Hyatt Hotels officially took over the resort on May 18, renaming it Highlands Inn -- A Park Hyatt Hotel and installing Ulrich Samyets as its general manager. Samyets, who has spent his entire career in the food industry, most recently worked as Hyatt's corporate director of food and beverage.
"Food and wine is why Highlands Inn is so renowned," said Samyets. "I don't want to change that."
Earlier this year, executive chef Cal Stamenov resigned after five years to move to Bernardus, a new hotel being built in Carmel Valley by Bernardus Winery owner Ben Pon. It is scheduled to open later this summer. Sommelier Mark Jensen, a 14-year veteran of Highlands Inn, decided only this week to follow Stamenov to Bernardus.
Jeff Rogers, formerly sous chef at Pacific's Edge, has taken Stamenov's place as executive chef. Philip Baker, previously sous chef at Babette's in Sonoma, has been hired as chef de cuisine. Baker has also cooked at The French Laundry in Yountville, Calif., as well as Bouley and Jean-Georges in New York.
David Fink, who had been general manager under the prior owners, left on April 30 and is currently running Salish Lodge in Snoqualmie, Wash. (Salish Lodge, a setting for the "Twin Peaks" TV series, is owned by The Coastal Group, the hotel company that sold Highlands Inn.) Fink, who plans to remain at Salish through this year, is beefing up the resort's wine and food program. He intends to return to Carmel Valley, where he is building a home, for an unnamed future resort project.
Samyets indicated that Hyatt would continue the Masters of Food & Wine, saying that Stamenov will return to coordinate the kitchen for the event next February. (Brian Whitmer did the same after he resigned as Highlands' chef five years ago.) Jensen said he had agreed to participate as well. Public relations consultant Gabriela Knubis, who was instrumental in developing the program's details, is negotiating with the hotel to continue her involvement in the event.
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