Multi-talented General Manager Pam Schwartz leads the casual, welcoming service at Hello Betty Fish House that makes guests feel at home—especially Oceanside, CA, locals who flock to the Sage Restaurant Group concept for Baja-inspired fresh fish, a hip beach bar program, and California sunsets from the rooftop. Schwartz cherishes the fish house’s chill vibe and crave-worthy fare. “I want guests to leave satisfied in their souls,” she says. “When you have the right atmosphere, company, service, and food, it is a truly magical experience.”
A calm demeanor characterizes Schwartz’s hands-on leadership, and she makes sure to experience every restaurant position to be the best boss she can be by putting herself in her employees’ shoes. “I create a ‘safe’ place where staff can leave the outside at the door. No matter what’s going on in life, I want them to look forward to having a few hours of fun at work,” she says. A robust training program also ensures smooth operations and continual team development.
The Deep South raised Schwartz—she lived in North Florida on the Georgia border, and her grandparents from West Virginia and Tennessee worked in coal mines and on the railroad. With true southern hospitality, any life event in the family called for a cake, cookies, or a special dinner, which inspired Schwartz, at age 13, to become a chef. After earning degrees in culinary arts and management from Florida State University and the Culinary Institute of America—where she met her husband—she landed in Atlanta, where she handled major crowds at the Westin Peachtree Plaza during the 1996 Olympics.
In 1999, while sous chef for the AAA Five Diamond Aubergine in Hillsdale, NY, Schwartz ran a dinner at the James Beard House and subsequently earned her dish a feature in Gourmet magazine. She then took her talents to Sin City, first as assistant catering manager for Morton’s The Steakhouse until a year later when she talked her way into the kitchen at Nobu to become lead line cook.
Continuing her westward shift, Schwartz came to the San Diego Marriott Del Mar’s Arterra Restaurant and Lounge as training manager and quickly ascended to assistant restaurant manager. During her following five-year tenure as manager and sommelier for Solana Beach, CA’s Pamplemousse Grille, Schwartz put to use her sommelier certification from the Court of Master Sommeliers and bartender certifications from BarSmarts and The United States Bartenders Guild.
Re-focusing on education in 2008, Schwartz joined Sur La Table as a culinary program manager and elevated her location to a place among the top five schools in the company. Three years later, she took to Huntington Hotel Group as director of food and beverage to turn around a flailing program; meanwhile, she also began in 2012 as an instructor at San Diego State University developing and teaching wine list creation and management courses. Finally, Schwartz returned to the Marriott Del Mar in 2015 as senior food and beverage operations manager. Prior to working at Hello Betty, Schwartz actually dined there and felt as if she would be an ideal fit to lead it to success—and in 2017, Sage Restaurant Group agreed, recruiting her for the general manager post.
Away from Hello Betty, Schwartz likes to run—a stress-relieving habit she picked up from her dad at the ripe age of 5—preferably on the beach. A member of Women Chefs and Restaurateurs, she lives in San Diego’s Carmel Valley with her chef husband and their two children.