Siena Tuscan Steakhouse loses chef

UPDATED — Another person in what’s been a string of Ambassador Hotel employees coming and going – from the general manager on down – is gone.

This time, it’s executive chef Marshall Roth, who moved to Wichita to open the downtown hotel’s Siena Tuscan Steakhouse.

“We kind of just parted ways,” Roth says. “I need to do what’s right for myself, and they need to do what’s right for the hotel.”

Hotel owner Paul Coury says he’s a huge Roth fan.

“He’s a great guy,” Coury says.

Roth says he came to Wichita to be his mother’s caretaker. He says he recently was looking to hire more nurses for his mother. Now, he says, he won’t have to.

“I’m going to be taking care of my mom.”

Coury says Roth’s schedule of caring for his mother sometimes conflicted with his schedule at the restaurant.

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Ambassador Hotel closer to possible Autograph Collection by Marriott deal

WICHITA — Last fall, Have You Heard? reported that the Ambassador Hotel may become part of the growing Autograph Collection by Marriott.

At the time, Paul Coury, chairman of Tulsa-based Coury Group, said that he was looking into a soft brand concept.

He didn’t confirm that the Autograph Collection by Marriott was one of them. Nor is he confirming anything now.

However, it looks like the deal may be getting closer. There are still a few hurdles to go, though.

The soft brand trend allows boutique hotels to retain their independence but align themselves with the power of a large chain.

“We’re not where we originally hoped to be by now,” Coury said in September.

“I don’t think we did as good of a job as we needed to to get the major demand generators exposed to our product.”

He was referring to groups and businesses that can commit to annual contracts with hotels, often at the start of each new year.

“It’ll be fine,” Coury said. “It’s going to be a great property for us, and it fits well into the market we’re trying to develop.”

Look for more news soon.

You don’t say: Our favorites from 2013

Some were newsy, some were shocking, but most were simply fun or funny. Here are some of our favorite “You don’t say” quotes from 2013.

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“I said, ‘You must know a lot of angry people.’ (They) said, ‘I work at Spirit.’”

Best of Times owner Nancy Robinson on a person who bought 10 Dammit Dolls, the soft dolls angry people can safely slam on any surface to blow off steam on bad days

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“My first place that I am not going to get married at is the Grand Chapel.”

– Sedgwick County Chairman Jim Skelton, whose upcoming marriage to Stacy Luke won’t take place at the facility he sued over his daughter’s wedding

“That’s correct, he’s not.”

– Grand Chapel owner Dennis Wilkie, who says Skelton is “a troublemaker, and I just don’t want to deal with troublemakers.”

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“Women pilots don’t land at the wrong airport. We ask for directions!”

– A tweet from Seattle-based pilot Karlene Petitt (‏@KarlenePetitt) about the Dreamlifter incident at Colonel James Jabara Airport

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“Be aware, Boeing, ‘this route has tolls.’ Bring some change.”

– An NPR story that acknowledged a stranded Dreamlifter likely couldn’t be towed from Colonel James Jabara Airport to McConnell Air Force Base but offered a Google map and driving directions anyway

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“I thought I’d get in line right behind him.”

– Outgoing Chamber chairwoman Debbie Gann, who “about choked” at the group’s annual dinner Tuesday when possible mayoral candidate Jeff Turner suggested she would make a great mayor

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“I’m going to drop off a baked bean can and a string tomorrow … so we can chat later in the day.”

Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers co-owner Scott Redler teasing City Council member Pete Meitzner about his antiquated BlackBerry

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“With all the crying and whining in Washington, I’m feeling ready to be a new father come November.”

– Expectant father U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder speaking Friday at the 2013 Congressional Summit at the Hotel at Old Town

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“We know you’re a Democrat.”

– Park City administrator Jack Whitson, teasing the city’s chamber president, registered Republican Dean Frankenbery, about a misprint that said Rep. Mike Pompom, not Pompeo, would be the group’s next speaker

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“I know you are all wondering if that beautiful new red car parked over there is a door prize. It’s not. It’s the speaker’s gift.”

Delta Dental of Kansas vice president of human resources Kara Hunt, speaking at the Chamber’s Sunrise Scrambler about a car that Davis-Moore had at the event

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“I thought that Davis-Moore . . . has been hurting so bad that they needed a sale, so I thought I’d help them out.”

– Car dealer Brandon Steven, joking about why he bought a Viper at his competitor’s dealership

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“I think it’s awesome that he bought himself a nice car.”

