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 March 2019...

Human Resources: An Era of Transition

Traditionally, the human resource department administers five key areas within a hotel operation - compliance, compensation and benefits, organizational dynamics, selection and retention, and training and development. However, HR professionals are also presently involved in culture-building activities, as well as implementing new employee on-boarding practices and engagement initiatives. As a result, HR professionals have been elevated to senior leadership status, creating value and profit within their organization. Still, they continue to face some intractable issues, including a shrinking talent pool and the need to recruit top-notch employees who are empowered to provide outstanding customer service. In order to attract top-tier talent, one option is to take advantage of recruitment opportunities offered through colleges and universities, especially if they have a hospitality major. This pool of prospective employees is likely to be better educated and more enthusiastic than walk-in hires. Also, once hired, there could be additional training and development opportunities that stem from an association with a college or university. Continuing education courses, business conferences, seminars and online instruction - all can be a valuable source of employee development opportunities. In addition to meeting recruitment demands in the present, HR professionals must also be forward-thinking, anticipating the skills that will be needed in the future to meet guest expectations. One such skill that is becoming increasingly valued is “resilience”, the ability to “go with the flow” and not become overwhelmed by the disruptive influences  of change and reinvention. In an era of transition—new technologies, expanding markets, consolidation of brands and businesses, and modifications in people's values and lifestyles - the capacity to remain flexible, nimble and resilient is a valuable skill to possess. The March Hotel Business Review will examine some of the strategies that HR professionals are employing to ensure that their hotel operations continue to thrive.