Amway Hotel Corp. launches Program to retain talent

February 12, 2011
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As part of its $100,000 scholarship commitment to the Secchia Institute for Culinary Education at Grand Rapids Community College, the Amway Hotel Corp. recently awarded its first two scholarships to a pair of second-year students. Chris Wessely and Mark Aben each received a $2,500 scholarship.

The hotel corporation, which owns and operates the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel, the JW Marriot, and the Downtown Courtyard by Marriott, set up the scholarship for two reasons. One is to recruit and retain local culinary talent.

“As our community continues to experience significant growth in the hospitality industry, employee recruitment and retention has become a priority. We’ve found that many of the area’s top hospitality program graduates pursue employment outside of Grand Rapids,” said Joseph Tomaselli, president of the Amway Hotel Corp.

“To cultivate and attract a qualified work force, our community needs to offer students proper training and ample job opportunities. Through this scholarship, we will provide them with both, and are thrilled to launch the program with two promising students. Congratulations to both Chris and Mark,” said Tomaselli.

The other reason for establishing the scholarship program is to honor the corporation’s longest-serving employee: Franz “Swiss” Imfeld.

Imfeld began his culinary career as head chef of the former Pantlind Hotel, now the Amway Grand Plaza, in 1958 and was appointed executive sous chef at the Grand Plaza when it opened in 1981. Imfeld moved into food purchasing in 1988 and still works on a full-time basis in that department at the age of 79.

The hotel corporation has twice named Imfeld its manager of the year, and the new scholarship program bears his name.

“Establishing this scholarship in Swiss’ name is a fitting tribute to a remarkable individual whose longtime dedication to and passion for the hospitality industry exemplifies our organization’s mission to provide exceptional service. He has consistently gone the extra mile for our patrons and staff and is very deserving of this honor,” said Tomaselli.

The Imfeld scholarship is open to second-year, full-time culinary arts students with a minimum 3.0 grade point average. Students must exemplify a sound character, have solid culinary skills and exhibit a strong ability for leadership to be considered. They must submit an essay that explains how their interest in the culinary-arts profession drives them to excel as students.

The hotel corporation will provide scholarship recipients access to career-fulfillment training that includes mentoring opportunities by members of the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel’s culinary team. The recipients also will participate in hands-on learning activities and be considered for internship and employment opportunities.

“We’re excited about the opportunity that this scholarship creates for our culinary students to be supported and mentored by the staff at one of the finest hotels in the United States. A second-year scholarship is beneficial to students who, like Chris and Mark, demonstrate exemplary culinary and leadership skills,” said Randy Sahajdack, program director of GRCC’s Secchia Institute for Culinary Education.

“It also provides the (financial) assistance that our students often need to successfully complete their program,” added Sahajdack.

The Secchia Institute offers degree-granting programs in culinary arts and culinary management, and a certificate program in baking and pastry arts.

Students can apply for the scholarship online at

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