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November 5, 2010

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Austrian GM who whipped up pancakes for Arnold

FOR Hyatt on the Bund General Manager Gottfried Bogensperger, the heart of a hotel is its food and beverage. The Austrian started his career in the kitchens of restaurants but has since swapped his chef's hat for a suit.

But when it comes to meeting guests' requirements, Bogensperger says he is more than happy to don the apron and roll up his sleeves.

"In my heart and soul I am still a chef, and I still love to cook," Bogensperger says. "I have no issue with putting on a jacket and cooking with the guys."

Just such a case presented itself during the recent visit to the hotel of Hollywood superstar and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The action star comes from the same region of Austria as Bogensperger and on being shown his room, Schwarzenegger inquired if anyone knew how to cook one of his favorite Austrian dishes, a Kaiserschmarren.

Bogensperger himself whipped up the light caramelized, sweet pancake that is an Austrian national dish. And he says it's not just stars who get special treatment.

"The mark of a great hotel is that it can deliver," he says.

"We like to think we can meet almost any request from our guests."

Proving that Bogensperger is still a dab hand in the kitchen, despite being on the management side, Schwarzenegger signed the guest book with his trademark line, simply saying: "I'll be back."

It has been a resurgent year for the landmark hotel, situated at the confluence of the Huangpu River and Suzhou Creek.

In 2009 the hotel was affected by extensive road work, which made hotel access difficult, but it has now benefited from a major reconfiguration of nearby roads, which includes a new tunnel to Pudong, the renovated Bund and Metro links.

"We have gone from tomb to boom," says Bogensperger as he reflects on his two years at the hotel.

It hasn't been just VIPS like Schwarzenegger, fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld and French President Nicolas Sarkozy who have enjoyed stays in a hotel that boasts one of the best views of the Shanghai skyline.

Hyatt on the Bund has been near full occupancy for much of the Expo year, and is set to benefit from major expansion plans in its surrounding Hongkou area in the future.

"This area will be the new Shanghai that is coming up, many multinational companies are planning to set up here, especially in this part of Hongkou area," Bogensperger says.

"This was once a very underdeveloped area but since the completion of the road system and Metro links, we believe this area has the greatest growth potential and will be a main area of commerce."

Bogensperger's first foray overseas came when he took a job for Hyatt in Mexico in 1985, working in the resort cities of Cancun and Acapulco as a chef.

It was while he was working in Cancun that he was caught up in the devastating Hurricane Gilbert that hit the resort city in 1987, closing it for six months.

"When you go through a full-blown hurricane head on, you really know what it is to pray," he says.

"You think the building you are in might collapse. We had waves 8 meters high destroy villas on the beach fronts, boulders landing on the fourth floor of the building and the whole building was shaking."

After Cancun was closed, Bogensperger moved to Acapulco before returning to reopen the Cancun hotel. In 1989 he made the move to Asia when he joined Hyatt in Singapore as an executive sous chef. Stints followed as an executive chef in Johor Bahru in Malaysia and Seoul, South Korea, before returning to Singapore where he made the move out of the kitchen to become food and beverage manager.

His first chance to run a hotel came when he moved to the Philippines to take up a position as general manager of the Hyatt Hotel and Casino Manila.

He spent five years in Manila and arrived at Hyatt on the Bund in March last year.

In his days as a chef he was concerned both with the perfection of an individual meal and with making sure a large event catering for thousands went smoothly.

"Chefs are managing a very versatile operation. From purchasing, customer service and marketing, you also get involved in public relations and you are involved from the micro planning stage to the macro overall picture. It is a very diversified spectrum of things that you do."

Food is crucial to the Hyatt model and Bogensperger says it is great to work for a company that shares his approach.

"The kitchen is the heart of a hotel, the food and beverage is at the core of what we do," he says.

"You can get away with some things in a hotel but you cannot get away with bad food. People simply do not forgive a hotel with bad food."

2009: Appointed general manager of Hyatt on the Bund.

2004-2008: General manager of Hyatt Hotel and Casino Manila.

2000-2004: Director of food and beverage of Grand Hyatt Singapore.

The Hyatt on the Bund's ground floor Chinese restaurant Xindalu can lay claim to one of the best Peking Duck dishes in town. The ducks are cooked in a 7-ton wood fired oven shipped from Beijing. It uses special types of wood to produce an authentic taste and aroma.

Hyatt on the Bund General Manager Gottfried Bogensperger says his hotel has one of the world°??s greatest views of a city. The aptly named Vue bar is a draw card at night with its rooftop jacuzzi and uninterrupted views down the historic Bund and across to glittering Pudong.

It has an atmosphere like few others. The atrium lobby is bathed in natural sunlight, its meeting rooms have natural light and function rooms open onto gardens. °?°?It is really an urban retreat. You don°??t feel like you are among skyscrapers when you are here,°?°? says Bogensperger. For those wanting to relax and unwind, the hotel has tai chi masters who practice every morning on the ground floor.


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