HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - After working at Dole Cannery a couple of summers, Patricia Tam eventually worked her way up the corporate chain to the very top.
Today, as Halekulani's chief executive advisor, she has led the way for women to break through the glass ceiling.
Growing up in Honolulu, Patricia Tam discovered cooking in a home economics class as a student at Sacred Hearts Convent. It did not go well.
"I couldn't scramble eggs to save a soul. We burnt the toast, you know the muffins wouldn't rise," Tam said.
Now a high-powered hotelier, it’s hard to imagine that Tam would fail at anything — even as a kid.
But it was through food that she got her entree into the industry of high-end hotels.
As a young adult, Tam started working at a local bakery, and she became the pastry chef in the 1970s at the Royal Lahaina Resort in Kaanapali, where her talent and dedication to the hotel were noticed.
"I was very fortunate the GM of the property saw some potential huge management opportunities for me, and then put me on the hotel training program for the company,” Tam said.
After getting trained, Tam started working at the Halekulani in 1983 before it opened to the public.
She was the hotel assistant manager, then she was the director or rooms before becoming the acting general manager.
They made that position permanent for her at their sister property, the Waikiki Parc Hotel, before she became the GM at Halekulani, the first woman ever to hold that position at a 5-star hotel in Hawaii.
"A lot of firsts, not only for myself, but I felt kind of responsible to do a good job because if I failed, then maybe it is supposed to be that way. Maybe it is supposed to be a male dominated industry," Tam said.
But she showed them all -- by not only excelling at leadership but winning the coveted award "Hotelier of the World".
She was also listed as one of the top 200 most powerful women in travel.
But her most prized award was when Hurricane Iniki struck, affecting hotels across the state.
Short-staffed, she jumped in, operating one of the hotel's complicated machines.
"One of the staff gave me an award for best dishwasher of the year, and I kept that award and I thought that signified for me that embodied everything a leader should be in that is taking care of business."
And that’s why the YWCA is honoring Patricia Tam for her leadership as a woman, a trailblazer, and, “I’m chief executive advisor. Official title, jack of all trades.”