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 September 2019...

Hotel Group Meetings: Uncommon Destinations

The last few years have been good to the Hotel Group Meetings industry and that trend is expected to continue into 2019. Planners are brimming with confidence due to an expanding economy and increased job creation, which typically results in a boost in corporate meetings. Given this promising outlook, planners are trying to outdo themselves to satisfy the high expectations of their clients. One notable trend is to integrate unusual settings into the meeting experience, hosting groups at local zoos, aquariums, museums, event centers, or other outdoor facilities. The goal is to embrace uncommon destinations, rather than a typical hotel conference room, so that meetings can be memorable, unique and stimulating. This is also part of another trend which is to support all things local - from hosting events at landmark city venues; to catering through local restaurants, food trucks and microbreweries; to hosting off-site excursions like agri-tours, athletic events or scenic 5k routes. However, though the setting might be spectacular, there are still some bedrock components that must be provided to ensure a successful meeting. Free, high-speed Wi-Fi is still one of the most requested services. Planners have to make sure that a comprehensive communication infrastructure is in place so clients can easily connect - and stay connected - to the network throughout the entire meeting experience. Also, technology tools can be used to streamline the booking, registration, and check-in process, and Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) materials can be utilized to ensure seamless access to conference events. There are also numerous software tools that encourage audience participation, as well as integrating polls, Q&A, surveys and games into speakers' presentations. The September Hotel Business Review will examine issues relevant to group meetings and will report on what some hotels are doing to promote this sector of their operations.