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 September 2020...

Hotel Group Meetings: Demand vs. Supply

It is a great time for hotel group meetings. It is expected that once again this sector will grow by 5-10% in 2020, partly due to the increasing value of in-person group meetings. Because people now spend so much time in front of their screens, face-to-face interactions have become a more treasured commodity in our modern world. Plus, the use of social media reinforces the value of engagement, discussion, conversation, and networking - all areas where group meetings shine. Despite this rosy outlook, there is a concern that demand for meetings far exceeds the supply of suitable venues and hotels. There are very few "big box" properties with 500-plus rooms and extensive conference facilities being built, and this shortage of inventory could pose a serious challenge for meeting planners. In addition to location concerns, the role of the meeting planner has also evolved significantly. Planners are no longer just meeting coordinators - they are de facto travel agents. Cultural interactions, local dining, experiential travel, and team-building activities are all now a part of their meeting mix. Plus, they have to cater to evolving tastes. Millennials are insisting on healthier venues and activities, and to meet their demands, hotels are making yoga breaks, fresh-pressed juices, plant-based diets, state-of-the-art gyms, and locally-sourced menus available. Millennials are also insisting that meeting venues practice Corporate Social Responsibility, which means upholding sustainable and ethical values; investment in the local community; health and well-being of employees; and general business practices that reflect being good citizens of the planet. Finally, there is a growing trend to merge meetings with other local events, such as music festivals, sporting events, and cultural attractions. The December Hotel Business Review will report on issues relevant to group meetings and will document what some hotels are doing to support this part of their operations.