Rhode Island Restaurant Leaders Recall Their Path to Success

Heads of Rhode Island AAA Diamond Designated restaurants offer sage advice to aspiring culinary professionals.
rhode island AAA diamond awards

AAA Four and Five Diamond Designated restaurants Gracie’s and COAST are AAA Diamond Award recipients once again.

During a recent ceremony held in their honor, leaders from each restaurant discussed what’s helped them to become two of Rhode Island’s top dining establishments.

To become a AAA Diamond property, rigorous inspections are conducted by trained experts for specific, objective criteria, including experience, service and cleanliness. A Four Diamond property is considered distinctive fine dining that is well-serviced amid an upscale ambiance, while a Five Diamond Designation is considered world-class luxury where the amenities are an indulgence for once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

An upscale bistro located in Downtown Providence, Gracie’s received its 11th consecutive AAA Four Diamond Award this year. It’s also the only restaurant to earn the recognition in all of Providence County. COAST, located within the Ocean House hotel in Westerly – a Five Diamond Property in its own right – has earned its Five Diamond Designation four years in a row.

After receiving their awards a the AAA-hosted event, Gracie’s owner Ellen Slattery and Scott Pinocci, director of restaurants for Ocean House, shared their wealth of industry experience and tips in an interactive question and answer session for aspiring culinary and hospitality professionals. Questions ranged from, “What was your career trajectory?” to “What kind of music do you listen to while you cook?” (Classical for Slattery and blues, hip-hop and jazz for Pinocci.)

rhode island restaurant award

When asked to discuss their leadership style, Pinocci remarked, “As a leader, you want to be able to see everyone for the individual that they are and really make sure you’re giving everyone the opportunities and the tools that they need to grow.” Slattery agreed, saying “when you can, individualize how you’re guiding someone based off what their strengths are, not what your strengths are.”

Looking back on her career, Slattery wished she had given herself more time. “At 27, I really had a lot of ambition, and I didn’t think that I could fail. I would say, looking back, that I wish I had developed more of a plan and taken business classes. I wish I had developed more before I put everything in. I learned the hard way!”

As far as where he sees the next wave of culinary trends going, Pinocci encourages those looking to get into the hospitality industry to not follow trends and forge their own path. “Don’t just copy and paste things that you see on Instagram. All of these cool ideas only fit a certain place. Understand your community and what works there first,” he said. “You’re the next generation of chefs and restaurateurs. You are the benchmark. You are the needle. Wherever you take this is where it goes. It’s not preset. And you have all the opportunity to do it.”

Get recipes from AAA Diamond Designated restaurants.

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