Editorial Board   Guest Author

Mr. Gerstenecker

Robert Gerstenecker

Executive Chef, Four Seasons Hotel Atlanta

Robert Gerstenecker joined Four Seasons in 1989 and worked his way up from part-time carver to executive chef during moves to properties in Toronto, Hong Kong, New York and Palm Beach. "When I hit Atlanta, something happened," he says. "I realized I could have a country experience and still be a part of a big city." That experience is important to Mr. Gerstenecker, who grew up on a working farm in On-tario, Canada, and experienced the transformation of food first hand. "My mother would pull the cream off the top of fresh milk from our cows, make butter with it and feed us the milk," he says. "Growing up on a farm never seemed important to me, but now I realize it's not common to know where food really comes from." Mr. Gerstenecker, who lives on a four-acre farm just north of Atlanta, isn't satisfied to leave the land behind when he comes to work. In 2009 he started a garden on the outdoor terrace of the hotel's fifth floor that produces everything from cauliflower and teardrop tomatoes to mint for mojitos at the hotel bar. "I harvested 300 pounds of basil from the rooftop garden last year," he says. "It was so plentiful, we pureed it with olive oil and froze it." Instead of picking all the basil, he lets some of it flower, which makes the bees in his rooftop apiary very happy. Mr. Gerstenecker uses their honey—more than 800 pounds since 2009—in tea, oatmeal and desserts and various products for the hotel spa. After 25 years in the industry, Mr. Gerstenecker is just as excited about cooking today as the day he baked his first cake with a light bulb. "I'm addicted to the challenge of making sure each guest has an incredible food experience," he says. "Food is ever evolving—you can never be perfect at it, but that doesn't stop me from trying every day."

Please visit http://www.fourseasons.com for more information.

Mr. Gerstenecker can be contacted at 844-623-5029 or robert.gerstenecker@fourseasons.com

Coming up in August 2020...

Food & Beverage: New Technological Innovations

In the past few years, hotel food and beverage departments have experienced significant growth. Managers are realizing just how much revenue potential this sector holds, both in terms of additional revenue and as a means to enhance the guest experience. As a result, substantial investments are being made in F&B operations as a way to satisfy hotel guests but also to keep pace with the competition. Though it has been a trend for many years, the Farm-to-Table movement shows no signs of abating. Hotel chains are abandoning corporate restaurants and are instead partnering with local chefs to create locally-influenced dining options. Local, farm-sourced ingredients paired with specialty beverages or local wine also satisfies the increasing demand from Millennial travelers who are eager to travel sustainably and contribute to a positive impact. A farm-to-table F&B program also helps to support the local economy, which builds community goodwill. Also popular are "Self-Serv" and "Grab & Go" options. These concepts stem from an awareness that a guest's time is limited and if a hotel can supply them with fast, fresh, food and beverage choices, then so much the better for them. Plus, by placing these specialty kiosks in areas that might be traditionally under-utilized (the lobby, for instance), they can become popular destination locations. Of course, there are new technological innovations as well. In-room, on-screen menus allow guests to order from any restaurant on the property, and some hotels are partnering with delivery companies that make it possible for guests to order food from any restaurant in the area. Also, many hotels are implementing in-room, voice-activated devices, so ordering food via an AI-powered assistant will soon become mainstream as well. The August issue of the Hotel Business Review will report on these developments and document what some leading hotels are doing to expand this area of their business.