At the entrance of Chase Hall, lead manager Hugo Brito-Montilla poses for a portrait. A Carolina Dining Services employee shouts, “Smile, Hugo!”
It can be difficult to believe that Brito-Montilla started at CDS as an hourly dishwasher.
Brito-Montilla is from the Dominican Republic and started working at CDS in 2009. After a short while, he was promoted to a full-time dishwasher in a lead position.
One day during his lunch break, the manager of Chase Dining Hall asked him to become a supervisor, which surprised him because he did not speak English at the time.
“I said, ‘Don’t play with me,'" said Brito-Montilla. "At the same time I was happy. I was also scared, because I didn’t speak English. I just had the basics, like ‘Yes, no, I got it.'”
His wife was working in the dining hall, and he went to go tell her the news.
“I’ll be honest with you, I cried,” Brito-Montilla said.
Brito-Montilla continued to move up the ladder, and was eventually promoted from supervisor to production manager to his current position as lead manager. He oversees five managers and more than 120 employees who serve more than 2,500 meals every day.
“I want somebody who is bright, a hard worker, has good values and that folks respond to and respect. Hugo’s got all that,” said Scott Weir, the general manager of CDS. “If I had 100 Hugos, I probably wouldn’t even need to come to work every day.”
Weir said Aramark, the company that manages CDS, recognizes its best employees with the Ring of Stars program. Of the company’s more than 270,000 employees, winners receive an all-expenses paid trip to Phoenix, where their contributions to the company are recognized at an executive celebration.
“Hugo was in the very first class of Ring of Stars winners, before they had recognized anyone else,” Weir said. “Winners get to take a plus one, and Hugo took his son. I think the coolest thing was that his son got to go on the trip and see, you know, ‘My dad’s the freakin’ bomb!’”
Weir said he often tells Brito-Montilla’s story to students and his own children to show that the American dream is still available to those who are willing to sacrifice and work hard for their goals.
“All the people that gave me an opportunity, they opened the door for a stranger, for someone who didn’t speak English, and they opened the door to give me a shot at what I have right now — it’s incredible,” Brito-Montilla said. “It doesn’t matter what other people think about you, it matters what you think you can do.”
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.