Management Profile

Profiles of key members of the management team at Sonesta Silicon Valley

Mark Ernst

General Manager

Mark Ernst, who was appointed General Manager of Sonesta Silicon Valley this past May, has nearly 20 years of hospitality experience and deep industry expertise. He has a long-standing history with Sonesta, having worked for the global hospitality brand since 2014. The veteran has a proven record of accomplishment in delivering outstanding guest experiences and was charged with reopening Sonesta Silicon Valley property after a renovation that included significant updates to the common area and guest rooms. He is also shepherding the newly-imagined food and beverage experience.

Mostly recent Ernst served as Task Force General Manager for The Clift Royal Sonesta Hotel in San Francisco. He began his career with Sonesta at the iconic Royal Sonesta New Orleans as their Director of Food and Beverage, moving on later to Assistant General Manager. Other positions prior to joining Sonesta include jobs at the Waldorf Astoria Hotels, The Roosevelt New Orleans, Starwood Hotels & Resorts, W San Francisco and Marriott New Orleans, Convention Center. Fittingly enough, his first job in hospitality was working for Emeril Lagasse.

Mark states that, “Watching an employee grow and become something they didn’t think they were capable of is the most rewarding part of my job.”

Born and raised in New Orleans, Mark loves boating, fishing and all things epicurean, and is a devoted fan of the Chicago Cubs and New Orleans Saints.


Darrell March

Director of Sales and Marketing

Darrell March

Darrell March joined Sonesta Silicon Valley as director of sales and marketing in February of 2017. In this role, March is responsible for the hotel’s sales and marketing team, overseeing the development of marketing and public relations initiatives, as well as sales strategies and activities.

Darrell joins the Sonesta team after over 17 years with the Fairmont San Jose and San Francisco properties. He held a number of positions within the company, including director of revenue management and director of front office operations, most recently serving as the director of business travel for both hotels.

Darrell leadership has been instrumental in positioning Sonesta Silicon Valley as the first Sonesta on the west coast. The challenge of the role is what drives him to be his best, not only within the industry, the community but within the hotel. Describing himself as inherently competitive, a direct result of his previous hospitality roles, Darrell aims to learn one new thing each day - knowing that when all is said and done it’s not the marketing, the fancy place settings, the guest rooms or even the hotel that makes a great hotel - it’s the people.

Darrell never travels without a great book - preferably one of a historic genre.


Pooya Banifazl

Director of Food and Beverage

Pooya Banifazl has more than 15 years of experience in the food and beverage industry, working with both freestanding restaurants and hotels. He has had extensive restaurant opening experience with PF Chang’s, where he coordinated several successful store openings in the Bay Area.

His last position was as Director of Outlets at The Clift Royal Sonesta Hotel in San Francisco. He is now charged with the task of launching Sonesta Silicon Valley’s new California Table and Bar, Manzanita, as well as the launch of the Sonesta Event Center. 

Most of Pooya’s energy and drive revolves around people, food and hospitality. His goal is to create a fun and positive professional atmosphere while taking the food and beverage experience at Sonesta Silicon Valley to another level.

Originally from Chicago, Banifazl moved to the Bay Area in 1994. In his spare time, he loves to cook and travel, and is particularly fond of any vacation involving a beach.


Adam Ornellas

Executive Chef

Chef Adam brings more than 25 years of experience to the task of helming Sonesta Silicon Valley’s new California Table and Bar, Manzanita. A true culinary artist who has travelled and cooked all over the world, Chef Adam strives to encapsulate the diversity of the Silicon Valley into his menus, incorporating his Spanish and Portuguese backgrounds with his reverence for the elegance of Asian cuisine. As he states, “It’s a Chef’s dream to have the opportunity to marry my diverse background with creating a cuisine that reflects the surrounding area, featuring locally sourced ingredients.”

Chef Adam apprenticed with Chef Almir Da Fonseca, who is now an instructor at the Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena. His previous jobs include working as a line cook at Plumed Horse in Saratoga and Masa’s in San Francisco and as Executive Chef for Starwood Hotels & Resorts and various casinos in Nevada. Chef Adam credits his mother and grandfather for instilling in him a deep love for food and a respect for using simple and fresh ingredients.

Chef Adam’s hometown is San Jose, and in his spare time, he enjoys drawing, swimming, watching Star Wars movies and playing with his children.