, because sometimes the kitchen can be very intense.
The experience was very inspirational and it taught me a lot—from cooking to handling myself and handling other people, and not showing my emotions if things got heated. Everyone just wants to do their best and put out the best for guests.
I also learned that I love the kitchen and I love restaurants. The kitchen, that’s me. I love the rush. I love the rapidness of it. I love how much I can accomplish in a short time.
We heard that beyond speaking, you also went on a tour of the White House kitchen yesterday. How was that?
That was incredible. It was only me. I got to see the back of the house and to speak with the head chef, which was great. It was such an experience because not everyone gets to go to the White House, and not only that, go and see the kitchen. One day I hope to work in a kitchen as big as that one.
After completing this program and working in the hotel industry, what does your future look like?
I’m looking forward to big things. This is only just the beginning. I know bigger things are yet to come. I want to learn more about cooking and grow into management roles. They say that the sky is the limit, but no, you can reach for the stars, too. Go above and beyond the sky. I also want to make food out of love. That’s what I was taught by my grandmother.
I also just want to say, this is such an opportunity and being here in Washington, D.C., has been a great life experience. I really want to thank Second Harvest and the American Hotel & Lodging Association for everything and the opportunity that they have given me.