Owner, Horst Schulze Consulting
Mr. Schulze was one of the founding members of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company in 1983. There Mr. Schulze created the operating and service standards that have become world famous.
During his tenure at The Ritz-Carlton, Mr. Schulze served as President and COO responsible for the $2 billion operations worldwide. It was under his leadership that The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company was awarded the prestigious Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award- twice- making it the first and only hotel company to ever win even one.
In 1991, Mr. Schulze was recognized as “corporate hotelier of the world” by HOTELS Magazine. In 1995, he was awarded the Ishikawa Medal for his personal contributions to the quality movement.
After leaving The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, Mr. Schulze went onto found The Capella Hotel Group. This luxury hotel company managed some of the most elite properties worldwide, and gave Mr. Schulze the opportunity to further define the luxury hotel industry, receiving countless awards and recognitions.
Today, Mr. Schulze serves on various boards and acts as a consultant across industries. He is currently completing his seminal book on creating excellence.
Bruce J. Himelstein
Founder, The BJH Group
Bruce Himelstein is credited with leading some of the travel and hospitality industry’s most prestigious domestic and global brands during a 30+ year illustrious career setting the global standards in hospitality, marketing, and C-level executive management. Successful at every level of his career, Bruce Himelstein now helps growing and established businesses achieve new levels of success as a marketing, hospitality industry, and luxury brand consultant, as well as a business facilitator. But more than just offering highly experienced and incredibly savvy consulting and facilitation services, Bruce is a well regarded professional speaker, most notably a hospitality speaker with a long history of highly successful event, conference, and keynote speeches through the Keppler Speakers Bureau, Washington Speakers Bureau, the Keynotes Organization, and a half dozen more prestigious speaking groups across the country.
Gérard van Grinsven
Founder, GHG – The van Grinsven Hospitality Group
Gérard van Grinsven is one of the world’s most accomplished and recognized executives in customer service, delivering exceptional value by redefining world-class service standards. He is a highly regarded speaker, communicator and writer on the topics of driving growth and profitability through world-class service, the future of health care and creating a foundational patient experience in an era of value-based purchasing. His pioneering work and exceptional results in both luxury hotels and health care have forced competitors to emulate or be left behind.
He has served as part of the global leadership team of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, where he opened 26 luxury hotels in Asia, the Middle East, South America and the United States. He served in a leadership capacity at The Mandarin Oriental Bangkok Hotel, one of the leading hotels in the world.
In 2015, Mr. van Grinsven founded GHG – The van Grinsven Hospitality Group. GHG has partnered with top-tier healthcare providers to create a new hospitality model that synthesizes and operationalizes health and wellness, focused on safety, quality and compassionate care.
Executive Managing Director, Specialty F&B, Entertainment & Hospitality Consulting
Phil Colicchio is an industry-leading expert in specialty food, beverage (F&B) and entertainment procurement. In his current role at Cushman & Wakefield, Phil provides his expertise to brokerage teams and other service lines to promote client-centric business development for existing developer, owner, investor, hotelier, resort and university clients around the country. Their strong relationships within both the F&B and entertainment communities serve as the currency that sets them apart in the era of newCommerce, and aid brokers as they assist their clients in building the right standout concept for their space.
Phil occupies a unique space in the worlds of hospitality, mixed use development, law and education. As a New York based attorney, Phil represented more than fifty James Beard Foundation Award winning Chefs, Restaurateurs, Beverage and Service Professionals, Restaurant Designers and Authors. Phil also advises professional and collegiate sports venue operators and large scale music festival promoters on strategies geared toward elevating the food and beverage experiences for all levels of clientele.
Founded in 2008, his Colicchio Consulting, LLC expanded in 2017 to include the development of intimate venues to meet the demand for experiencing live performance in familiar retail, hotel and Food Hall environments.
Katherine I. Funk
Managing Partner, Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith
Katie is outside legal counsel to Ithaka Hospitality and brings to the table a breadth of expertise developed over more than 25 years as legal counsel to large and small companies. Katie works with executives across industries on strategic business opportunities including acquisitions, joint ventures, licenses and management agreements, including matters with hospitality companies such as Marriott and the Inter-Continental Hotel Group. During the course of her career, Katie worked as the Sr. Vice President of Corporate Development with a fortune 50 healthcare company and as outside general counsel to a healthcare IT company. She has been a partner at three Am-law 100 firms and currently is a partner with Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith and is the co-managing partner of the Firm’s Washington DC office.
