Luke Vossen was born and raised in Ohio before moving to New York City to pursue his post-secondary education. While earning his Bachelor’s Degree from the Gallatin School of Individualized Study, Luke found work at a landmark ballroom on 5th Avenue, where he started as a receptionist and doorman. Advancing quickly within the company, Luke credits this opportunity as his gateway into the hospitality industry.
He worked for the same company for over six years and assumed several prominent roles, including food and beverage management at the Waldorf Astoria resort in Key West, Florida. After that, he became the Director of Catering for The River Cafe, a Michelin Star restaurant in Brooklyn, New York, for ten years.
In 2020, during the pandemic, Luke pivoted from events and hospitality to design and real estate. He focused his real estate investments on Atlanta, GA, where he made a profit flipping condos despite the challenging global landscape. During this time, he also took on design projects, including kitchen remodels and interior design work. He is presently open to opportunities in both the hospitality industry and the interior design industry.
What do you love most about the industry you are in?
I’ve really taken to the design portion of it, and making sure that everything looks beautiful. High-end events people are really looking for a spectacular experience, and the visual impact that beautiful flowers, beautiful linen, the right chair, or the right lighting can have, the whole ambiance of it, creating those magical moments, is really special.
What does a typical day consist of for you?
When I was in hospitality, there would be a fair amount of emails, details, and organizing things. If there was an event in the evening, I would be out making sure the room was set up properly, making sure the vendors came in, and seeing that everything was done to a very high standard. I made sure the event went well.
Real estate largely entails finding the right property for the right price. Once I’ve got a property, the focus transitions more to the design side of things, and that varies a lot. I do a lot of research, going to different vendors and looking at different materials to source. I put together mood boards and design specs.
What keeps you motivated?
I like to make things beautiful. With real estate, that involves finding a property that has a lot of potential that others might not see, and really finding ways to make those properties shine. It’s the same with events and catering as well. You walk into an empty ballroom that probably doesn’t look like anything special – it’s just four walls and a floor. And you transform it with linens and flowers and lighting and music into something spectacular.
How do you motivate others?
I think it’s about keeping a good attitude. When you like what you’re doing, I feel like it’s somewhat contagious. If you communicate with people and share the overall vision with them, I think that it creates a positive environment. They can feel the authenticity, and they end up enjoying what they’re doing too.
How have you grown from when you first started to today?
When I was a kid going to a wedding, it was all held in a church. The wedding was in a church, and the reception was in the church hall. There were a bunch of Sterno cans underneath aluminum pans of food. It all had a sort of potluck vibe to it. That’s what a wedding was in Ohio when I was growing up. Then, doing some of the nicest events in NYC with Michelin Star chefs was a completely different world. I had to learn about various cuisines and fine wines, how to properly light a room, which flowers are appropriate in which spaces, and so on. I had to learn about design from the ground up. Learning about design and the event industry in New York City is a master class in itself.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
Any time something catches my eye, I take a picture of it. I have many screenshots on my phone of things I see on Instagram and Pinterest, but also photos of things I see out in the real world. I’ve been lucky to travel extensively, and I’ve always enjoyed fine dining, so I’ve made it a point to go to really nice restaurants in Paris, Rome, Amsterdam, and all over the world. I’ve also been lucky enough to have been invited to some really high end events, including the Met Gala, which is one of the highest end and most beautiful events in the world. So, having been to those places and those events, it gives me a point of reference to how things look when they’re really well done and really well executed by professionals.
How do you maintain a solid work life balance?
I think that’s tricky for anyone. Sometimes you feel like you’re always working, but I prefer to always be on top of stuff. I prefer to always be getting something done, rather than having to wait for it. I’m also single, so I’m free to lean a little more toward the work side of a work life balance.
But when things do slow down, I enjoy taking vacations. Having traveled extensively, I think that when working hard, knowing that eventually you will get those couple weeks off to see a new place really helps to keep you motivated. You know that, while you’re working really, really hard right now, you will soon get to take a break and take that nice European vacation.
What traits do you possess that makes a successful leader?
I get things done. I’ve always been told that I have a talent for taking a task that seems pretty ‘out there’, and breaking it down into basic steps that I can delegate to make things happen. Typically, if I know what I’m doing, I’m very confident as a leader. And if I don’t know what I’m doing, I communicate that well and I make sure to ask the necessary questions so that I know what needs to happen next.
What suggestions do you have for someone starting in your industry?
For hospitality, I would say that you have to have a little patience if you’re just starting. When you’re new, it’s easy to think that you know how it all goes, especially if you’ve already been a waiter or some such. But there are a lot more pieces to the puzzle than you realize at first, so you’ve got to be patient. You also want to try to fill as many roles as possible. I was a busboy in high school, and I thought I knew how everything worked. Then I was a waiter, and then I worked in front desk reception and as a doorman. Then you work your way up to management. And throughout, you’re learning all the different pieces of the puzzle that all need to fit smoothly together.
In real estate, I would say that patience is also needed, as well as the understanding that you might not make as much money as you hoped you would initially. Many people get into real estate because they see all of these shows on HGTV where people are making hundreds of thousands of dollars on a flip. That’s not necessarily realistic in a lot of markets, so you’ve got to be realistic about what’s possible in your area. Also, if you’re not a designer, contact someone who is. You need a team of people around you who will fill in for your weaknesses.