Conrad N. Hilton College welcomes distinguished chair alumni
The Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management welcomed Jonathan Shear as the 29th guest to the Eric Hilton Distinguished Chair Alumni Lecture Series on Thursday.
Shear is the General Manager of the Bayou Club of Houston, a country club or private sanctuary for old-money Houstonians.
According to the Conrad N. Hilton College, the Eric Hilton Distinguished Chair Alumni Lecture Series was established in 1999 with the intention of “building a legacy of student inspiration and alumni connectivity, as well as providing a network of support and resources to Hilton College.”
Only two lecturers are selected each year, with Shear being the first of the 2015 to 2016 school year. Shear was chosen to be this year’s speaker not only because he is a UH alum, but because he is an accomplished Cougar who worked his way through the restaurant industry, eventually earning the title of General Manager.
After working in the kitchen at Houston Country Club, he was an assistant manager for five years before realizing he was capable of moving up to manager. Shear was the manager of Golf Club of Houston for 10 years before he was offered the GM position at Bayou Club of Houston.
Shear spoke enthusiastically about his job and the history of the Bayou Club, showing the audience a slideshow depicting the different people over time who put a lot of money into redefining Houston. He kept listeners entertained and active in the lecture by frequently asking the audience questions and rewarding correct answers with a wine opener.
He talked about details of the Bayou Club, such as the 1 by 1 pool tiles imported from France, how the men’s and women’s bathrooms do not have signs in order to feel more home-like, the abundant trees surrounding the club and the menu lacking prices.
“If you have to ask what something costs,” Shear said, “you don’t belong to the Bayou Club.”
Shear praised the “magnanimous gestures” and “incredible” experiences the Bayou Club has provided him over the years, one being, when sending his sons to college and how he was flooded by the expensive tuition.
“One of my members calls me up and says, ‘Jonathan, I have this education foundation, and I’m going to take care of your boys’ tuition,’” Shear said. “That’s the kind of people I work for, The Bayou Club.”
Shear said when his house was destroyed by the bayou during the Memorial Day flooding, it was a member of the Bayou Club and architect who said he would help design and build Shear a new house.
From these experiences, Shear encouraged Hotel and Restaurant Management students to look to country clubs as a viable and lucrative career choice.
Hotel and restaurant management senior Salien Maknojia attended the lecture to gain points for her practicum course. While Maknojia had heard about the lecture series, she never attended before Shear’s speech.
“I’m an events emphasis, so I actually liked that he was from a country club because I’m actually thinking of getting into country clubs in Austin,” Maknojia said. “I hadn’t really focused on Houston because it’s not the same (as in Austin). It’s more private (venues) here, over there it is more big events.”
Shear encouraged students to become “foodies and wine geeks,” as well as to get jobs in commercial kitchens if they did not already.
“You need to live food, love food (and) know what it’s supposed to taste like,” Shear said. “You’re going to be managing food people, and the only way you can manage food people effectively is if you’ve been there.”
After gaining experience, and becoming foodies and wine geeks, all that’s left is graduation; Shear said the Bayou Club frequently looks for recent graduates from the Hilton program to hire.
“I think you outta look at country clubs as a career,” Shear said. “I’ve had a great life. I get to see my wife regularly, we drink wine together all the time, we eat great food. We have a good thing going.”