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September Loop Employee of the Month: Jerome Pickens

Posted  4 years ago  in  Loop Locals

4 MIN READ - Beyond a passion for his job, Jerome Pickens, the September Loop Employee of the Month, is full of compassion for his community.

As a houseperson at DoubleTree Hotel, Jerome Pickens is one of the reasons guests find a pleasant escape inside their room. He assists room attendants in maintaining over 160 units, including the hallways of eight floors of the hotel.

Pickens, 40, started his career in hospitality as a dishwasher at DoubleTree Hotel twelve years ago. Although it wasn’t the most glamorous job at the time, he saw it as an opportunity to learn more and make his way up the ladder. It took him only a year to become cook five, where he was in charge of the fruit and vegetable preparation. Then, he was promoted to cook one, working on the line, doing dinner service, banquet prep, and doing demos at different food and wine festivals.

"It’s easy to grow in hospitality,” said Pickens. “They say, ‘You know how to use a knife?’ ‘No.’ ‘You want to learn?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Come on.’ They’ll give you proper training, and once you learn how to use the knife, everything is pretty easy.”

Working under Chef Scott Walton, a graduate of The Culinary Institute of America, Pickens fell in love with cooking. He was learning the ropes and developing his skills in the kitchen from the seasoned professional.

“He was a great teacher. He taught me so much,” Pickens reminisced about his mentor, Walton. “He trained me on how to put together gorgeous plates. When I was working with him, I wanted to become a big-time chef. I was watching Food Network all the time and started living and breathing everything culinary.”

Not too long after Walton left DoubleTree, Pickens moved to Einstein Bros. Bagels inside the hotel, where he started having face time with customers more often than his previous jobs. Two years later, the bagel shop closed, so he switched to his third and current job in hospitality—a houseperson.

“I just love working in hospitality, period,” said Pickens. "There’s a lot of room for growth in hospitality. I’ve seen people start as a front desk agent and make it to Assistant General Manager. Plus, it gives you the opportunity to travel and see the world. Hilton has a wonderful Team Member Travel Program that I use frequently.”

Pickens’ passion for hospitality is palpable on his job. One visitor from Kentucky left a heartwarming review on TripAdvisor.

Pickens is on the Care Committee of the hotel. As one of the representatives from his department, he meets every month with other employees and management to discuss ways they can improve the workplace. They build on their successes and try to rectify any flaws.

Beyond a passion for his job, Pickens has a compassion for others and believes in giving back to his community. He volunteers at the Greater Chicago Food Depository.

“It can easily be you or me," said Pickens. “I have a full-time job and do deliveries on the side, and sometimes I still don’t have enough in my refrigerator. It’s hard with the bills, insurance, utilities, and other expenses on your back. So I can’t imagine those who don’t even make half of what I’m making with more kids than I have. When I saw people in the cold and the heat, waiting in line for food, I said, ‘I have to do something to make a change.’ If we didn’t volunteer, they’d have to hire more people.  That’s why the volunteers are important. I’m even doing the Hunger Walk on September 7 to raise funds and awareness to end hunger in Chicago.

Pickens also volunteers at Active Transportation Alliance’s Bike the Drive because he wants to make biking and walking safer for Illinois. He usually parks his car at Cermak and bikes to work.

When he’s not working, Pickens loves to watch movies at Millennium Park on Tuesdays. He also likes plays but has never gone to a theater in the Loop. But that's going to change now that he’s won the Loop Employee of the Month award.

“I’m pretty stoked about the Goodman Theatre prize,” said Pickens. “Honestly, I always wanted to go to a show at the theater. I'm looking forward to seeing a great show.”

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