“On The Runway”
An Interview with Carson Gray,
Director of Adult Beverage & Restaurant Development
By Lisa Gmur, CSW
Founded in 1897, HMSHost started its Food & Beverage and retail business on big railway networks.
By the 1920’s, the company expanded to include shipping as well. In the early Fifties it was the first company to invest in America’s large airports and in 1999 HMSHost was recognized as the leading operator in F & B and retail services for travelers in America.
Today, HMSHost remains the leader in North American airport food-service and hospitality and as of recently became a part of Dufry, the leading Global travel retailer.
We talked with Carson Gray, a member of HMSHost’s Adult Beverage and Concept Development Team about everything from parenting to growing up in Mickey’s backyard.
Pictured Left: Carson Gray, Director of Adult Beverage & Restaurant Development, HMS Host
You are married to a beautiful woman, and you have two adorable young kiddos plus you recently moved. How is your life on the road faring with your young family?
Believe it or not life today is less chaotic than a few years ago, running streetside restaurants to all hours of the morning. It’s pretty amazing, actually!
My rock star wife Marina and beautiful my kids Madison and Mason are the lights of my life. I know, kind of cliche to say, but it's true.
Having to learn the whole parenting thing as well as keeping up with the job workload added an interesting dynamic to my life but we are in a great place now.
Where does your work take you?
Chicago, Seattle, Austin, Memphis, Denver, Boston, California, Florida and back home to Toronto are some great work destinations I get to pass through, and I have had the opportunity to catch a bit of what they have to offer while doing so.
It must be hard to leave the homestead?
Since I have two awesome young children it’s proving difficult to be away from them for any extended period of time, but in my business the work is in the field.
I am a dreamer, but more importantly a go getter and I like to keep things real. I strive day after day to be successful, relevant, knowledgeable and a provider to my family.
Beautifully said. Please tell us about where it all began for you.
I was born in downtown Toronto and called Canada home for the first nine years of my life. And then I made my family move to Orlando.
My dad started, owned, and operated a meeting planning/event coordinating business to provide for the family. Moving from Canada, was the American dream, right?
With that opportunity my mom was fortunate enough to stay at home to take care of us.
Did food play a role at home?
I grew up with an Italian mother and grandmother that were and still are amazing cooks, so needless to say there was not a shortage of great food around the house. I’m still and adventurous eater to this day and willing to try anything at least once.
My favorite cuisine is Seafood and Italian or Italian seafood, whichever. Growing up in Florida there was plenty of fresh seafood and having an Italian heritage I was born into it.
I also worked as a Sous chef in a high-end celebrity chef driven Seafood restaurant which further solidified my love for that cuisine.
How about wine? Was it a staple on your dinner table?
The first time I imbibed I was significantly below the legal drinking age, and it definitely involved stealing a few large sips of dad’s dinner wine that did not go unnoticed. After that it became a regular occurrence and the rest as they say is history!
Do you have an “aha” wine moment to share?
One of my beloved regular patrons at the restaurant I managed offered me a glass of his 1970 Domaine de la Romanee-Conti “La Tache” and at the time I never thought I would have the opportunity to taste that wine let alone an older vintage and a full glass! Totally memorable.
Carson pours a glass of Hess Shirtail Ranches Cabernet
available, by-the-glass, at all HMS Host outlets.
So was a career in wine a fait accompli?
I think I shared the common dream with many other young children and wanted to become a firefighter or police officer, to which neither happened so I went with what I loved and attended culinary school to become a chef instead. At school I studied Culinary Arts, Hospitality Management and drinking alcoholic beverages.
Here you are now as part of an awesome Adult Beverage and Concept Development Team. It was the perfect training. Now let’s talk wine. Do you have any favorite food and wine pairings?
Muscadet and Oysters was one of the first classic wine pairings I experienced, sounds cliché, but it has always stuck with me. Sancerre and Goat cheese would be a close second.
Yum! Do you have a favorite grape varietal?
I love high Acid, fresh, clean white wines and rich, grippy, earthy reds. Sauvignon Blanc, Dry Rieslings, Picpoul de Pinet, Vinho Verde; Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Nebbiolo and Pinot Noir, but honestly, I drink it all!
Do you have a favorite wine growing region?
One of my favorite wine regions is still the Okanagan Valley in BC (British Columbia, Canada) I have been several times and each time I go back it’s like I’m there for the first time again.
Fantastic wines, picturesque scenery, great people, and top-notch hospitality, it’s truly a wine region that flies under most people’s radar.
Of course, I’d have to say taking a helicopter ride over vineyards in New Zealand must take the top spot!
That was definitely one of the most thrilling wine adventures I've had during The Mark Wine Camp in New Zealand back in 2018.
Is there any wine region you haven’t been but would love to experience?
South Africa for sure! I love the wines, their approach to wine making, its wild nature, and I’m excited about everything I’ve seen or been told about the regions.
I am 100% with you on that one. Thanks so much for this.
It was great! Thank you.
try our wines
Mionetto Brut Prestige Prosecco
- Freixenet Mionetto USA
Hess Shirtail Ranches Cabernet Sauvignon
- Hess Persson Estates
Book & Bourbon Concept