Founder, JEM International
Ed Marvine is the founder of JEM International, a development and facility consulting company that works on primarily hotel and resort mixed use projects. His company brings expertise to hospitality developments, renovations, and facility operations for hotel owners and operators. From 2013 to 2015, Marvine took the position as Senior Vice President of Design and Program Management for Commune Hotels and Resorts. He and his team provided technical services for all Thompson and Joie De Vivre Hotels across the United States. Marvine previously worked for W.B. Johnson International. In his capacity as Executive Vice President, Development, he was responsible for design and construction of new hotels, residences and facilities. For ten years he served as Executive Vice President of Design and Project Management for the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, LLC. In this capacity, Marvine was responsible for design, facility maintenance and project management activities on Ritz-Carlton hotels, interval ownerships, private clubs and residences worldwide.
Alain J. Gruber
President and Chief Operating Officer, Ocean Residences Development, LTD
Alain has more than 25 years’ experience in the luxury hospitality, cruise, yachting and residential private club industries for names including Relais et Chateaux, The Ritz Carlton Hotel Company, Cunard Line Ltd, Royal Viking Line, Seabourn, and The World – Residences at Sea. Alain specializes in new concept development, talent acquisition, luxury hospitality and marine operations. His expertise drives innovation, quality, consistency and customer satisfaction in highly competitive, international markets.
Alain is a founding member of Ocean Residences Development LTD, a company specializing in integrated real estate and ocean living, state-of-the-art ship designs, high-end ocean living concepts, purpose driven lifestyle communities, bespoke travel and life-changing authentic experiences.
Fellow, Talent Plus
When organizations seek to create breakthroughs, they turn to Larry Sternberg, one of the most innovative thinkers in human resources today. Sternberg’s teaching ability and sense of humor give him the reputation as one of the most talented and effective speakers in the country. A longtime champion of Talent Plus, Sternberg utilized The Science of Talent ® in his roles prior to joining Talent Plus as vice president of human resources with The Portman Hotel Company and as a general manager with The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company. He pioneered self-directed work teams, achieving remarkable improvements in financial results, guest satisfaction and employee satisfaction and the approach was described in the book “Turned On: Eight Vital Insights to Energize Your People, Customers and Profits” by Roger Dow and Susan Cook. Sternberg’s strategies have twice been studied by Harvard.
VP and General Manager, The Guest House at Graceland
Gregg J. Herning is a 30-year hospitality veteran with experience in both sales/marketing and operations. His body of work has landed him senior leadership positions at some of the industry’s most noted providers of luxury hospitality brands. He is considered a respected thought leader in the meetings and events industry. Gregg is currently serving as VP and General Manager for The Guest House at Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee. He previously served as Chief Sales Officer at ACCESS DMC, one of the country’s premier destination management and event services providers, leading his team with innovative thinking and positioning to create the most memorable meeting and convention experience available today. Prior to ACCESS, Gregg was Vice President of Sales at two of the world’s most iconic and influential convention hotels – The MGM Grand Hotel and Bellagio, both located on the famous Las Vegas strip. Prior to MGM Resorts, Gregg was the Brand Vice President of The Peabody Hotel Group where he employed creative strategies and execution that catapulted a relatively small brand to compete, and win, among other industry giants.
Dr. Donald L. Large Jr.
Former Executive Vice President/CFO, Auburn University
Don’s career spans 40 years with the first 10 serving in various roles with the international audit, consulting and advisory firm, Deloitte, and the last 30 years in higher education with Auburn University. As a CPA, Large served all ranges of companies from small to Fortune 500 and many types from manufacturing, service, retail, banking, construction, and higher education.
An opportunity to come back to his alma mater led Don to Auburn University, where he served initially as Controller for the university for 5 years before assuming the VP for Business and Finance/CFO role. He served in the position of Executive Vice President for his last 20 years at Auburn before retiring in 2018. Don’s various roles and oversight responsibilities at Auburn University and experiences cover almost every aspect of the business functions, administration, communications, branding, and service to the university and community. He has served on various Boards from corporations, hospitals, city school board, state retirement systems, and 501(c) 3’s.
One key focus for Don over the last 20 plus years has been the hospitality operations of Auburn University. His oversight responsibility for the university of it’s hotel and conference operations was instrumental in assuming the lead role for the university in pursuing a world class culinary science center recently approved by the Auburn Board of Trustees.
Co-founder, Managing Member, Heartrock LLC
Heartrock Hospitality Accounting has been successfully serving clients for 20 years, and was built upon Paula Peterson’s previous 20 years in the hotel accounting arena. Paula’s expertise lies in the high end, boutique and luxury markets, which demand a unique approach to accounting and driving profits as the guest’s expectations are as high as the owner’s expectations.
