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Easy rider loves to travel

THOMAS Mueller, general manager of Sheraton Shanghai Hongqiao, describes himself as bold and free-spirited. He likes to explore Shanghai on his Chinese-made Chang Jiang motorcycle.

"I rode dirt-bikes in the Australian bush with friends and got hooked. There is no better way to explore a city or the countryside," he says.

It is also the aspiration for freedom and exploration of the world that led him to the hospitality industry.

The German first arrived in Shanghai in 1987 when Shanghai Hua Ting Sheraton (now the Hua Ting Hotel) opened. Mueller was the GM of the only international hotel and the first five-star hotel in the city at that time.

"That was one of the most interesting times when international hospitality was first introduced and we were lucky enough to be pioneers," Mueller says.

He also worked as GM of Sheraton hotels in Pudong, Ningbo, Nanjing and Hong Kong before he joined Sheraton Shanghai Hongqiao in 2008.

He says he is still amazed at how much Shanghai has achieved in such a short time.

"Shanghai is clean, it's world-class and it's sophisticated," Mueller says.

"I love Shanghai. I love its people, the back-alleys, the old houses - of which too few are left - and the new and modern buildings. Just a wonderful diversity. Also the food and the culture," Mueller says.

During his leisure time he likes to ride his Chang Jiang motorcycle (a copy of the German 1937 BMW with side car) or play tour guide and take friends from overseas to different water towns around Shanghai.

"I always wanted to travel the world," says Mueller, explaining why he was interested in a career in the hospitality industry.

"A career as a chef seemed to be the perfect choice to do that - cooking onboard ocean liners around the world for example," says Mueller. "However, I never ended up working on a ship."

After high school, Mueller started to do an apprenticeship as a chef and learned to cook cold appetizers to desserts and everythingin-between in Germany.

"The first time my executive chef tried to teach me how to flip a fried egg in the pan, the egg ended up on my boss' starched shirt," Mueller says. "How embarrassing."

After that, he practised at home until he was the "perfect egg flipper." He started his career at a very small restaurant washing pots and pans for a year.

At this time he dreamed of becoming a general manager and eventually he got out of the kitchen and went to hotel management school.

He became a certified hotel administrator after two years and then started to work his way up.

Now he lives in the hotel, a privilege as the GM, and enjoys it.

"Nobody disturbs me once I'm in "my home" and I enjoy taking the elevator to work (2 minutes), having my own balcony, etc," Mueller says.

Sheraton, like other hotels, faces increasing competition from global hoteliers and he says the Sheraton is Starwood's largest hotel brand with more than 400 hotels just in North America and has been growing continually all over the planet.

"Such a strong reputation and pedigree help in our marketing, the operational excellence keeps our loyal guests coming back and ensures new accounts when the company opens offices in Shanghai," Mueller says.

He says he believes the most important aspect in creating a successful business is having associates who are given clear directions, are trained well and are given a career path and development opportunities.

"In Starwood we say 'Starwood cares and that caring starts with our own staff'," Mueller says. "I don't know if that's the secret to success but I believe the treatment of our staff translates into them taking care of our guests."

October 1982-August 1985:Director of Food and Beverage in the Sheraton Hong Kong Hotel & Towers.

April 2001-February 2005:General Manager of the Sheraton Nanjing Hotel & Towers.

March 2005-August 2005:Director of Operations Support for Starwood Head-Office A/P in Singapore.

September 2005-January 2008:Group General Manager; Opened the Four Points by Sheraton Pudong and the Sheraton Shanghai Hotel and Residences Pudong

January 2008-Present:General Manager of the Sheraton Shanghai Hongqiao. Favorite Dish Hailing from Maranello of Modena, northern Italy, chef Simonetta Garelli's gastronomic philosophy is to deliver classic Italian cuisine by preserving and enhancing the flavors of each ingredient. This philosophy is perfected in the example of her favorite dish, which naturally is also one of the most-ordered signature dishes at Giovanni's ? Ravioli Di Ricotta E Spinaci, Salsa Al Parmigiano E Prosciutto Di Parma. Cheese and spinach are some of the most easily available and basic kitchen ingredients, yet when prepared with passion from the kitchen of chef Simonetta, they harmonize into one wholesome, hearty comfort dish, retaining the distinct flavors of the two simplest ingredients.

Best Deals

Italian chef Simonetta Garelli brings you daily specials.

Giovanni's, perched on the top floor of the Sheraton Shanghai Hongqiao Hotel, offers a panoramic view of the city and a contemporary Italian-Oriental ambience. Here you will find the hotel's award-winning restaurant serving sumptuous gourmet delicacies from northern Italy.

Lunch: 12:00am to 2:00pm, (Except for Saturdays & Sundays) Overlooked Perks Almost like the hotel's best kept secrets on Level 27, Marco Polo and Sud Tirolo Private Dining Suites are perfect for a party of 2 to 10 diners. The suites are ideal for those seeking a more intimate and personalized dining and entertainment experience perfected by food from chef Simonetta's kitchen. Expo Special The hotel provides specialized concierge services that includes arranging tickets, as well as transport to and from the Expo site. Special "Expo Ambassadors" are stationed in the lobby for the entire duration of the Expo. In addition, guests can book multilingual associates to accompany them to the Expo as a guide and interpreter.


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