usiness and leisure guests alike are
beating a path to the Four Seasons
Hotel Atlanta to savor Executive Chef
Robert Gerstenecker’s “Artful Taste”
dining option, his innovative and
imaginative “small plates at big events” offered
at banquets and weddings.
Following the Four Seasons’ acquisition of this
244-room property in Midtown Atlanta in 1997,
Gerstenecker joined the hotel’s culinary team to
help renovate the kitchen and restaurant, which reopened
as the Park 75. Gerstenecker began offering
his “two- to three-bite size” masterpieces at the
hotel’s Sunday brunch in 1998 because the hotel
wanted to distinguish its brunch from the competition.
So instead of going “bigger and better,” they
went “smaller and better.”
“Back then, we offered a small Bananas
Foster Waffle, a small egg dish, and so on, letting
guests enjoy several small tastes or a sampling of
seasonal items,” Gerstenecker says.
Today, guests find such mouth-watering selections
as a mini-Belgian Waffle with Peach Foster
Sauce, Saffron and Vegetable Risotto, and Soft-
Scrambled Egg scented with Black Truffle. It’s no
small wonder it has earned a “best brunch” designation
from the Zagat® Survey.
The success of this brunch concept inspired
Gerstenecker—after rejoining the hotel as its
executive chef two years ago—to introduce
“small plates at big events,” aptly named “Artful
Taste” because of the hotel’s close proximity to
Atlanta’s trendy art scene.
“Instead of the typical three- or four-course
meal, I’ve injected table conversation and small
plates for a ‘more than typical’ gathering of food
and diners,” says Gerstenecker. “In keeping with
my preference for presenting the most seasonal
of items, an evening of courses might range from
Kobe Beef Sliders to Crawfish Gumbo plated
along side a Field Green Salad with Blue Cheese
and Blood Orange Vinaigrette.”
Even the desserts have been scaled down so
guests can enjoy, for example, a Creme Brulee
Tasting of Honey Vanilla, Red Currant,
Lemongrass-Ginger, and Ancho Chili Chocolate.
According to Gerstenecker, the concept works
equally well for buffets as sit-down events, and,
currently, the hotel can accommodate as many
as 300 guests for banquets and weddings. While
labor and equipment costs can be higher
because of the abundance of dishes, food costs
are more controllable “because portions are
small,” Gerstenecker says.
“I can serve one ounce of tenderloin, one
scallop, and one ravioli, layer the flavors, and
together it’s a meal,” Gerstenecker says.
He says the concept lends itself to theme dinners,
and he tried it for the first time this past
New Year’s Eve. However, the lack of tabletop
space coupled with the need for an assortment
of wine glasses has kept Gerstenecker from
undertaking a typical wine dinner.
Brian Ettelman, Four Seasons Atlanta director
of catering, says “Artful Taste” has definitely generated
new business for the property.
“After a guest attends a function here with the
small plate concept, they call and say they want to
hold their event here,” says Ettelman. “It elevates
an event from the standard sit-down meal to a
culinary experience. It gives attendees the opportunity
to sample a variety of food and flavors while
letting the Four Seasons culinary staff demonstrate
the finest in food, flavors, and service.”
At the helm of that team is Executive Chef
Gerstenecker, Ettelman says.
“Both as a person and as a chef, Robert is a
comrade for us,” Ettelman adds.
Gerstenecker graduated from George Brown
Chef School, part of the hospitality, tourism, and
culinary school in downtown Toronto. Having worked part-time for Four Seasons while in
school, this native Canadian has now been with
the company for 17 years. Although 37-year-old
Gerstenecker has moved several times during his
tenure with Four Seasons, he says his short-term
goal is to focus on this hotel as he has half a
dozen exciting projects on his plate for 2007. They
include the opening of a new spa early in the year;
completion of a 50th floor banquet operation during
the fourth quarter offering the best view of Midtown Atlanta and accommodating up to 200
people; restaurant renovation; Chef’s Table in the
kitchen; cooking classes; plus menu creation for
breakfast, lunch, dinner, room service, Sunday
brunch, and banquet operations.
“Other chefs have cycled through. I want to
stay and make the hotel what it can be,”
Gerstenecker says. “I continuously ask myself—
‘what can we do better’? In my opinion, you
have to push yourself every year. Doing well is
not good enough any more these days.”
A CUT ABOVE
To help make the Four Seasons Hotel Atlanta a
cut above other properties, Gerstenecker says his
favorite kitchen tools are his knives. His collection
includes an assortment of brands such as Shun
and Wusthof because, in his opinion, certain
knives work best for particular tasks.
“I don’t have a set of any one thing,” says
Gerstenecker, adding that the feel of the knife is
key to his selection.
One of his newest additions is an
AeroGardenTM that lets him grow herbs and lettuce
indoors year round. Yet to be acquired is a
Fish File, which according to Gerstenecker keeps
fish at the proper temperature.
Gerstenecker says his love for food began as a
child. “My mom was a fantastic cook. I was always
in the kitchen helping her,” Gerstenecker shares. “I
love to eat. There is nothing better on my day off
than to have a glass of wine and cook dinner.”
While other chefs seek to start their own restaurant,
Gerstenecker says his dream is to open a 20-
room inn, possibly on the East Coast.