Ever since it opened in January, the Ritz-Carlton’s Jack Dusty has been creating buzz—and not just in Sarasota—for redefining the luxury hotel restaurant. There’s nothing stodgy or quiet about the place, which is triumphantly achieving its goal as a bustling hotspot for locals as well as hotel guests. Other Ritz-Carltons are taking note. Food and beverage director James Cole, 31, was involved in every aspect of Jack Dusty’s conception and execution.
You started at the Ritz-Carlton just over a year ago. What were your first impressions?
“When you first arrive, usually the general manager will say, ‘Take the first six months, get to know what’s going on in the hotel.’ I got a very different introduction, which was more like, ‘Take the next six minutes, get to know what’s going on at the resort, and then get ready to make a significant change.’”
What’s the Jack Dusty concept?
“We always knew we would be a seafood-based restaurant, and we wanted to encourage both local and hotel guests to lounge in the restaurant with a cocktail. Being on the coast and being passionate about crafted cocktails, the two merged seamlessly.”
The biggest challenge?
“The operational aspects—first we opened a pop-up restaurant, which had its own concept, and then transitioned that pop-up into what Jack Dusty is now. It takes a lot of moving parts—everything was a decision.”
What’s your favorite dish and drink on the Jack Dusty menu?
“My favorite drink is Cigar City Brewery’s Jai Alai IPA. And my favorite meal is the cioppino—it’s the perfect combination of ingredients.”
Do you want to stay in the food and beverage industry?
“I want to stay in hospitality. The idea, much like starting off as a waiter and growing into a restaurant manager, would be to eventually grow to be a general manager of a property.”
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