Each year, the Grand Rapids-Kent County Convention/Arena Authority (CAA) presents an award on the Opening Night of the Grand Rapids International Wine, Beer & Food Festival to an outstanding individual or organization that has played an integral part of the establishment and growth of the event. This year, that award was presented to Gerhard Schmied, Vice President of Food & Beverage at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel.
“The convention center has contracted with the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel to provide its food and beverage services since 1985,” says Steve Heacock, CAA Chairman. “Gerhard is a key member of the executive leadership team and is responsible for the development and execution of the overall vision of the Food & Beverage program to ensure that our guests receive a world-class experience no matter what event they’re attending within the building.”
Gerhard has also been a pivotal figure when it comes to the must-attend culinary celebration of the season—the largest such event in the Midwest: The Grand Rapids International Wine, Beer & Food Festival, now in its eleventh year.
“Gerhard twice joined our team in attending the Ottawa Wine & Food Show in Canada, on which our Festival is based,” says Rich MacKeigan, Regional Manager of SMG (overseeing DeVos Place, DeVos Performance Hall, and Van Andel Arena). “His input was invaluable in launching our Festival and growing it to the successful event that it is today. Back when the Festival was just an idea, he was influential in convincing wine distributors to get on board, persuading restaurants to be involved and swaying the show producers to include high-end wines for the public to sample.”
Gerhard arrived at the Amway in 1997 with a lifetime of experience and today he oversees all Food & Beverage operations for nine hotels (including all banquet service) and 23 restaurants. Prior to moving to Michigan, he operated Gerhard’s Restaurant in Miami Beach, Florida, for twelve years. Beyond that, his credentials including such esteemed restaurants as The Grill at the Dorchester in London, England; The President Hotel in Johannesburg, South Africa; Elbow Beach Surf Club in Bermuda; Harbor Castle Hotel (Hilton International) in Toronto, Canada; Chateauneuf Restaurant; Stouffer’s Inn on the Square in Cleveland, Ohio; The Houstonian in Houston, Texas; and The Pavilion Hotel in Miami, Florida.
His remarkable education took place in Tirol in western Austria, including Gastronomy at Schonegg in Hallein, and Villa Blanka in Innsbruck, with internships at Grand Hotel Europa in Innsbruck and Alpen Hotel Lamm in Seefeld.
In his spare time, Gerhard loves to travel to some of his favorites cities like Budapest, Prague, Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, Sevilla, Cordoba, Sanlucar de Barrameda, Vienna, Beaune, and Reims. His son, Ryan, has followed in his footsteps and has been tapped as General Manager of the new AC Hotel that opens this spring in downtown Grand Rapids.
Past recipients of the Chairman’s Award, which was first presented in 2011, include West Side Beer, Meijer, Gemini Publications, Michigan Grape & Wine Industry Council, Ferris State University; Chef Angus Campbell-retired from the Secchia Institute for Culinary Education at Grand Rapids Community College; Daryl Delabbio, retired Kent County Administrator/Controller; and Greg Sundstrom, retired Grand Rapids City Manager.
DeVos Place Convention Center is owned and operated by the CAA, a Michigan statutory authority, which is governed by a seven-member board of directors appointed by the County of Kent, the City of Grand Rapids, Michigan and the private sector. In addition to DeVos Place Convention Center, the CAA owns and operates DeVos Performance Hall and the Van Andel Arena. Kent County and the City of Grand Rapids established the CAA to encourage economic development and job creation in downtown Grand Rapids. The CAA has contracted with SMG, a private management company, to run day-to-day operations of the facilities.
The 11th Annual Grand Rapids International Wine, Beer & Food Festival is expected to draw more than 18,000+ people throughout its three days. With more than three acres (120,000 square feet) of tasting experiences and more than 1,700 beverages for sampling, this one-of-a-kind Festival is the largest culinary celebration in the entire Midwest.
*Attendance at this festival is for those 21 years of age and older. ID is required for admittance.