Paula’s mission is to provide focused, unparalleled support to management companies and owners alike through the varied transitions hotels undergo. She has participated in more than two dozen openings/ management transitions/change of ownership.
Paula is able to step into positions and produce results with no time wasted through adaptability to various back office systems, locales, personnel, etc. Along with this she brings with her a foundational knowledge built on a decade with The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company as Director of Finance and a previous smaller hotel management company in the same position.
Founder, Al-Masri Consulting
Amanda is an internationally known wellness industry leader and innovator. With experience across the lifecycle of various wellness operations—feasibility, design and development, brand building, pre-opening, and ongoing operational management.
Prior to starting her consulting practice, Al-Masri Consulting, Amanda held senior leadership roles in some of the world’s most dynamic and innovative global brands. Most recently she was Equinox’s VP of Spa, where she drove the overall strategy and execution of all 90+ Club Spas and assisted with the launch of Equinox Hotels. Prior to joining Equinox, Amanda headed Starwood Hotel & Resort’s Spa division as their Global Director of Spa Development & Operations, responsible for Starwood’s spa brands, partners, and a portfolio of 450+ spas worldwide. She has also held various leadership roles at renowned operators and consultants Resense Spa, Raison d’Etre Spas, and at the property level. Amanda began her career in New York City,
working in large scale event management and marketing with luxury brands such as Hermès.
Chef and Managing Partner, Ford Fry Restaurants
Ford Fry and his restaurants have been included in numerous national and local publications, such as Bon Appétit, Condé Nast Traveler, Chicago Tribune, Cooking Light, Every Day with Rachael Ray, Esquire, Food & Wine, Garden & Gun, Sky, Southern Living and the Washington Post. In January of 2007, Fry put down roots in Atlanta with the opening of his first restaurant – JCT. Kitchen & Bar – a place that’s as warm and friendly as its owner. The menu at JCT. is reminiscent of traditional family favorites and features ingredients from regional fields and farms.
Fry’s restaurants include BeetleCat, JCT. Kitchen & Bar, King + Duke, Marcel, no. 246, The El Felix, The Optimist and Oyster Bar at The Optimist, State of Grace, St. Cecilia, Superica and La Lucha.
All of Fry’s restaurants have a few things in common: they’re as formal as guests want them to be; they’re chef owned and operated; they’re committed to their communities; and they serve exceptional food made with local ingredients in casual environments where a great deal of attention is paid to detail. However, each restaurant has its own unique identity. Along with his roles at his restaurants, Fry is also the founder of one of Atlanta’s most popular food events, the Attack of the Killer Tomato Festival. This annual event features some of the South’s best chefs and mixologists, who are paired with local farmers to create innovative tomato dishes.
Lawrence T. McFadden, CMC
General Manager / COO, The Union Club
Lawrence McFadden is the General Manager/COO of the 146-year-old Union Club of Cleveland. McFadden has changed the paradigm of the Hotel Executive with his substantial knowledge of Food and Beverage to general management, with key oversights in finance, strategic planning, marketing channels, operational execution, and membership growth. McFadden’s career began in the culinary field in 1982, working with The Greenbrier Hotel and Spa, Everglades Club, Intercontinental Hotel, Chicago (opening team), Waldorf Astoria, finally arriving with Ritz-Carlton.
In 2003, McFadden was appointed Vice-President, Culinary and Corporate Chef at the Ritz-Carlton during one of the most aggressive stages of the company’s development. In 2010, McFadden joined MGM Grand Hotel as Vice-President of Food and Beverage, and in 2011 was appointed as Senior Vice-President, Food and Beverage, for Shangri-la Hotels and Resorts based in Hong Kong, overseeing the F/B divisions in 84 existing hotels with 50 under development.
Emmanuel Kemiji, M.S.
Owner, Miura Vineyards
Emmanuel Kemiji is a Master Sommelier and owner of Miura Vineyards. Kemiji acted as Ritz-Carlton Director of Wine & Spirits from 1988 to 1999, first at Laguna Niguel and then at the renowned Dining Room in San Francisco. In 1989, Kemiji became the twelfth American to pass the Master Sommelier exam in London, England and one of the very few to pass on his first attempt. In the same year, he received the “Sommelier of the Year” award by the California Restaurant Writers Association. Seeking further challenges led Kemiji to form Miura Vineyards in 1995. Soon to follow were several projects in Spain – Arrels in 2003 and Clos Pissarra in 2005. He thus became the first sommelier to establish a commercial winery in the United States. The San Francisco Chronicle named Kemiji as one of the “10 Winemakers to Watch for 2000.” In 2006, Kemiji received the Wine Industry Achievement Award from the Anti-Defamation League for exemplary commitment to community and charity.