Sep 28, 2010

Hail to the Chef! JW bids farewell to chef Andrew voss.

In the hospitality industry, chefs come and go like busboys in a restaurant. But every now and then, there are a few chefs who will leave an indelible mark with their establishments. Such is the case with JW Marriott Grand Rapids Executive Chef, Andrew Voss.  After three and a half years of leadership at the JW, chef Andrew is moving on to our sister property at the JW Marriott Grande Lakes in Orlando, Florida.

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A behemoth of a place, Chef Andrew will take over the role of Executive Sous chef to one of the largest f&b operations in the Marriott brand. An operation so well regarded, partly because of the quality of events the culinary team dishes out day in and day out, but also due to the incredible culinary leader atop the food chain at the JW - chef Mark Beaupre - hands down, one of the best chefs and food and beverage directors in the United States.

We discovered chef Andrew from one of our opening chefs, Frank Gort (now with the JW Marriott San Francisco). Chef Andrew was the head chef at a local watering hole with descent bar food here in Grand Rapids. He did the private country club scene along with a stint in Malta. His resume, didn't necessarily shout "hire me," however, his persistence in landing a job with the JW was infectious. We asked him to cook for us, along with two other candidates. One of the chefs hailed from Disney in Orlando, and the other from another a larger hotel operation in Michigan. Of the three, we predicted that he would rank at the bottom. 

To our delight, chef Andrew showed up on the day of the demo with produce from the local farmers market. With his underdog status in check, he whipped out a memorable menu that simply blew us away. The guy can cook. We hired him as our opening sous chef at the JW. When chef Frank Gort departed for San Francisco, chef Andrew moved up to executive sous chef. Finally in 2009, he got his shot at number one when our executive chef, John State, left in January.

"Chef Andrew didn't just maintain our high standards in the kitchen," says JW director of f&b Darin Jemison. "Andrew also delivered in the areas of food and labor costs. Believe me, that is not an easy task  in a hotel with many peaks and valleys in our business cycle."

Through chef Andrew's leadership, all our culinary goals were smashed in 2009, and continued until the very last minute that he left this past Friday. He was a work horse with a penchant for  achieving his goals. He was knowledgable and passionate about his chosen field. But unlike many young chefs these days, he is old school when it comes to work ethic and a perfectionist with our QA audits. 

"Andrew was a lost child in high school," according to his Mom. "But as soon as he enrolled in culinary school, something magical clicked. Andrew found his calling and nothing was going to stop him from fulfilling his dreams. His dad and I still marvel in the fact that he has gotten so far in such a short time."

His departure is bittersweet. I didn't want to lose him at the JW, but just like a proud parent, I knew that what he was embarking on, was the best move for his promising career.

"The other chefs trying out after Andrew's demo better cook the best damn food they have ever cooked in the lives - ever," says Mark Beaupre after Andrew nailed the cooking demo at Grande Lakes."Andrew can definitely cook."

He certainly can. 

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