Four Seasons Hotel Westlake Village, California
- Two Dole Drive, Westlake Village, California, 91362, U.S.A.
Four Seasons Tenure
- Since 1990
- First Four Seasons Assignment: On-Call Banquet Server, Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara
- Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara; Fess Parker Red Lion, Santa Barbara
- Guadalajara City, Mexico
- English, Spanish
While his job description is focused on coordination, supervision and revenue and budget maintenance, staying on top of cultural predilections consumes a lot of Elias Soto’s time. “One day it’s an Indian wedding, the next it’s Armenian,” says the Banquet Director of Four Seasons Hotel Westlake Village, California, rhapsodising on the thrill of assuring wedding clients get hitched in a culturally appropriate manner. “Persian, Kosher, Afghani ... the area we serve is rich with diversity and there’s nothing like a wedding at Westlake Village.”
Soto is among the hotel group’s most steadfast employees, having joined as a banquet server at Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara in 1990. His route to the Resort began quite by chance when he bumped into someone looking for help moving furniture in the human resources office of a nearby hotel. “I went in to enquire about work and he noticed how tall I was,” he recalls, reflecting on the benefits of being 6-foot-1.
Though Soto had no experience at banqueting, he excelled, climbing to chief steward before taking his serving talents to The Biltmore in hopes of additional work during slow periods. He excelled again, rising to Banquet Manager over 16 years and then moving south to Westlake Village as opening Banquet Director. From tables to chairs, dance floors to props, uniforms to serving trays, nearly every aspect of the Hotel’s white-hot banquet operation bears Soto’s stamp.
While Santa Barbara weddings were fairly conventional, the area around Westlake Village is a boiling-over pot of new ideas. Soto works with a diverse team of catering professionals both on-staff and by hire to stay on top of every twist thrown his way. “Everybody desires different food, table settings, decorations, time of day.” Afghani weddings “start late, eat later, and party through the night.” Kosher nuptials require a rabbi to supervise every detail of preparation and event execution. And sweet-toothed Indians invariably have the Hotel’s banquet pastry chefs baking on overdrive.
Wearying? Hardly – even with 45,000 square feet (4180 square metres) of event space, capacity for up to 750, and the potential of running four events at once. “There’s so much to consider, so many connections to make, the sheer volume keeps me focused,” says Soto. “We even had an elephant in here for an Indian wedding once.”
While nuptials are big revenue producers at Westlake Village, the Hotel is currently putting focused effort into increasing corporate events, which have the added benefit of securing a lot of room reservations. While Fortune 500 clients rarely require elephants, they have their own quirks. Soto assures everything is just so through close communication with a range of departments: the banquet kitchen for menus; stewarding for table settings; purchasing for beverage orders; front desk for registration; and the front drive to assure attendees are well met.
If a group is focused on health, he’ll even work with the independent health and wellness institute that can be part of the Westlake Village experience. Whatever the client, his goal is the same: “Take care of the guests and make it a memorable event.”
When not rallying the troops for Westlake Village’s next big event, Soto leads the charge on defense for the Hotel soccer team, which plays in a local hospitality league. “We’re doing okay,” he says, modestly, noting that the team finished third from the bottom out of eight in 2010 but was undefeated as of profile-time in 2011. Just imagine the victory banquet they’ll enjoy if they take the title.