From China to Oak Brook, hotel director keeps traditional values, work ethic
Jiaqi Tang said her first name in Chinese means "jade." But she said she purposely went to an American dictionary and picked out an American name, Karen.
"I picked it because, in Greek, it means 'brave,'" said Tang, 32.
Brave seems appropriate for the new director of food and beverage at Le Meridien Chicago-Oakbrook Center in Oak Brook.
About a dozen years ago, she left her native Shanghai, China, by herself and only knew fluent Chinese and Japanese.
She attended Hong Kong Polytechnic University and received a bachelor of art degree in hotel, catering and tourism management.
"I got a full ride scholarship and got the opportunity in Hong Kong to pick either IT, fashion design or hospitality," she said. "The university has the best hotel school in Asia, thus I picked to major in hospitality. No one in the family really understood," she said.
Her father was an electrician and her mother worked for a tobacco trading company.
"It was extremely competitive getting into the best high school and college due to the population," she said. "Lots of pressure being the only kid," she said. "It was 100 percent success or 100 percent failure, as my dad always joked. Yet, overall, I missed my time there tremendously. I was brought up in a traditional family that treasures lots of values, yet strict on basic principles. That's what I still live by."
Tang became the assistant restaurant manager at Jean George Restaurant at the Portman Ritz Carlton in Shanghai. She also worked at Beau Rivage Resort and Casino, a MGM hotel, as general manager of the BR Prime Steakhouse. She later joined the Peninsula Chicago as director of outlets, overseeing restaurant and beverage operations. She more recently joined the Le Meridien, which opened in July following a $25 million update.
She also had a chance to travel around America and learned how different people are in each region.
"I did all the touristy stuff, went to Florida, went to Disney World, went all over," she said. "But I also learned that you have more freedom here, and people worker harder. They give more opportunities to the people who work the hardest."
Overseeing more changes
Jim McWethy, owner of Mistwood Golf Club in Romeoville, said the club has gone through a major face-lift over the last two seasons. Next, he said, is a new clubhouse, which began in August with the demolition of the previous building. The new version is designed by Chicago-based Daniel Wohlfeil Design and is expected to open in June.
Marking 9 years in Bartlett
Bartlett residents Mark and Kathy Shangraw are marking nine years for their Clique Photography studio, the first business to open in the Bartlett Town Center in downtown Bartlett. Kathy is an executive director on the Bartlett Chamber of Commerce. Mark recently became a master photographer by the Professional Photographers of America.
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