Jul 1, 2008 | Marmot, Summer 2008

The Robertson/Reitsma Team In Profile

When you say “food” at Mount Washington Alpine Resort, the first thought that might come to mind is “Robb Robertson”.

He’s the Catering and Entertainment Co-ordinator, and responsible in part for some of the gourmet miracles served at the Resort’s two Lodges.

Your second thought might be “Colleen Reitsma”. She’s the Assistant Food and Beverage Manager and works hand-in-hand with Manager Tim Defert.

Together, Robertson and Reitsma make a formidable team. They have both risen through the ranks at Mount Washington: Robertson started out as a bartender and server in Fat Teddy’s Bar and Grill in the summer of 1998, becoming one of the bar’s supervisors later that winter.

Reitsma had been working in the food and beverage industry for a company in Victoria for 13 years when she decided to try out Mount Washington.

“I kind of wanted to step back from food and beverage and assess my life,” she says. She accepted a job as a server, and agreed to spend a year at the Resort, even living on the mountain. “Once I got here I realized it wasn’t food and beverage I was burned out from, it was the company I was working for (in Victoria),” she says. “I loved it.”

Reitsma, like Robertson, has worked her way through a variety of jobs at the Resort. Now, she trains the food and beverage crew that works in 13 different outlets at Mount Washington, and keeps her eyes on new trends. She’s particularly proud of the fact that the Food and Beverage Department has a 95-per-cent return rate with employees.

Robertson has spent the past two years growing the catering side of the business. “He’s done a lot of groundbreaking work by getting some of the Government conferences,” Reitsma says of her workmate. “You only have to do one right for the word to spread.”

Robertson seeks out and responds to inquiries about private functions like weddings, retreats, conferences and corporate events at Mount Washington. He assists the organizer and catering staff from the planning stages through the event setup right to execution.

“I think the most challenging part is recognizing the special needs of individual clients, and relaying those needs to all parties involved – with enough detail to ensure a successful event every time,” Robertson says.

For all the challenges that are inherent in the food and beverage industry, however, the benefits are many. “There is no single favourite part of my job, but highlights would include the smile on a bride’s face following her ‘perfect day’, and babysitting rock stars can be fun and unique as well,” says Robertson.

For Reitsma, the people she meets in the course of her day are the big draw. “It’s the people that I work with and people I get to meet client-wise,” she says. “Mount Washington really is a family unit. We work hard, we play hard; everybody gets along.”

At the end of the day, when the kitchen utensils are cleaned and put away, Robertson and Reitsma carpool home, where they also make a good team – as husband and wife. They’ve been married for 10 years, but don’t make a big deal of the fact when they are at work. “Very little of our day is spent working together,” says Reitsma.

The duo makes sure to leave work behind when they leave the Resort, although the topic inevitably finds a way to sneak into their private life, Robertson says. “I think we have a really good balance.”

Robertson and Reitsma have different ways of winding down. Reitsma rock climbs, while Robertson is a model railroader. “I play just as hard as I work,” says Reitsma. “I’m an avid rock climber.” She likes to play baseball with friends in the summer and snowboard in the winter. She also does a fair amount of hiking. “In my really down, down time I love gardening. I find it soothing,” she says.

Robertson in his spare time likes to build communities for his model railroad. “Much like my job, it encompasses a variety of creative skills and challenges, including but not limited to carpentry, electronics, scenery art, prototype research and the opportunity to wear a funny hat,” he says.

“It’s a lifelong undertaking for me, providing an opportunity to create ‘my own miniature world’ where everything is exactly as I want it to be, which isn’t always possible in the real world.

“As my miniature world expands, I hone my skills at ‘negotiating for’ future mini-real estate, much to the chagrin of family members.”

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