Hospitality leader and culinary guru Tony Sosa has had a long and exciting career in the food service industry, all leading up to his current role of associate director at New Horizons at Marlborough. This latest professional endeavor will see him managing dining operations for the more than 400 seniors who call the not-for-profit retirement community home.
What got you started in a career in hospitality?
I started as a waiter, and I loved the job. I loved the excitement. I met a great, diverse group of people and took to it very quickly. Within a few months, my boss was telling me to keep an eye on things while he stepped away. I was able to quickly progress and got to see all levels of that type of environment, from waiter all the way up to managerial roles. Eventually, I got my culinary degree from Cambridge School of Culinary Arts so that I wasn’t just “the guy with the tie” telling folks what to do.
As someone who has seen just about every aspect of the restaurant business, what would you say is the most fun aspect of it?
Definitely taking care of the guests. Everybody loves food. Food is life. No matter what kind of dining room you are running, no matter what kind of food you serve, the ability to give guests a satisfying experience and see those same faces come back night after night is such a great feeling as a professional. I always tell my staff: Take care of the guests and take care of each other. Everything else will fall into place.
How do you think your previous roles will inform how you carry out your responsibilities at New Horizons at Marlborough?
My most recent employer was a very large food provider, and I was responsible for operations on a national scale. At that level, you learn very quickly how valuable good organization and trust are toward making sure your team succeeds. That is why I am so focused on those traits here. Build trust and focus on working as a team, and I believe everything else will just come naturally.
What initially attracted you to New Horizons at Marlborough?
I was first exposed to New Horizons when searching for an independent living community for my mother. When I saw the job posting, I was immediately reminded of the positive impression I’d formed when I toured the community with my mom. And on top of that, I was very excited to have a chance to be involved with Cummings Foundation and all the good work it does.
What would you say is one of your guiding principles now that you’re working at New Horizons?
As the population ages, there is more need for more sophisticated food services. The residents we have today likely have a very different, more diverse palate than, say, those we had 10 or 20 years ago. Back then, you wouldn’t expect to serve sushi or Indian food in a senior living community. Nowadays, that’s a real possibility. People have been exposed to a lot more, and they’re expecting a lot more. After we talk with the community and find out what the residents want to see on the menu, we’re going to try to give it to them.
Do you have any potential menu changes you’d be able to share with us?
Not just yet. I am still new, so my top priority right now is getting to meet everyone in the community. I want to hear everyone’s input because, at the end of the day, that’s what matters the most. I have some ideas about where things could go, but taking care of the residents and the staff is always going to be the most important thing to me.
Have you gotten much feedback yet?
Actually yes. Most of what I’ve been doing the last few days has been talking with the residents in the dining room and getting their input on the program as it stands. My biggest takeaway so far is that they’re happy with the menu and they’re excited about the prospect of incorporating even more variety. I think a big priority will be trying to keep things fresh and interesting as best we can.
Can you describe some of the procedures New Horizons at Marlborough are following to minimize the risk of COVID-19?
New Horizons has been taking COVID very seriously since the beginning. Initially, they restricted dining to room service only to keep things as safe as possible. Right away, they made it mandatory for all staff and residents to wear face coverings, maintain social distancing, and sanitize surfaces frequently. Senior leadership made some incredibly impressive and effective efforts right out of the gate to make sure everyone in the community complied with the CDC guidelines and the Executive Office of Elder Affairs protocols. When the National Guard came out and conducted widespread testing, we turned up zero positive cases. Since the pandemic started, there have only been two cases we have been aware of, and neither of those has been in the last four months. As we gradually open the dining rooms back up, we are keeping tables spread out to make sure we stay true to the social distancing guidelines.
Any closing thoughts?
My wife likes to say that I’m custom-made for this job. Because of my professional experience, I’m well equipped to manage the dining program and work with the food. But I also really get along well with older people. I enjoy sitting and talking with them. The residents I’ve met since I started here have all been so friendly and welcoming. So, if I have to close with anything, it’s that I’m very excited to be doing what I love professionally in a community of such great people.