– Davis-Moore’s Dawson Grimsley, retorting with a teasing implication that Steven couldn’t find a nice car at his own lot

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“The @WichitaOrpheum could use a little Jesus after @RealTracyMorgan’s performance there. #itwaspurefilth”

— A tweet from comedian Ron Shively, aka @FunnyMrBiggs, after hearing City Life Church is going to rent the Orpheum Theatre every Sunday morning for services

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“Puppies and people all over town are sad today.”

—Accountant David Jabara on the death of Doggy Day Care owner Marilyn Walk

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Ambassador Hotel may align with Autograph Collection by Marriott

WICHITA — Wichita’s Ambassador Hotel, which has struggled since opening in January, may become part of the growing Autograph Collection by Marriott.

“I’m looking into soft brands,” says Paul Coury, chairman of Tulsa-based Coury Group.

The soft brand trend allows boutique hotels to retain their independence but align themselves with the power of a large chain.

Coury won’t confirm if he’s working on a deal for the Ambassador to become part of the Autograph Collection.

He does say, though, “If we were to do anything, it’s a good fit for what we do.”

Coury says a soft brand would allow the Ambassador to keep its name and individual style “but still maintain certain standards.”

“We’re not where we originally hoped to be by now,” he says.

“I don’t think we did as good of a job as we needed to to get the major demand generators exposed to our product.”

He’s referring to groups and businesses that can commit to annual contracts with hotels, often at the start of each new year.

“We’re getting ready to burn through 2013 pretty quick,” Coury says. “Once January rolls around, based on the feedback we’ve been receiving … we’ll reach the original projections.”

There are several hurdles, he says.

“Sometimes things don’t go the way you project,” Coury says. “I made some mistakes. I misread the market on some things.”

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DeBoer says he was close to settling lawsuit with former employees, but now that’s off

WICHITA — Hotel developer Jack DeBoer says he was close to settling the lawsuit his Hotel at Old Town filed against two former employees who left for the Ambassador Hotel, but he says that’s now changed.

“They’ve made an offer to settle, and finally I was ready to do it,” DeBoer says of his former general manager Sheila Cole and former director of sales Amy Grossman, who now have the same positions at the Ambassador.

The lawsuit, which was filed in June, alleges breach of fiduciary duty, the destruction of evidence and the misappropriation of trade secrets, among other things.

DeBoer says Cole has now hired his head of housekeeping, front desk manager and one other employee.

“Sheila to do that, it’s unconscionable,” DeBoer says. “Hell, the lawsuit’s still out there.”

That’s why DeBoer says he changed his mind about settling.

“I said, ‘To hell with it. Let’s leave it out there.’ People don’t think.”

Terry Malone, the attorney who represents Cole and Grossman, says he wasn’t aware DeBoer was ever close to settling.

“As is typical of all lawsuits, there has been some … settlement negotiation and discussion,” he says. “I’ve had no indication that they’re close.”

Malone says he has been dealing with DeBoer’s attorney and not DeBoer, but he says what’s been suggested in negotiations is that everything should remain confidential. He says that’s how he’d like to keep it.

To say much more, he says, “Frankly, I think it would be inappropriate.”

Malone says he’s not sure about other employees Cole may have hired.

Regardless, he says Cole has done nothing “that is wrong or in violation of any law or contract.”

“I do not know why he would be angry,” Malone says of DeBoer. “People change jobs all of the time.”

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Jack DeBoer creates new VP position for former Ambassador GM Michael Frimel

UPDATED — The new vice president of sales and marketing for the Hotel at Old Town and the Hotel at WaterWalk is a familiar face in the Wichita hotel world.

Michael Frimel, who was the former general manager of the Ambassador Hotel, has the newly created job.

“He reports directly to me,” says hotelier Jack DeBoer.

Former Hotel at Old Town general manager Sheila Cole and former director of sales Amy Grossman now hold the same positions at the 6-month old Ambassador. DeBoer is suing them for alleged breach of fiduciary duty, the destruction of evidence and the misappropriation of trade secrets, among other things.

DeBoer says Frimel’s hiring has nothing to do with Cole and Grossman or where they went.

“It has absolutely no connection,” he says. “I met him after all that confusion.”

He says Frimel wanted to stay in Wichita and contacted him about a job. DeBoer says he’d already hired Jennifer Finlay as general manager for the Hotel at Old Town. He says she’s worked for the hotel for a decade.

“That was easy,” DeBoer says of hiring her. “She’s terrific.”

Frimel says he didn’t immediately call DeBoer after resigning from the Ambassador at the end of May because he considered getting out of the hotel business.

“This allowed me to, number one, keep my family here,” says Frimel, who has a son going into high school.

He says this position will allow him to focus more on sales and marketing, which he says is something he loves.

“I will talk to anybody about anything,” he says.

