Hilton Vancouver Metrotown general manager Ed Jaskula doesn't get much of a chance to take a break and even when he does, he uses that time to try to improve some aspect of the facility he has managed for years.
That's why on a recent weekday, he sat down with Josie Lindgrin, the Hilton's director of outlets, and the Burnaby NOW to taste test some of the new dishes that executive chef Tong Lim was putting together in preparation for a big summer.
As the four of us were having a nice conversation on the Hilton patio that overlooks the Metropolis at Metrotown shopping centre, we would periodically see a rugby ball fly up in the air.
Next door, on another part of the patio, the Canadian rugby team was restlessly getting some fresh air in preparation for their friendly match against Georgia at Swangard Stadium.
The rugby players certainly did all the right things, winning 31-12, and that portends great things for some of the high-profile guests coming to the Hilton later this summer.
The Vancouver International Rugby Sevens Serevi invitational tournament is scheduled for July 21 and 22 and the Burnaby Blues and Roots Festival is on Aug. 11, with the Hilton hosting many of the people who will be featured at those events.
That means Lim has to be at the top of his game, feeding a wide variety of people - and in the case of rugby players, a vast quantity.
Lim isn't afraid to experiment and our first appetizer is a pulled beef topped with cheese dish that is simply delectable.
Pulled pork started a trend many years ago and now every meat under the sun is pulled onto a dish or two.
Lim follows it up with some prosciutto, which looks so tasty that we almost - almost - don't want to eat it.
Next up is some salmon wrapped in tofu and with a rice bed. The salmon is exquisite, fresh and wild and Lim has cooked it to perfection. (Jaskula has a good reason why he insists on fresh, wild salmon and it took a drink or two to get the story out of him.)
Lindgrin loves the salmon almost as much as I do and she will be taking on more responsibility now that she has learned more of the ropes in her eight months on the job.
The former college softball pitcher in Mississippi is quick on her feet, even as Lim and Jaskula enjoy a casual banter that comes from years of familiarity.
"I'm learning a lot on the job," she said. "You learn something new every day."
The next thing Lindgrin learns is that food doesn't stay on the table very long, so she eagerly helps finish off the stuffed ravioli that Lim is trying to perfect.
Because customer service is of such paramount importance in the hospitality industry, the Hilton does a lot of little things that other establishments don't.
On the day I was meeting with the brass, I entered the main foyer of the hotel and headed toward the escalators to the dining area.
At the foot of the escalators was a server offering free samples of the flatbread pizza that you could order upstairs.
Not only was the pizza tasty, it puts customers in a great frame of mind as they had up for a meal.
Another key tenet of Jaskula's customer service policy is to always be trying to do uniquely new things.
The new dishes we were trying may or may not make the final cut at the Hilton, but what will be on the menu soon - pending Jaskula's fine-tuning - are the signature martini desserts.
Jaskula has been working hard to perfect mixed drinks meant to taste exactly like dessert. The two we tried were the Nanaimo bar and the crme brulee.
"A bit too much espresso," Lindgrin advises on the Nanaimo bar creation. "The crme brulee is very good, very close."
I agreed wholeheartedly with the latter assessment and added that with the Nanaimo bar drink, Jaskula has his hands full trying to get the requisite sweetness of the dessert accomplished with the harder edges of alcohol that he needs in the drink.
"I'll keep trying," said Jaskula.
Our dessert choices include cheesecake, some chocolate and some fruit, and even as we enjoy the end of our meal, Jaskula is still looking for constructive criticism and advice on how to continue making the Hilton Vancouver Metrotown experience even better.
In fact, it's never too early for Jaskula to look even further ahead.
"We just hosted the Michael J. Fox charity fundraiser," Jaskula said of the June 1 event where Burnaby's favourite local son returns to raise money for the South Burnaby theatre that bears his name. "My dream is to get the two Burnaby Michael's, Fox and Buble, together. ... That's a big goal for us."
Yes, Jaskula never stops trying as he tries to solidify the Hilton's role as one of Burnaby's pre-eminent hospitality leaders.
The Hilton Vancouver Metrotown is located at 6083 McKay Ave. For more info, call 604-438-1200 or go to www.hilton.com.