Story by Cynthia McFarland, Photos by Joshua Jacobs
A career in hospitality is virtually custom-made for a people-loving extrovert who thrives in social settings. As hotel’s Director of Food and Beverage, Jeremy Gow is in charge of all four restaurant concepts at the stunning new Equestrian Hotel at World Equestrian Center Ocala (WEC). The 248-room hotel also features a luxury spa and almost 13,000 square feet of retail space.
A California native who was raised in Titusville, Florida, Jeremy attended the University of Central Florida in Orlando and was determined to take his business degree and work with people. After starting his career with the world’s largest Marriott, located in Orlando, he then moved to Clearwater Beach to work with Hilton. His next step was also with Hilton as general manager of a steak house in Salt Lake City, Utah, which is where he became a certified sommelier in 2016. He eventually became one of Hilton’s youngest food and beverage directors.
“I started my training, and it just turned into a passion of really loving wine,” says Jeremy. What’s not to love about the world of wine when it allows you to travel and learn in some of the most beautiful places on earth? Now 32, Jeremy has already traveled extensively as part of his education as a sommelier. Next on the list? France and South America.
Hitting the Ground Running
Upon being hired at WEC earlier this year, he was promptly tasked with buying wine, setting up menus, and training staff for The Equestrian Hotel eateries. These include Stirrups Steakhouse, the Yellow Pony Pub & Garden, Horse to Water Pool & Bar, and Emma’s Patisserie.
“We have phenomenal chefs and everybody eats, but not everybody drinks,” observes Jeremy. For those who do enjoy a good drink, his goal is to offer a diverse beverage menu that excites patrons and brings them back. Special events like wine dinners and whiskey dinners also help differentiate the hotel’s restaurants from other dining options in town.
Wine, Wine, & More
“We have one of—if not the largest—wine menus in Ocala, but we want people to ask if there’s something they want us to bring in,” he says.
Patrons certainly reap the benefits of WEC having three certified sommeliers on staff. “This standardizes the language and minimum for quality standards. I don’t think anywhere else in Ocala has as much wine knowledge, but we don’t just study wine,” says Jeremy.
Yes, a sommelier is able to blind taste wines and understands how to look for quality, but that’s just the beginning. “Our beverage menus and programming should be fun and engaging. We taste a lot of products so we can share this knowledge with our guests. For example, finding a $16 bottle of wine that drinks like a $50 bottle,” explains Jeremy, adding that his team’s goal is not about selling the most expensive wine. “We ask what people want to spend and find something great within that budget.”
As the Christmas season approaches, Jeremy says WEC is pulling out all the stops, and the community is invited to participate. “The whole property will be decorated for the Holidays. We’ll be doing a Winter Wonderland, complete with ice skating rink. The ownership really wants to do as much as they can for the community. We will have a lot of holiday events, and you don’t have to be guests at the hotel to come,” says Jeremy, noting that their team is even creating a gingerbread model of the hotel.
In a career that offers multiple challenges, Jeremy relishes the opportunity to rise to the occasion and work with others. “I really like building and leading a team, which you get in a hotel setting,” he notes. “It’s a unique setting because we have most aspects of business under one roof.”
Jeremy is typically up at 5 and his work day begins at 7:30. “It’s all about the details. I meet with the hotel team every morning. We look at which guests are arriving, and my day is about supporting the team,” says Jeremy.
“We have a great ownership group. We’re very fortunate that they’ve focused on quality and class first, so we have to live up to this facility our ownership has been able to build,” he adds.
When you work in hospitality, people are the focus, and Jeremy wouldn’t have it any other way. “The best part of my job is the relationships we create—the team, the chefs, the people I work with day in and day out and also the guests,” says Jeremy. “The equestrian community is a great group of people that embodies southern hospitality. There are more people I want to have dinner with and do things with than I have time to!”
Jeremy and his wife Meaghan have one daughter, Emma, 18 months old (no relation to the bakery). When he’s not working, Jeremy is happy to be outdoors. He loves fishing and plays golf at least one a week, but spending time with his family is most important.
“The way to grow the fastest in our industry is to be relocatable,” says Jeremy, “but my long-term goal was to end up close to family, and my wife’s whole family is in this area. I feel like it was just meant to be that I came here.”