Dining at a hotel restaurant such as the Peppercorn Duck Club (see review) might feel different from eating at a stand-alone restaurant. But being attached to a hotel doesn't have much to do with a restaurant's operations.
"There's the perception that there's a difference, but the facilities are really the same," says the Raphael Hotel's Peter Hahn.
Hahn has been executive chef at the Raphael for nearly 20 years, but last month his duties nearly doubled when the hotel's new owner, Wichita-based Lighthouse Properties LLC, appointed him general manager of the Raphael Restaurant. Lighthouse has been making extensive renovations to guest rooms, Hahn says; the restaurant isn't scheduled for a makeover until late 2009.
Hahn took the job, he says, because he was excited by the challenge. The hard work has been to make changes that help the bottom line without affecting the restaurant's style or reputation for fine dining.
"Instead of changing the menu every two weeks, we now change it every two months, with the seasons," he explains. "And the owners wanted to expand the kinds of food we offered so that guests wouldn't be so tempted to cross Brush Creek and dine at the Plaza restaurants. To do that, we need to broaden our appeal without lowering our standards."
Does that mean adding a burger platter, I ask, half-joking.
"It's funny you should say that," Hahn says with a laugh. "We do have burgers now. Three Kobe beef sliders on a potato roll with homemade ketchup, caramelized onions and smoked cheddar. They're delicious."
And priced at $15, which sounds expensive but isn't really out of line for a good burger at an upscale hotel. In fact, I'd kind of like to eat a couple of those sliders myself — preferably delivered on a silver tray by room service. Unlike Hahn, I do think there's a difference between restaurants in and out of hotels. At a hotel, you can eat a perfectly delicious meal while lolling in a soft bed.
One more thing about Hahn's new job: As the executive chef and general manager, he is also now officially his wife's boss. Kathy Hahn has been a waitress at the Raphael on and off for the past 13 years.
"So far, it's working out fine," he says. Here's to true love.