Catering at the Zoo Hires New Executive Chef, Sales Manager
SYRACUSE, NY, May 14, 2021 - Friends of the Rosamond Gifford Zoo has added two heavy hitters to its Catering at the Zoo team as the zoo’s events venue seeks to emerge from a pandemic year off as one of the region’s premier catering and event locations.
Former Sherwood Inn and 11 Waters Chef Daniel Hudson is the new executive chef for Catering at the Zoo, and Stephanie Brooks, an events expert formerly with Maine-based Compass Rose Events, is the new catering sales manager, Friends of the Zoo Director of Food and Beverage Chuck Anthony announced.
Anthony, himself a new hire, joined Friends of the Zoo in February to lead Catering at the Zoo to new heights and revamp the zoo’s restaurant and concessions with a greater focus on farm to table and sustainability. His first action was to hire an innovative local chef.
“Chef Dan is a well-known chef with great experience and skills,” Anthony said. “He is a highly sought-after talent with a unique skill set that is perfect for our organization. We’re building a strong team with a shared vision, and the sky is the limit.”
Hudson grew up in California, moved to CNY as a teen and started his restaurant career as a dishwasher at Johnnie’s Pier 31 in Canastota. He worked at Phoebe’s Restaurant while pursuing his bachelor’s degree in Hospitality Administration/Management at Syracuse University.
In his junior year at SU, he got the chance to spend a year and a half working with the late great chef Brian Shore at the acclaimed Arad Evans Inn in Fayetteville. After graduating from SU, he was hired as sous chef at the Sherwood Inn in Skaneateles and spent 10 years at the historic Finger Lakes establishment.
Hudson went on to become the Sherwood’s executive chef in 2011 and Director of Food and Beverage in 2016. In 2019 he moved to the Marriott Syracuse Downtown as Restaurant Chef until the COVID-19 closures hit.
Hudson said he is excited to take on the role of reinventing catering operations at the zoo for a non-profit whose events benefit the zoo’s animal care and conservation missions. “The zoo is a landmark place like the Sherwood Inn and the Hotel Syracuse, but at the end of the day we have a higher purpose, including helping to make the zoo more sustainable.”
Stephanie Brooks comes to Catering at the Zoo with several years of large-scale events experience as former market manager for Compass Rose Events. As catering sales manager, she will be responsible for leading an awareness campaign spotlighting the zoo as a desirable event venue, booking events and ensuring they are executed as envisioned.
Brooks earned her bachelor’s degree in Hospitality and Tourism Management from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 2007. She worked as assistant banquet manager at Doubletree by Hilton before joining Compass Rose in Boothbay Harbor, ME. She started her career in event operations before transitioning to sales in 2013.
“Stephanie’s background in planning large corporate and social events and her day-to-day focus will be crucial to growing the zoo’s catering operations and guest experience,” Anthony said.
Anthony said the new team is already hard at work preparing new menus and event packages with an emphasis on fresh, local foods and beverages. Friends of the Zoo also is making renovations to its on-site ballroom and banquet facilities as well as planning ways to better use areas of the outdoor zoo to offer unique wedding and social event experiences.
“We have one of the most unique settings in Syracuse to host an event,” Anthony said. “Our goal is to elevate the food and beverage program at the zoo to compete with the largest catering houses in the area and make full use of this beautiful destination in our community, all while supporting animal care and conservation at the zoo.”