“I enjoy sharing life-defining moments with our guests,” El Gaucho Seattle’s General Manager, James Parsons, explains. ”People come here to create a memory. Whether it’s a professional accomplishment or personal celebration, anniversaries, birthdays, closing a big deal, getting the job – I get to be part of those celebrations every night. Helping to create a meaningful memory is extremely rewarding for me.”
James was born in Durham, NC but only lived there a month before his parents were transferred to Atlanta, and then along to Hawaii while he was in grade school. He attended Bainbridge High School during another transition, but ultimately graduated from a small high school on Oahu.
Like so many, he was determined to go to college but didn’t identify with a specific area of study. His family persuaded him to study business management and computer science, but he couldn’t get excited about either. He had always worked in restaurants to pay for school. Hospitality wasn’t initially a passion – it was a paycheck. That all changed when he had an epiphany during a staff training at Tulio in Seattle. He realized “I really like this. I’m having fun and I’m sharing passions with other people.” He realized he could work hard, continue to learn, and make a career of it. And he hasn’t looked back.
James was able to secure a newly created spot just for him at El Gaucho in 2003 as a busser for private events. He recalls that there was no openings on the staff, because everyone loved their jobs, but he gradually took server positions, bartending shifts, and eventually became a Captain in 2006 and the Wine Director in 2007.
James’ passion for wine began in 1999 after he tasted a 1999 Flaccinello. This was a turning point which ignited his extensive studies through the Court of Master Sommeliers and the International Sommelier Guild.
In 2010, James and his wife, Amanda, were moved to Chicago for a promotion with her company. James parlayed his wine experience to represent his beloved Washington wine region. He joined Woodhouse Family Cellars as the Regional Director of Sales & Marketing, growing the territory to 20 states and a rich portfolio of Washington wines. The experience allowed James to refine his sales and negotiating skills and create unique partnerships with wineries and distributors.
2012 brought them home to Seattle, and James could think of no place better to be than back at El Gaucho. In 2013 James was promoted to manage the Syndicate Wine Program for Mackay Hospitality collection. In 2015 he was promoted to Captain of Operations and in 2016 promoted, again, to General Manager. His most recent promotion is “humbling” and he could not be more “grateful”.
In his free time, James admits to being a baseball freak (he’s a loyal Mariners fan), and loves to get outdoors. “Camping, snowboarding, hiking, fishing – I need to disconnect from reality to keep perspective,” he explains. He and Amanda, along with their dog Lady, welcomed their daughter, Winslow, three years ago. “It was the greatest moment in my life! There is no place I’d rather be than with my ladies.”
When he needs a listening ear he turns to his wife. “I definitely married up,” he says. “I respect her tremendously. She’s an amazing partner and friend. Our journey has been awesome so far.”
When he’s looking for some motivation, you can find him listening to loud music. The range is huge, “…Everything from Iron Maiden, Ella Fitzgerald, Maria Callas….doesn’t matter as long as it’s LOUD.”
His favorite part of working at El Gaucho is the people – both the guests and teammates. “Everyone here is the best at what they do,” he exclaims. “We work in one of the best Seattle restaurants, and we have the most interesting guests. I love this place and the people who work here. I believe in what we do and that makes all the difference. In order to have happy guests you first need to have happy employees because they are the ambassadors and experience curators. We work to take care of each other and our guests.”
He’s equally proud of Mackay Hospitality. “It’s clear Paul (Mackay, El Gaucho founder and owner) and now, Chad (Mackay, El Gaucho Hospitality President), believe in their employees, too. You couldn’t ask for more support. We all have the opportunity to retire with this company. How often do you hear that anymore – in any industry, let alone the restaurant industry? It’s unheard of, but a celebrated career and ultimately retirement are a reality with this company. I am proud to be a part of this team and help support my colleagues to pursue the passion of their craft.”
James and his team want to help you create a memorable celebration for you. Call 206-728-1337 for reservations.