LONG JOURNEY HOME Sheraton Inner Harbor's catering director happily accepted a salary cut to escape the hassles of his previous job


Dennis Castleman is living proof that you can go home again.

Two and a half years ago, Mr. Castleman embarked on a career odyssey that took him far from his position as director of catering at the Sheraton Inner Harbor Hotel.

Now, after having earned much heftier salaries and worked in much larger hotels, he's back in Baltimore.

Mr. Castleman returned to the Sheraton in October, after realizing he had irreconcilable conflicts in management style with the general manager at the Ramada Renaissance Techworld in Washington. He also hated the commute into Washington from his Burtonsville home.

Freedom from the hassle of fighting the Washington-area traffic more than compensates for the $8,000 cut in salary he took, he says.

"I end up with one or two hours more quality time with my family than before," Mr. Castleman says. "This is something I needed for my sanity."

Mr. Castleman left his job at the Sheraton Inner Harbor when ITT Sheraton promoted him to food and beverage director at a hotel in Washington. From there he was transferred to a Sheraton in Monterey, Calif., where he held the same post.

In February 1990, he left the ITT Sheraton Co. to become food nTC and beverage director at the Ramada Renaissance in Washington. "It was a much bigger operation than I'd ever been in, so it was appealing."

After problems developed at that job, Mr. Castleman started to think about coming back to ITT Sheraton. He got a chance when he ran into the Sheraton Inner Harbor's general manager, Michael Whipple, at a social event last September. Mr. Whipple asked if he wanted to return to his old job, director of catering.

"I missed the security I'd had at the Sheraton, and I wanted to be able to come back to the company with my tenure intact," Mr. Castleman says.

Although he's "very happy to be back," Mr. Castleman admits that the readjustment hasn't always been easy. It's difficult to realize he doesn't control the whole food and beverage ballgame anymore, just a small portion of it.

His return also has raised some eyebrows. He's frequently asked by colleagues why he returned to a smaller hotel.

"In my mind, it was easy to come back, but there are all these questions" to answer, Mr. Castleman says. "There's definitely an emotional side to deal with."

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