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Changes at the Ritz-Carlton

The Ritz-Carlton, both in San Francisco and across the United States, has been an example of how hotel dining can set dining standards. No other national hotel company has consistently taken dining so seriously. In San Francisco, for example, it has been the launching pad for some of our best chefs: Gary Danko and Ron Siegel.

However, big changes are in the air. Yesterday I got a call from Jean-Pierre Dubray, who has been the executive chef at the property since it opened 17 years ago. On March 14 he plans to move with his wife and three children to Orange County to become executive chef of another property outside of the Ritz-Carlton chain.

While a hotel's executive chef is a low-profile position, because it isn't as visible as the chefs who head up the public restaurants, Dubray has been instrumental in the hotel's culinary success. He's a consummate professional who was able to impress more than 100 food editors on two separate occasions when the Association of Food Journalists met at the hotel.

Other hotels have ventured into the fine dining arena, but their successes has been sporadic. Remember how great Kimpton used to be when it owned Masa's and then opened the Fifth Floor? However in the last few years the company has lost its edge in the fine dining arena at such places as Grand Cafe. The focus now seems to be on opening hotels.

Many people wondered how the Ritz would fare when it was purchased by Marriott, but there's been no dip in quality, at least from the customer's perspective.

Now it seems that the Ritz in San Francisco is at a crossroads, especially if Ron Siegel leaves (as of yesterday he still hadn't given notice although we've reported that he was close to signing a deal to take over Myth).

General manager and area vice president Ed Mady has a tough challenge ahead replacing such important positions. I only hope that the hotel continues to set standards.


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