Newsmaker: Gabor Eller
Gabor Eller, vice president, food and beverage, Thunder Valley Casino Resort
Gabor Eller likes work that is “dynamic and fast-paced,” so he’s very happy being vice president of food and beverage at Thunder Valley Casino Resort.
“There are so many opportunities to do new things here, including putting in new restaurant concepts,” he said. “The 14 restaurants and bars at Thunder Valley include the Red Lantern, which offers authentic Chinese dishes and is absolutely the best Chinese restaurant in the Sacramento market, and our steak house, called High Steaks, which seems appropriate.”
Thunder Valley has 2,500 employees, Eller said, and 800 of them are involved in preparing and serving food and beverages.
The resort, which opened near Lincoln in 2003, is owned by the United Auburn Indian Community, and has 300 rooms. It has almost 3,000 slot machines and 114 table games.
German-born Eller learned his business there and in France before coming to the United States in 1989. He worked in hotels New York, Florida, Arizona and Colorado before being recruited by Thunder Valley in May of 2010.
He’s still learning, he said. “I love to travel and check out hotels.”
How did you happen to pick your career?
When I was about 17 my father had told me that if I were in the food business I would always find work because people always need to eat. I had a culinary apprenticeship in a brand new five-star resort hotel in Frankfurt when I was 19. I discovered that I loved that line of work, the creativity, the cooking. It was very dynamic, requiring you to be on your toes all the time.
In Germany, the natural progression in the trade is to learn the trade first, and when you are a certified culinarian, then you can look into management. The trade background is essential, especially in the hospitality industry.
When I finished the apprenticeship my first job was in the dishwashing department at a large hotel near the Frankfurt airport. So I’ve had to do a little bit of everything.
What was the career path that brought you to Thunder Valley?
I was told that if I wanted to be in the food and beverage industry I had to learn about French cooking, so I spent two years in Paris about that time. My mother, who traveled extensively because she had a clothing business, knew some hotel managers and one of them gave me a job.
Since I knew I wanted to be a hotel restaurant manager, I decided to go back to school and enrolled in the premier hotel-restaurant school in Germany, the University of Heidelberg. In my last semester there I was recruited by the Hyatt Hotel Corporation and to go through Hyatt management training program at its hotel in New York, and after I graduated I did that in 1989.
I worked in the Grand Hyatt in New York for a year, then at a variety of others in different cities, including seven years with Hilton Hotels in San Jose and Phoenix. I had been the director of food and beverage in the Ameristar Luxury Resort in Black Hawk, Colo., for five years when I was recruited by Thunder Valley.
I’m on the board of the California Restaurant Association. I like to contribute to the restaurant community personally.
Is Gabor a German name?
No, it’s a common Hungarian name, as common as “Michael” is here. My father left Hungary in 1956 during the Hungarian uprising against Communism. He went first to Switzerland, where he met my mother, who was from an old established German family and was a student at the University of Geneva. They married and moved to Germany.
I did all the things German boys did when I was growing up. I played football – what you call soccer – and I skied. I still love to ski, and recently spent four days skiing at Squaw Valley.
WHO IS HE?
Vice president, food and beverage, Thunder Valley Casino Resort
• Born in Frankfurt, Germany.
• Education: B.A., hotel management, Heidelberg University
HIS FAVORITE THINGS
• Book: “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz
• Movie: “The Departed”
• Restaurant: Obviously, Red Lantern and High Steaks at Thunder Valley
• Vacation spot: Hawaii, Northern California coast, Europe
• Music: Smooth jazz, classical, upbeat
• Hobbies: Fitness, skiing, golf, eating out in Sacramento or San Francisco, traveling and checking out hotels.
• Quote: “Integrity means keeping your word and honoring your promise.” Author unknown
• Hero: My grandmother, who built a successful clothing business from 1930 until the ’80s.
• Pet peeve: Lack of quality guest service.