When looking back at Rohit Nambiar's professional history in the hospitality industry, it really is like a dream come true. The Bombay, India native recently left the exquisite Four Seasons Hotel, after working with the company since his arrival to the United States in 1997, to collaborate with his wife, co-executive chef Sarah Stegner, and join the Prairie Grass Cafe team.
As general manager and director of the restaurant's wine program, Nambiar shows only excitement for this new adventure that is also a family affair. "Colleagues have always joked that Sarah and I should work together at some point, so this is all very natural," he adds with a warm, reflective smile.
Nambiar's background in the hospitality industry is worldly and extensive. He was first exposed to the business through an aunt and uncle who own five high-end hotels in India. They encouraged him to build a career in the hospitality industry and gain exposure to all facets of the business.
Nambiar started his career at pastry school in Bombay. He attended for one year and then spent another year at a local hospitality school, Sophia Hotel Management, before his aunt and uncle brought him on board to work at The Leela in Bombay where he worked in the front office.
Having developed a strong liking for the business, he pursued professional studies in a four-year management program at Les Roches, in Switzerland. The first part of the program was devoted to food and beverage.
"I liked to be in the kitchen but I liked working with guests the most," Nambiar admits. Les Roches' program gave Nambiar opportunities to work in some excellent hotels during his schooling, and when he made the move to the United States, his intention was to train with the best and bring his knowledge and skill back home. "My aunt and uncle were considering opening a Four Seasons Hotel in India, a business deal that subsequently fizzled," Nambiar explains.
His first eight months in the United States were at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Chicago and, yes, that is where he met his wife Sarah. While working for this prestigious hotel company he became a first level sommelier, a background and love he brings to Prairie Grass Cafe.
"I got to taste the wines, high end wines, really fine wines while training at the Four Seasons and since that groundwork it has been a passion of mine that I am excited to bring to this restaurant."
Expect to see a selection of wines that ranges regionally, with about half being American wines and the rest being choice options from France, Italy and Australia (prices by the bottle will range from $25-$200 a bottle and $6-$12 a glass.)
Regardless of Nambiar's worldly training and professional history working with the hospitality elite, his philosophy about customer service and the role of his staff is actually quite simple. He expects a good attitude that compliments the easy atmosphere of Prairie Grass Cafe. He is confident that the friendly service will make the customers feel relaxed and adds that, "good service comes from within, it's not only about being polite and efficient, it's about anticipating guests' needs before they even realize what they want."
Prairie Grass Cafe's co-executive chef Stegner proudly chimes in, "Rohit has amazing name and face recognition." It's a great skill to have when building a first-class North Shore restaurant that is casual and family friendly. Perhaps one of the greatest gifts that Prairie Grass Cafe has to offer is the promise of wonderfully delicious homemade meals that are matched by the gracious homespun service that accompanies them. Prairie Grass Cafe will no doubt have patrons returning for more of the same.