Resilience, Innovation, and “Unreasonable Hospitality” Frank Guidara '68 There’s a saying that’s been long associated with Frank Guidara ’68: Adversity is a te

Resilience, Innovation, and “Unreasonable Hospitality

Frank Guidara
Frank Guidara '68

There’s a saying that’s been long associated with Frank Guidara ’68: Adversity is a terrible thing to waste.

“I like solving problems,” he says, “and I’ve been fortunate to have faced a lot of adversity.”

This year Frank shares the Isenberg School of Management’s Hospitality and Tourism Management Department (HTM) Lifetime Achievement Award with his son Will—a world-class restaurateur and bestselling author who is himself no stranger to turning adversity into success. The two share a remarkably close relationship, seemingly in equal awe of one another—though Frank notes wryly that Will “doesn’t deserve a lifetime achievement award, because he’s still a kid.”

Will grew up amidst the hustle and bustle of Frank’s world while the latter was serving as president of Restaurant Associates—the organization behind world-class restaurants and dining services for everything from the Oscars and US Open to the UN, Lincoln Center, Rockefeller Center, and more.

“We’d go to Rockefeller Center on Saturdays,” recalls Frank. “Will would have a private lesson on the rink before it opened—all by himself. Or he’d be sitting in the cafeteria at the US Open with the world’s best players. He just loved it.”

Will never had much doubt that he wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps. “Listen—my dad was my hero,” he says, “for a multitude of reasons—culminating with when my mother was diagnosed with brain cancer and became a quadriplegic. Watching him work restaurant hours and take care of her and be a good father to me—he was literally a superhero in my eyes. I like to joke that it didn’t really matter what he did—whatever that thing was, it would have been the thing I wanted to do.”

From UMass to Global Gastronomy

Growing up in Boston, Frank was focused in equal measure on sports and academics. “I was a jock who studied,” he quips. He arrived at UMass Amherst as a pre-med student and was president of his fraternity by sophomore year. That same year, his father took ownership of a restaurant in Miami—and Frank, visiting during the summer, got his first taste of restaurant life. “I wasn’t helpful,” he recalls. So he switched majors to hotel and restaurant management. 

“I’m happy as heck I went to UMass,” Frank says. “So many opportunities for things to do and ways to get involved. The most important part of college is growing up. You’re learning leadership skills. You’re maturing. A person starts forming.”

After school, Frank worked for six months with American Airlines’ SkyChefs, then served as a decorated first lieutenant and infantry platoon leader in Vietnam. “People talk about how basic training, AIT [Advanced Military Training], OCS [Officer Candidate School], and Jump School are so difficult and demanding mentally and physically,” Frank explains. “I didn’t think it was all that demanding, and I think UMass had a lot to do with that preparation.”

Post-military, Frank started on his storied career, featuring pivotal moments with SkyChefs, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and eventually revitalizing a series of struggling businesses and leading iconic organizations like Ground Round, Restaurant Associates, the Wolfgang Puck Food Company, Au Bon Pain, and Uno Restaurant Holdings Group.

Will’s Journey to Global Culinary Acclaim

Will Guidara
Will Guidara

Will, a Cornell University School of Hotel Administration graduate, carved his own influential path in the culinary world. Working with Wolfgang Puck at Spago, then Union Square Hospitality Group, and eventually becoming the co-owner of Eleven Madison Park, Will's career soared. His collaboration with Chef Daniel Humm transformed Eleven Madison Park into a three-Michelin-Star global sensation, followed by the massive successes of NoMad New York, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas.

Most recently, Will has achieved fame as the author of Unreasonable Hospitality: The Remarkable Power of Giving People More Than They Expect. The bestselling book reflects his innovative philosophy, emphasizing the diner's experience above all else.

“I think the parts readers gravitate toward the most are when I talk about entire positions in the restaurant dedicated to deliver bespoke experiences,” he says. “It’s less about how the duck is cooked and more about overhearing you say something, taking it and running with it to deliver the kind of experience that makes you feel seen.”

The Isenberg HTM Lifetime Achievement Award

In 2007, Frank remarried and was ready to embark on an exciting new chapter in his life, only to be diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer just before his first anniversary with Juliette. True to his character—he defied the odds—being among only 5 percent of people at that time who survived the diagnosis. He now serves on several boards and spends as much time as he can with his son.

Given all that they have experienced together, receiving the Isenberg HTM Lifetime Achievement Award is a poignant moment for the Guidaras.

“I look at this as the most beautiful excuse to get time with my dad,” Will says. “I always crave more time with him. And an opportunity to celebrate him and the remarkable impact he’s had not only on me and my career, but on so many people’s careers.”

Frank says the most exciting thing about the award is sharing it with his son. “He had the number one restaurant in the world, he has a book out that’s a bestseller, and he’s speaking to companies twice a week at major conventions. We’re extraordinarily close—so there’s nothing more exciting than to be doing this together.”

The 2024 UMass Amherst Hospitality and Tourism Annual Awards Dinner will take place April 2nd at the Omni Boston at the Seaport. To attend the event through a sponsorship or individual tickets, contact Department Chair Dr. Melissa Baker ( Send email or visit registration page.

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