There are fourteen Michelin three-star restaurants in the United States, with fewer than 150 in the entire world. The Michelin Guide is the premier directory for restaurants, and making it to the top is enormously difficult and an incredible honor. Working at such a place of renown would be a boon for anyone’s professional career — a situation in which recent graduate Maria McFadden ’18 now finds herself. McFadden was offered a role as a florist at the Inn at Little Washington this past summer, a position that is allowing her to grow in knowledge, network with the best in the industry, and work in one of the most famous restaurants in the entire world.
Becoming a florist was not always at the top of McFadden’s career list. She wanted to go into event planning primarily, and worked in the Christendom College special events department doing just that. At the same time, she began getting into floral arranging, first as something nice to do for her sickly grandmother, then later working with the college’s chaplaincy to arrange beautiful flowers for the altar each week. She continued to make beautiful floral arrangements for many college events, including board meetings, major speakers, and special dinners, as well as making boutonnieres and corsages for the students for special occasions. Soon enough, McFadden had gained a great deal of experience as a florist, all thanks to her drive and Christendom’s willingness to give her the opportunity to thrive in this area.
After earning her B.A. in English language and literature this past May, McFadden was offered a position in the D.C. area working in event planning, but she wanted to try her hand at being a professional florist first. She knew she could always land a job in event planning, but getting an opportunity to work at one of the only two five-star restaurant and inns in the world was something she needed to do.
“I had always been intrigued by the Inn at Little Washington, having lived within close proximity of it my entire life, and having heard of its renown,” says McFadden. “When I saw a job opening, I knew the experience I would gain there would be of unbeatable value in gaining professional experience in floral arranging, a job for which I already had a passion. My interest was also piqued knowing that I would be working alongside, and getting to know, many professionals who are the best in their field of work, thus extending my network into the field of hospitality, which I intend to pursue.”
According to McFadden, she felt blessed to be able to hone her natural ability to arrange flowers while in school at Christendom, making this dream of hers a possibility. “My liberal arts education also played a key role in earning this position, for one must excel not only at doing small things well at the Inn, but also must be able to see the greater picture that Chef Patrick O’Connell has for the place. On a daily basis, I have to work within that vision to create a seamless masterpiece with the other departments to produce a five-star experience for every guest. Christendom’s rigorous and broad liberal arts education helped me to see the broader picture of events, which has enhanced my ability to excel at my job thus far.”
The Inn, in the midst of celebrating its 40th anniversary, just earned its coveted 3rd Michelin star, adding another accolade to a list full of them. Its chef and proprietor, Patrick O’Connell, is just as renowned as the restaurant and Inn — a self-taught chef who cooked for Queen Elizabeth II when she came to Virginia for the 400th anniversary of Jamestown in 2007, and who has been seen on Good Morning America, the Today Show, Top Chef, and more.
McFadden’s long-term career goal is event planning, and her time at the Inn is preparing her for that future in ways she could never have imagined. She has had the chance to assist in the Inn’s 40th anniversary celebrations, for one thing, and is seeing how a world-class celebration is put together first-hand. These experiences are adding a new repertoire of knowledge to her, something she hopes will help her down the road.
“The beauty, style, and magnificence at the Inn is timeless and beyond compare, and I am thrilled to be able to contribute to that. I am also really blessed to be able to fulfill, in my own way, the mission that Christendom inspires in its students to go into the world and share the gift of goodness, truth, and beauty they have been given. While my experience here is incredible for its own sake, I also know it will be of great value going forward in life, through networking with the many people I have come to know working here who are at the top of their professional careers. The experience of working at such a highly ranked and unique place such as the Inn will be a great boost to whatever side of the hospitality industry I venture into next,” concludes McFadden.
Working at a Michelin 3-star restaurant is a distinct honor. McFadden is one of the lucky few who get to handle that responsibility, one that is impacting her and allowing her to impact others for the better.