JW Marriott Nashville's general manager, Lukus Kindlesparker, and executive pastry chef, Romain Fournel, earn General Manager of the Year and Chef of the Year from Greater Nashville Hospitality Association (GNHA). Here's what they have to say about it:
1. How long have you been working at JW Marriott Nashville, and how did you first get into the industry?
Lukus Kindlesparker: I’ve been the general manager at JW Marriott Nashville since July 2017, prior to the opening in July 2018. I began my hospitality career over 19 years ago with Hyatt Hotels as a management trainee. I also spent time with Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts in Hawaii and nearly 10 years in Atlanta managing various Starwood and Marriott hotels.
Romain Fournel: I joined JW Marriott Nashville in April 2018 as executive pastry chef. I discovered my passion for pastry at an early age around nine years old when I was making cakes with my mother and grandmother. At 15 years old, I had my first job at the local pastry shop, and one year after that, I started my apprenticeship. I completed five years of pastry school and got three diplomas specializing in baking, pastry and chocolate. Prior to moving to the United States, I honed my skills working as a pastry chef at Patisserie Henriet in Bidart, France.
2. What is your favorite part of what you do?
LK: I truly enjoy working with my team here and interacting with our guests daily. Building a hotel and being part of the pre-opening process really creates a tremendous bond with the team. The enjoyment that comes from those bonds and daily interactions with our team are really what I enjoy most.
RF: I’ve been given the freedom to be creative in this role, which has allowed my team and me to create incredible pieces. From the 58-pound George Straight acoustic guitar to the Peter Rabbit display for Easter, the team here has not only made it effortless, but they continue to encourage us to showcase our best talents. Currently, I am working with my team on a Halloween display with the theme of “Nightmare Before Christmas” that will be displayed in our hotel in the beginning of September.
3. What did earning this award mean to you?
LK: I’m so thankful to the Greater Nashville Hospitality Association for this exciting honor. It is incredibly humbling to be recognized amongst your peers for your work. Winning the award has made me reflect on how lucky I am to work with a team who has such passion for providing luxury service at the level and detail we do at the JW Marriott Nashville.
RF: I am honored to be recognized for my work with JW Marriott Nashville and to have done so alongside my team of talented chefs. Our combined passion for pastries and putting a smile on the faces of our guests has allowed us to create treats that haven't yet been seen in the great city of Nashville.
4. What are your long-term goals for your career, either with JW Marriott Nashville or just in general?
LK: I have really enjoyed the development side of opening this hotel. Working with construction, banking, etc. has really opened my eyes to the possibilities that extend beyond day-to-day hotel operations but are still closely connected with the hotel industry. I envision continuing to lead this amazing asset and team until my kids have graduated from high school. I can tell you this much, I love being a Nashvillian and cannot imagine calling anywhere else home!
RF: I would love to open my own pastry and bakery shop. Additionally, it is a goal of mine to oversee the pastry creation and direction for a company with multiple restaurants and/or hotels. As of today, however, I am happy where I am and enjoy my everyday responsibilities here at the JW Marriott Nashville very much.
5. What is the greatest challenge in your job?
LK: I would say our biggest challenge is maintaining our position as the best luxury hotel in Nashville. When you are leading the pack like we are, everyone is coming for you. So to me, it’s important to maintain the intensity necessary to ensure we remain at the top for many years to come.
RF: My biggest challenge currently is creating vegan pastries. I recently have been diving deep into baking with gluten-free and all-vegan ingredients and have been pleasantly surprised by the results when substituting these ingredients into my creations. From vegan butter to oat flour, a lot of really great, flavorful options exist to not just meet the needs of those with dietary restrictions, but to exceed them. I recently created an all-vegan Mango Passion Twist, which consists of vegan croissant dough and vegan mango passion ganache; the flavor profiles are delectable, and to top it off, it’s better for one’s health and the environment.