For more than 130 years, the Athenaeum Hotel has been a model of elegant tradition and service for Chautauqua Institution. Rooted in rich history and boasting an impressive roster of visitors throughout the decades, the success of the Athenaeum is like a mirror to that of the Institution; they depend on one another. Though traditions have made the Athenaeum what it is today, General Manager Bruce Stanton feels the hotel must let go of some of these older practices in order to maintain a standard of excellence.
Alex Gray wants to be “that guy.”
As executive chef of the President’s Cottage and sous chef at the Athenaeum Hotel, Gray will do any task, help any employee and cook any dish to the best of his ability.
“If it needs to be done, I’ll do it. I think the phrase ‘that guy’ has gotten poor feedback in the past, but I like to be that guy,” Gray said. “I want people to look around for me, not look around me.”
Gray, returning for his third season at Chautauqua, is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, and first discovered the Institution while working at the nearby restaurant La Fleur during his college years. La Fleur is also where he met current executive chef of the Athenaeum Hotel, Ross Warhol, also a Culinary Institute of America graduate.
Now that the Bird, Tree & Garden Club House Tour is history, it is time to make reservations to attend the BTG luncheon for life members and hear what Mary Lee Talbot has learned after researching 100 years of BTG history. “What I’ve Learned So Far” is the topic Talbot will share with luncheon members at 12:15 p.m. Aug. 3 in the Athenaeum Hotel parlor.
“Over the last 100 years, the BTG has engaged in a lot of serious work but has done it with a great deal of fun and style,” Talbot said. “We are going to look at a few of what I think have been really interesting pieces of fun that they engaged in — like pageants, parties, receptions and the love of poetry.”
“Let’s take a walk,” Jane Foster said, traces of her Georgia burr softening the edges of her sentences. “We’ll see what we find.”
Foster has been visiting Chautauqua since the 1980s and became a property owner more recently. She is a licensed architect, having been in private practice for 30 years in Philadelphia with husband Arthur Willson. She is also a freelance professional opera singer who performed Wagner’s Wesendonck Lieder with New York City’s One World Symphony earlier this year and once sang the part of Michaela in Carmen at Christmastime in Bavaria — on two days’ notice.
We had decided to look at some of Chautauqua’s major public buildings, Foster serving as an impressionistic docent.
Chautauqua Fund volunteers started the 2012 Season strongly, already having raised one-third of their $3.65 million goal this year.
At a kickoff breakfast Saturday morning in the Athenaeum Hotel, fund volunteers, Chautauqua Foundation staff and friends of the Institution came together to celebrate the beginning of the season, to recall the fund’s past successes and to share their hopes for similar success in the coming weeks.
The Athenaeum Hotel staff has one week to prepare for Week One of the Chautauqua Season. In that time, they need to clean the hotel, prepare the rooms and train the staff, among many other preparatory duties. “It’s almost like we open a new business every year,” said Brett Odorisio, the Athenaeum’s director of operations.
George Cooper | Staff Writer The Athenaeum at Cayalá, Guatamala, is a civic building with classical proportion and Chautauqua inspiration.
The Athenaeum Hotel at Chautauqua Institution has taken the “local food” movement to the next level, hosting a five-course dinner Tuesday evening that featured ingredients grown on the hotel’s rooftop garden.