Greg Atkinson / November 2010
Food Arts presents the November 2010 Silver Spoon Award for sterling performance to Achim Lenders, vice president of international food & beverage operations for Hyatt Worldwide, who has reinvigorated hotel dining by removing barriers between the kitchen, the dining room, and the world beyond. From the first ever in-hotel farmers' market that provides Hudson Valley produce to Wall & Water at Andaz Wall Street in New York City to the sophisticated NoMI at the Park Hyatt in Chicago, where an exhibition kitchen flows into an urban chic dining space punctuated with glass sculptures by Dale Chihuly, each of his dining operations captures the zeitgeist of its place and time.
Top restaurant designers like David Rockwell and kitchen designers like Russell Stilwell, who collaborated with Lenders at Andaz Wall Street, are stimulated by Lenders' vision. "He epitomizes Hyatt International's culinary savvy," says Stilwell, of Next Step Design in Annapolis, Maryland. "A lot of hotels run for the hills when faced with the challenge of trying something totally new. But Hyatt is willing to embrace innovative concepts because they have Lenders on their team."
Lenders grew up in the hamlet of Till-Moyland, a farm community in northwestern Germany. At the tender age of 6 he knew he wanted to be a chef, and after military service he went immediately to work at the town's 80 seat restaurant. When he applied for a job on a cruise ship, the employment agency got him a job at the Hyatt in London instead. A transfer to Queensland in Australia introduced Lenders to what would be the first of several new cultural experiences. He eventually went on to serve as executive chef at Hyatt properties in Australia, Shanghai, Manila, and Fukuoka, Japan. "I have a thirst for history and culture, and that has helped me connect with the chefs. When you want to connect with a people and their culture, food is the way to do that."
Integrating local food culture into the dining experience has become a hallmark of Hyatt f&b operations under Lenders, who also has opened landmark dining operations like the Blue Duck Tavern at the Park Hyatt in Washington, D.C.'s Georgetown, where a display kitchen offering farm-to-table cuisine is seamlessly installed in a traditional dining room with a 29-foot handcrafted Windsor bench. "At this moment, we have our strongest growth in India and Asia," he says, citing a Grand Hyatt in Mumbai, Hyatt Regency hotels in New Delhi and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, as well as Park Hyatt properties in Jeddah and Goa all boasting multiple restaurants and event spaces.
"At the end of the day," confides Lenders, "I'm representing a lot of people who work hard and push the envelope on food and design. Ultimately, it's not the hotel, it's the people."