An ex-stockbroker's inspirational hospitality journey
Alberto Isaza Isaza is an exceptional Le Cordon Bleu alumnus and Dux award winner, graduating with a Master of International Hospitality Management in 2017. An ex-stockbroker, business owner and entrepreneur, 37 year-old Alberto is living proof that it’s never too late to follow your passion or change your career.
After ten years as Director of Asset Management for Colombian Bank, BanColombia, Alberto was longing for a career change. Tired of the stress of making money, he quit in 2007 to open a restaurant with his wife. The restaurant had a French theme and served cheese fondue dishes. Becoming increasingly involved in the service side of the business, he discovered a real passion for hospitality and service. Next he opened a small fast food restaurant with a Colombian atmosphere. His third venture was a fine cocktail bar – at the time there were no cocktail bars in Colombia and the venue was incredibly successful. Eventually, Alberto’s passion for wine and hospitality led him to study a Wine & Management Diploma at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. “Studying wine at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris was one of the best experiences of my life… I loved it!”
Determined to learn about the wines of the world, Alberto travelled around the world with his wife. In France his wife fell pregnant, so they returned to Colombia to have their child. Concerned with finding the best place to raise their children, Alberto and his wife eventually chose Australia for its excellent quality of life, career and study opportunities. The chance to develop his hospitality career and study a postgraduate degree at Le Cordon Bleu Australia was too good for Alberto to resist. Arriving on a student visa for two years to study the Master of International Hospitality Management, Alberto knew he was here to stay. “I fell in love with the Master’s degree and with Adelaide. I chose Le Cordon Bleu because of their outstanding professionalism and the passion, knowledge and experience that everyone in their team shares.”
In 2015 while studying his Master’s degree Alberto worked part-time as a porter at InterContinental Hotel in Adelaide for 20 hours a week. “In any position you can start to show something that will grow into the role you really want.” He made the role his own by sharing his hospitality knowledge with guests at every opportunity and offering the best service possible. He was soon promoted to Team Leader in the Concierge department. Today, Alberto works in a full-time role as Food and Beverage Duty Manager at InterContinental (Adelaide) and will continue to build his hospitality career in Australia. After graduation he got a working visa sponsored by SA government, which allows him to stay here for four years as a high performing international student.
Alberto’s hometown Medellin in Colombia is a huge bustling city, he was pleased to move to a quieter, smaller town. “Adelaide is an amazing city for families, people don’t realise how fantastic it is from a hospitality perspective - it has hills, sea, and vineyards. There are huge opportunities to open new businesses in Adelaide, the market is saturated in other states. Adelaide is a great place to raise children, and people are very hospitable.”
Hayley and James Baillie, owners of the luxurious Ballie Lodges are an inspiration to Alberto. The concept behind their three resorts is to offer luxury experiential accommodation and adventure in a wilderness setting. Aside from his own long-term entrepreneurial plans, Alberto plans to undertake a Phd with Le Cordon Bleu and would love to teach hospitality management.
In retrospect, Alberto feels the undergraduate degree he did at age 16 was only to please his parents. His studies as a mature Le Cordon Bleu student have been a completely different experience - deeply fulfilling and thoroughly enjoyable. “When you’re a mature student you enjoy what you do, you’re more passionate, and more focused. Thanks to my master’s degree and Le Cordon Bleu, a great career in hospitality is underway.”
There is no doubt that Alberto will achieve everything he sets his sights on. His story is inspirational to career changers everywhere and proves it’s never too late to follow your passion.