Thomas Hall has done more than his share of moving — both up the ladder and around the country — during his 15 years at Darden, and he’s not stopping now. Promoted to executive vice president of operations for LongHorn Steakhouse in February, Thomas will soon move his family to Orlando from Houston.
Now responsible for heading up operations at LongHorn’s more than 500 restaurants, Thomas said he looks forward to working with even more team members and managers. “In my new position, I can pay people back for all the mentoring I’ve received over the years and help others grow their careers and realize their dreams.”
The frequent moves are second nature to him because he grew up in a military family and loves to travel. Born in Arizona, Thomas also lived in Nevada, Alaska, Portugal and Germany as a child, and later in Georgia and Missouri in addition to Texas.
He said his ethnic background influenced his approach to cooking. His father is Native American and Irish, and his mother was Korean. They met when Thomas’ father was in the Air Force, stationed in South Korea.
“Cooking with my mom and dad was a joy, and our meals reflected an interesting meshing of cultures,” he said. “We might grill a venison steak but serve it with a side of kimchi (fermented vegetables) and rice.”
Those early fusion meals inspire Thomas today when he cooks for his family, wife Tanya, daughter Mollie, 21, and son Zander, 15, who’s already in college. He likes to grill but he doesn’t forget the fusion. “I might make teriyaki pepper steak, serve it with a loaded baked potato and top it off with a Korean side dish.”
Thomas was in college earning a degree in management science when he got his start with LongHorn as a dishwasher and grill cook at an Atlanta area restaurant.
He learned position after position — prep, grill cook, bartender, trainer, manager, managing partner, regional manager, regional vice president, director of operations excellence. The breadth of his expertise helps him relate to team members. “I’m proud that I started as a dishwasher and worked at every level. I understand the challenges team members face at all levels of our company, and I can provide them with the development they need.”
LongHorn Steakhouse’s future is bright, Thomas said, and the sky’s the limit for team members. “The brand is still growing and we’re focused on creating great opportunities. When you come to work at LongHorn, you’re not signing up for a job, you’re signing up for a new family — new brothers and sisters — and you won’t be held back in achieving your career goals.”
His bucket list is almost as diverse as his work experience. He said that when he retires, he wants to hit the professional Bass Fishing Tour. He once caught a 200-pound tuna off the coast of California (he gave it to his fishing guide, who donated some of it to the needy). He also intends to keep wakeboarding and write a science fiction novel.
But before his golden years, he’s got one more goal — making sure LongHorn Steakhouse becomes America’s favorite steakhouse.