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Getting to know Sean Buttrose from Restaurant Associates

Key account manager at Restaurant Associates talks to KarryOn about how he started in the hospitality industry and his unforgettable month in Turkey.

Key account manager at Restaurant Associates talks to KarryOn about how he started in the hospitality industry and his unforgettable month in Turkey.

1. When and how did you get started in travel?

I have worked in the hospitality industry for twenty years. My first opportunity was handed to me by Peter McCloskey of the then “The Mode Group”; I was told I would need to give him one year as a kitchen-hand before he would consider offering an apprenticeship. After one month, Peter announced that I was simply the worst kitchen-hand he had ever come across. He then stated that he could see that I was really into the food preparation and obviously wanted to learn about cooking; so he gave me a shot at an apprenticeship. I have work in a variety of roles and today continue to feel the same thrill in my work as I did back then when I was learning that new trade.


2. What was your most amazing travel experience?

This year I spent most of the month of July in Turkey. My family and I immersed ourselves in the history, culture and food of this amazing country. I was particularly obsessed with Turkeys’ story of coffee, the trade and the cultural change it had stemmed across Europe. This is an amazing country to travel in and the highlight was definitely Goreme, a truly twisted magical place.


3. What is the weirdest job you’ve ever done?

In ’98 I was asked to cook and serve for a private party set on a tidal sand bar of Sydney Harbour. As the tide came in, the guests where progressively immersed in water until reaching the point where all guests abandoned the event and swam for shore. There was much splashing and giggling. I was left to recover what I could and pile it into an inflatable boat. The guests loved it and post a quick freshen-up the party continued at the hosts’ Eastern suburb home.


4. First ever country you travelled to?

My first overseas experience was in Jakarta, Indonesia. I was twelve years old. Satay, tea, Dutch cuisine (the Dutch influence was still quite prevalent from its colonisation which had ended in 1949), poverty, danger, toilets with no toilet paper; there were a lot of new ideas and experiences alien to this Sydney suburban boy. I feel this certainly shaped who I am today and in turn I do my best to afford my children with similar experiences.


5. Wish-list of places yet to visit?

First, Snow Castle of Kemi, Snow Hotel, Finland – I love hotels, and I love snow – so this is a perfect match for me. Startling human ingenuity mixed with astounding artistic vision. I will get there…one day. Read on

Secondly, the Hanging Restaurant, Sanyou Cave, Chang Jiang River, Hubei, China – this restaurant is carved into a cliff face several hundred feet above the gorge below, balconies precariously overhanging the drop. Who wants to dine in a boring old street level restaurant when you can take your life into your own hands and dine on the edge of a cliff? Read on

And thirdly, Lower Lewis River Falls, Washington USA – I’ve travelled to the USA before, but was unaware of this amazing spot at the time. The majestic waterfall surrounded by virgin forest is simply awe inspiring. I hope to get back there soon. What can I say: I’m a sucker for a beautiful forest setting. Read on


6. Who was your biggest mentor/influence growing up?

Growing up I lived within a very strong family unit, my father, an engineer mentored me in relation to work ethic and harboured my love of sailing; my mother, a fulltime mum, definitely moulded my morals and love of cooking; and my three sisters inspired my fashion and music while teaching me respect for others. I can’t say I had one mentor growing up, but combined my family represented one huge influence over me. Funny, you really never think about what a huge impact they had upon you until you answer a question such as this.


7. How has working in travel changed you?

I’m not sure the hospitality industry has changed me. I have never had the type of personality that needed to be pinned down to one location or to one role. I feel my industry has certainly allowed me the opportunities to follow my dreams and to do what I choose.


8. What’s your biggest life achievement to date?

I could list my professional and personal achievements, things that I had never thought possible as a young man leaving school, things that in my mind I am so proud of, but the one singular aspect of my life that I look upon as my biggest achievement is the calm, happy and loving family household my wife and I have created for our two children. I think in this modern world, and in my frenetic industry, this value is left for dust so often. I really make a point to focus on my children every day.


9. What’s one in-flight travel tip?

If you hate turbulence, make sure you request your seat allocation to be as close to the wings as possible. It is a fact that turbulence is felt least whilst sitting in-line with the wings of the plane. For those that like turbulence get yourself a tail end position and enjoy the rollercoaster ride you crazy kids!


11. What advice would you give to someone starting out in the travel industry?

There are a lot of sacrifices when you join any industry. If you are not passionate about it, if you don’t wake up each day with a spring in your step because of your love for the job, then this singular fact will slowly but surely grind you down. That said, there are so many positive opportunities afforded to those whom are turning up each day for the right reasons.

What’s my advice? Well this is actually Anthony Sinatra’s, but I love it;
Bite off more than you can chew….. then chew like hell.

Have a question for Sean? Leave it below and we’ll get you the answer.


Getting to Know You is our good will gesture to promote the TIME program. The TIME program is focused on a Mentor/Mentee relationship that is ‘mentee-driven’. Mentors are drawn from the senior ranks of the industry and have generously volunteered their time and energy to the mentor process. They are matched to Mentees on the basis of non-conflicting business skills and experience that enables them to offer advice and perspective to the Mentee. The role of the Mentor is to hold their Mentee accountable and to offer challenging ideas that will inspire the Mentee, helping to building the individuals self confidence through praise, encouragement and constructive feedback.

If you are interested in joining TIME as a mentor or mentee visit their website