Personnel Profile

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Harith Wickrema, Wearing Many Green Hats, is ‘Visionary’ in More Ways Than One


ST. JOHN, U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS—As Chief Visionary Officer and owner of the eight-suite Eco Serendib Villa and Spa on St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands, Harith Wickrema is adamant about providing luxury experiences for guests that “excite, educate, and entertain.” “Eco Serendib Villa and Spa is proof that you do not necessarily have to sacrifice luxury and modern conveniences to live a greener existence,” Wickrema says. Wickrema, who grew up in Sri Lanka where “eco” efforts were standard out of necessity, readily admits that his property is not perfect when it comes to sustainability but he has gone far beyond what is standard to reduce the property’s environmental footprint. The list is very long and can be seen on Eco Serendib’s website but some of the property’s most significant initiatives include: 69 rooftop solar panels, kitchen appliances that use less energy than a 100-watt bulb and are made from as much as 75 percent recycled materials, a gray water system for irrigation, and three separate 20,000-gallon cisterns to collect rainwater.

Aparium Hotel Group Names General Manager of New Charmant Hotel


CHICAGO—Aparium Hotel Group, a leading hotel company specializing in management and development of independent properties across the United States, announces the appointment of Sean Castady as General Manager for The Charmant Hotel, a boutique and historically relevant hotel in La Crosse, Wis. In his role, Castady will direct and oversee all daily operations of the former chocolate factory turned 67-room hotel, scheduled to open in the Summer of 2015. “Sean’s past experience with reputable brands and award winning boutique hotels will complement our translocal philosophy perfectly,” said Kevin Robinson, Chief Operating Officer/Managing Partner, Aparium Hotel Group. “More importantly, Sean will naturally fit into the city of La Crosse with his Midwest roots and hospitable personality. As we prepare for the opening of the property local residents will quickly get to know Sean and will appreciate his commitment to extending the authentic and natural culture of La Crosse through The Charmant Hotel and its future team.”

Trump International Hotel Las Vegas Appoints Sydney Jones as Executive Sous Chef


LAS VEGAS—Trump International Hotel Las Vegas announced the appointment of Sydney Jones as the hotel’s new executive sous chef. Jones, known for using cutting edge and progressive cooking techniques, oversees all aspects of culinary operations at Trump International Hotel Las Vegas including its in-room dining, meetings and banquet facilities and DJT, the hotel’s signature restaurant. With an impressive culinary background that includes positions at some of the country’s most prestigious resorts and notable dining destinations, Jones brings a flare for cooking with Italian influences and a passion for utilizing local, seasonal, farm-fresh ingredients to his new role. “Executive Sous Chef Jones is extraordinarily talented and we are excited to welcome him to Trump International Hotel Las Vegas,” said Brian Baudreau, Vice President and Managing Partner. “He has spent many years developing his own unique cooking style and artistry and guests will enjoy the new culinary concepts and menu creations he has planned for our hotel.”

Jeff Benavides Helps to Make Wyndham Vacation Ownership Uniquely Green


ORLANDO, FLA.—As Energy & Sustainability Specialist, Resort Management for Wyndham Vacation Ownership (WVO) in Orlando, Jeff Benavides, as part of the sustainability team, touches a lot of people—not only the primary contacts at the 190 resorts that WVO manages, but also the more than 900,000 families who have ownership interests. For Benavides there is no typical day. One time slot might be spent on chasing down rebate and incentive opportunities for a client. Another might be spent on strengthening or administering WVO’s required Sustainability 101 course or voluntary Energy University program. What the sustainability team has accomplished along with others at WVO and Wyndham Worldwide should come as no surprise given Wyndham’s commitment to developing sustainability programs. Wyndham’s Wyndham Green program was launched in 2006 and Wyndham has had a seat at the table whenever the lodging industry has met to discuss important sustainability concerns.

Hilton Chicago/Oak Brook Hills Names Sean Patrick Curry Executive Chef


OAK BROOK, ILL.—Hilton Chicago/Oak Brook Hills Resort & Conference Center has announced the appointment of Sean Patrick Curry as Executive Chef. In his new role, Chef Curry is responsible for menu creation and daily culinary operations at the hotel and its restaurants, Windows and The Grille. In the coming weeks, Chef Curry will revamp the food culture at Hilton Chicago/Oak Brook Hills Resort & Conference Center, elevating the banquet and catering service and introducing what he refers to as modern farm cuisine. “Chef Curry brings an exceptional talent to the Hilton team, beginning with an innovative vision and an inspirational work ethic,” said Stefan Mühle, General Manager, Hilton Chicago/Oak Brook Hills Resort & Conference Center. “We’re confident he will enhance our guest experience, setting a new standard for dining in Chicagoland.”

