Thursday, March 29, 2012

ProStart Mentor Profile: Tom Pyburn

Tom Pyburn
Human Resources Manager
Emeril’s Home Base 
Armed with more than 25 years of restaurant management and human resource experience, Tom Pyburn has an extensive repertoire of information he brings to John Ehret High School’s ProStart program.
While studying at Loyola University, Tom Pyburn began gathering his industry experience as a server at Commander’s Palace and then Mr. B’s. Upon receiving his undergraduate degree in Communications, he worked in restaurants such as the Broadway Café and Bouligny honing his restaurant management skills.
Now, years later with an MBA in Management from LoyolaChicago, he’s worked in Human Resources for the Ralph Brennan Restaurant Group, Acme Oyster House and for the last six years, for Emeril’s Home Base in New Orleans.
He’s got a history too of working with high school-aged students. For the past four years, he and his fellow Society of Human Resources members have held sessions at the St. Charles Satellite Center on the topics of cover letters, resumes and conducting interviews.
“Many of these students have not had their first jobs yet,” said Pyburn. “The sessions provide an introduction to the process and the do’s and don’ts of the applying and interviewing for a position.”

He’s a firm believer in the school-to-career model of attracting young people to a rewarding career within the restaurant industry or other fields. With an increase in restaurant industry jobs expected in the next five years in Louisiana, the need for mentors continues to increase.
“It’s harder and harder every day to find talent,” Pyburn added. “Working with ProStart is an opportunity to build a relationship with a pool of students who may end up applying for a position at one of Emeril’s restaurants in the future.”
He was tapped in Fall 2011 to work specifically with the John Ehret High School ProStart program. The first of his two sessions so far this school year was designed to expose them to interview process and careers beyond the physical restaurant establishments like finance, human resources and marketing.
“ProStart students are sharp and receptive,” he said. “During the first session, I gave them examples of what’s really important such as a cover letter free of grammatical errors, long run on sentences and irrelevant information.” 

Another common mistake includes using words that aren’t common among the age group. He noted, that poorly written cover letters are worse than no cover letter at all and students should be open to re-writing the cover letter several times if needed, to get it right.
“Many students fret about not having any work experience,” said Pyburn. “I encourage them to include volunteer and church activities or school projects to show that they have been productive.”
The second session with John Ehret was conducted via Skype, a teleconferencing tool Jefferson Parish has been using to enhance the classroom experience from Emeril’s Delmonico. Due to the alcohol restrictions on high school campuses, the Skype method lent itself perfectly for a wine presentation.
“The sommelier gave an overview of the basic types of wine—red, white, sparkling—and the different stemware for each,” Pyburn said. “Also, they were instructed on how to present the bottle, properly uncork it and then to serve it.”
To finish the Skype session, the chef demonstrated the steps to producing a flaming dessert.
“Using Skype was cool. The virtual classroom model allowed us to see them in their classroom and see the individuals asking the questions.”
Pyburn is looking forward to future sessions with the students and feels that mentoring younger individuals is key to building a stronger workforce within Louisiana’s restaurant industry.

If you are interested in sharing your insight, talents and real world industry experience with the next generation, call James Blanchard, ProStart Coordinator, at (504) 454-2277 or

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