Editorial Board   Guest Author

Mr. Absenger

Werner Absenger

Chef de Cuisine, Cygnus 27 at Amway Grand Plaza

Chef Werner Absenger, chef de cuisine, has helped propel Cygnus 27, one of the highest-ranked restaurants in Michigan, into the forefront of the state's premier culinary scene. Located atop the Amway Grand Plaza in Grand Rapids, MI, Cygnus 27 has been a distinguished AAA Four-Diamond restaurant for nine years. The initial Four-Diamond recognition in 2004 was only the beginning as, under Chef Absenger's leadership, Cygnus 27 has been named Restaurant of the Year by Grand Rapids Magazine three times. In 2010, the Michigan Lodging and Tourism Association awarded Chef Absenger the Stars of the Industry Culinary Employee of the Year Award for excellence in the Michigan lodging and tourism industry. Chef Absenger has been with the Amway Grand Plaza for 10 years. A 20-year culinary industry veteran, he has held posts at Alpenrose Restaurant & Cafe in Holland, MI as chef de cuisine and executive chef, and at the Grand Hotel in Mackinac Island, MI where he worked in various positions ranging from chef tournant to banquet chef. Chef Absenger also honed his skills at the Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort and Spa at Gainey Ranch in Scottsdale, AZ and at the Hotel Gasthof Gramshammer in Vail, CO. Before joining the culinary team at the Amway Grand Plaza, Chef Absenger was an entrepreneur and operated an organic smoothie bar, Juz C, in Grand Haven, MI. As the owner, he developed the menu, concept, and theme of this healthy establishment from 2001-2003. In his native Austria, Chef Absenger completed a four-year apprenticeship at the Hotel Goldener Ochs in Melk, Austria and attended chef school at Landesberufsschule für das Gastgewerbe in Waldegg, Austria. He later served as a chef in the Austrian military at one of its hospitals in Wien-Stammersdorf before moving to the United States in 1988. A chef by trade and a scientist at heart, Chef Absenger's true passion lies with studying the modulatory effects nutrition and other mind-body treatments have on cancer patients. In 2008, Chef Absenger earned his Bachelor of Science degree in alternative medicine from Everglades University in Boca Raton, FL. In 2010, he earned his Masters of Science in human nutrition from Bridgeport University in Bridgeport, CT. He is currently working towards a Doctorate in mind-body medicine from Saybrook University in San Francisco, CA. As a member of the executive board for the Greater Grand Rapids Food Systems Council, Chef Absenger helped to develop the Cultivating Urban Seeds of Prosperity (CUSP) program in 2007. The organization supports local farmers by providing a market for urban growers to sell their produce to restaurants and other outlets.

Mr. Absenger can be contacted at 616-774-2000 or WAbsenger@amwaygrand.com

Coming up in March 2020...

Human Resources: Confronting a Labor Shortage

With the unemployment rate at its lowest level in decades (3.7%), what has always been a perennial problem for human resource professionals - labor shortage - is now reaching acute levels of concern. It is getting harder to find and recruit qualified applicants. Even finding candidates with the skills to succeed in entry-level positions has become an issue. In addition, employee turnover rates remain extremely high in the hotel industry. As a result of these problems, hotel HR managers are having to rethink their recruitment strategies in order to hire the right talent for the right job. First, hotels have been forced to raise their wages and offer other appealing perks, as a way to attract qualified candidates. Secondly, HR managers are reassessing their interviewing techniques, focusing less on the answers they receive to questions and more on observable behavior. Part of this process includes role-playing during the interview, so that the recruiter can gauge how a candidate works through specific problems and interacts with other team members. Additionally, some HR managers are also creating internal talent pools as a way to address labor shortages. Instead of utilizing department resources to find new hires with specific skills for needed positions, hotels are cultivating talent pools internally and preparing their employees to assume leadership roles whenever the time comes. They are also placing greater emphasis on a company culture that is more performance-based, as a way to curb employee turnover, increase employee satisfaction, and assure higher levels of customer service. Finally, recognizing the importance of employee retention as a way to lessen the impact of a tight labor market, some HR managers are instituting generous reward programs in order to retain their top performers. The March Hotel Business Review will explore what some HR professionals are doing to address these and other issues in their departments.