Tom Griffin is Driving Force Behind New Virginia Green Travel Alliance


RICHMOND, VA.—This year marked a time of big change for Tom Griffin. The original developer of the Virginia Green program and its overall coordinator since 2008 gave up his coordinator responsibilities to lead the creation of the Virginia Green Travel Alliance (VGTA). Griffin officially took on the position of Executive Director of VGTA on July 1. To help him with VGTA, Griffin has put together a board of 12 people who are influential in Virginia’s tourism industry. In his new role Griffin will remain extremely close to the original Virginia Green program. In fact, one of the missions of VGTA is to support the Virginia Green program and expand its marketing potential. The initial focus of VGTA will be on staff-level training and certification opportunities. VGTA is developing a staff training program geared toward new-hires that will orient trainees on what it means to work in a Virginia Green-certified facility.

Auberge Resorts Collection Appoints Ken Springer Vice President of Design and Construction


MILL VALLEY, CALIF.—Auberge Resorts Collection, owner and operator of boutique luxury hotels, resorts, residences and private clubs, announced that Ken Springer has joined the company as Vice President of Design and Construction. In this newly created position, Springer will oversee all aspects of new construction and capital expenditures on current and future Auberge properties. “Ken possesses a reputation for the highest degree of attention to detail and design, as well as timely execution at each step of the development process,” said Craig Reid, Chief Executive Officer, Auberge Resorts Collection. “His professionalism and experience will be invaluable to Auberge as we move our strategic expansion plan forward. We are delighted to welcome him to our senior team.” Springer brings more than 25 years of hands-on hospitality design and construction project management experience to Auberge.

Erin Rowland a Leading Force Behind Oregon Convention Center’s Most Notable Achievements


PORTLAND, ORE.—Among U.S. meeting facilities, the Oregon Convention Center (OCC) in Portland, Ore. is undoubtedly one of the most prestigious when it comes to accomplishments in green building and sustainability. This past March it became only the second meeting facility in the United States to earn LEED Platinum certification. Earlier this summer, OCC achieved Level Four certification for the ASTM Standard pertaining to the evaluation and selection of venues for environmentally sustainable meetings, events, trade shows and conferences. As a cherry on top of those accomplishments, OCC recently received the 2014 Green Award at Travel Portland’s 35th Annual Tourism & Hospitality Industry Awards Celebration. A leading force behind OCC’s many achievements is Erin Rowland, the Center’s Sustainability Coordinator. Rowland, who recently earned her LEED AP for Existing Buildings Accreditation, has been working in her current position since November 2012.

Sanderling Resort Welcomes New Chef to Culinary Team


DUCK, N.C.—Sanderling Resort, the Forbes Four Star and AAA Four Diamond property on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, welcomes Chef de Cuisine John Botkin to the Lifesaving Station culinary team. The restaurant, which reopened last spring in conjunction with the property’s redesign, embraces the coastal Carolina region through its seafood-centric menu—a fitting destination for Chef Botkin and his expertise in seafood. At Lifesaving Station, Chef Botkin will continue the restaurant’s focus on S.O.A.L. cuisine—sustainable, organic, artisanal, and local—under the aegis of Executive Chef Jeffrey Russell. Menu highlights include the Grilled Carolina Grouper with hoppin john, smokey spinach, and maque choux; Sweet Onion Crusted Flounder with ravioli, mushrooms, sweet corn, and cajun butter sauce; and Shrimp and Grits with grilled North Carolina shrimp, surry sausage, Anson Mills grits, smoked tomatoes, and mushroom. “I’m excited to build menus around our S.O.A.L. cuisine concept,” says Botkin.

Stefan Mühle Appointed General Manager of Oak Brook Hills Resort in Illinois


OAK BROOK, ILL.—Oak Brook Hills Resort announces the appointment of Stefan Mühle as General Manager. Bringing over 25 years of hospitality experience to the property, 12 of those with Portfolio Hotels & Resorts, Mühle oversees all operations at the renowned IACC Certified convention resort soon to become a member of the Hilton brand this summer. The resort features 386 guestrooms including 38 suites, 42,500 square feet of meetings space, and the award-winning Willow Crest Golf Club, a certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary, preserving and enhancing wildlife habitat and protecting resources. “Seasoned leaders such as Stefan have the ability to bring heart and soul into both boutique and large-scale hotel properties,” Portfolio Hotels & Resorts COO Graham Hersham says.

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