Frimel hasn’t discussed his departure from the Ambassador publicly yet, but he says there’s no story beyond his choice to do something else with a new company.

“There’s really not,” he says. “It was definitely my decision.”

DeBoer says he’s still looking for a few more sales people.

“We’re just beefing up.”

Although the lawsuit is yet to be resolved, DeBoer says he doesn’t want his staff at the Hotel at Old Town or at the Hotel at WaterWalk dwelling on what happened with the hotel departures.

“It’s forbidden at both hotels to talk about that whole issue,” he says. “It’s over. It’s done with. … Our job is to get on with it.”

Hotel at Old Town sues two managers who left for positions at the Ambassador Hotel

UPDATED — The Hotel at Old Town has filed a lawsuit against former general manager Sheila Cole and former director of sales Amy Grossman, who now hold the same positions at the 6-month-old Ambassador Hotel.

According to the lawsuit, which was filed in Sedgwick County District Court on Tuesday, Cole faxed Jack DeBoer, the principal owner of the Hotel at Old Town, resignations for herself and Grossman on May 30. The suit says Cole offered Grossman a job at the Ambassador and that Cole faxed a note that Grossman “accepted the challenge of helping turn the hotel around.”

The suit alleges breach of fiduciary duty, the destruction of evidence and the misappropriation of trade secrets, among other things.

“I think I was treated very poorly,” DeBoer says. “I’m just protecting my asset. That’s what my attorneys counseled me to do to protect it. So that’s my story.”

Neither Cole nor Grossman returned calls for comment.

The suit alleges that prior to her resignation, “Cole accessed her office computer and deleted significant portions of the Microsoft Outlook ‘In Box,’ deleted her ‘Sent Box,’ deleted her Microsoft Outlook ‘Trash’ or ‘Recycle Bin,’ and ran a program called CCleaner to erase the evidence of the ‘link files’ showing Defendant Cole’s links to documents recently accessed by her. By running CCleaner, Cole also permanently erased the evidence of all temporary files and histories, the download history, and the evidence of what was downloaded to her Flash Drive and then erased from her computer and placed in the trash/recycle bin.”

DeBoer says he doesn’t want to comment further on the lawsuit.

“I want to stay out of it.”

The 82-year-old businessman has one thing to say, though.

“The only thing I can say is I’ve never sued anybody. How ’bout that?” DeBoer says. “I’m a lover, not a fighter.”

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Partying like a rock star — in Wichita

Wally Reyes Jr., post workout at the Ambassador Hotel, partying with Anchor owner Schane Gross.

WICHITA — Percussionist Walfredo Reyes Jr., who is on tour with Chicago, had just finished a workout in the Ambassador Hotel’s gym Sunday night when he encountered Anchor owner Schane Gross in the elevator on his way back to his room on the 12th floor.

Before he knew it, he was partying with a bunch of chefs and food service vendors celebrating their first Funday in the Rock Star Suite.

Funday is a Kansas City tradition that Siena Tuscan Steakhouse chef Marshall Roth is now instituting at the Ambassador where chefs gather to cook and hang out together on Sundays. The first one included Wichita chefs and several from Kansas City.

Reyes, who goes by Wally, fit right in as he fielded questions about his time in Wichita on the band’s way to Salina’s Stiefel Theatre Monday.

So why wasn’t he or anyone else in the band already staying in the Rock Star Suite?

“Too many expenses,” he says.

The Cuba native is known around the world for his drumming and has toured with a number of acts, such as Santana and Steve Winwood.

“I travel all around the world like I’m hopping in a cab,” Reyes says.

Still, he was impressed with Wichita.

He stopped into A Legacy Antique Mall around the corner from the Ambassador.

“I transported myself to the ’60s,” he says of checking out records.

He also popped over to Mead’s Corner for a small latte with a double shot of espresso.

“And you know what?” Reyes says. “They know how to make it. Starbucks doesn’t.”

Reyes, who currently lives north of Los Angeles, particularly liked Old Town even though not much was open Sunday morning as he walked around.

“I have a fetish with brick or something,” he says. “It kind of … talks to you.”

He says that’s one reason he likes New Orleans so much, and now Old Town is on his list, too.

“I love the vibe.”

Reyes says he can imagine the area continuing to grow and prosper even more.

“In, like, two or three years, I’ll be back to rock and party.”

Funday replacing Sunday at Ambassador Hotel for gathering of executive chefs

WICHITA — A Kansas City tradition is coming to Wichita – literally.

Marshall Roth, executive chef at the Siena Tuscan Steakhouse at the Ambassador Hotel, used to work in Kansas City where Sunday occasionally was Funday when chefs from restaurants around the city would get together and cook for each other.

Roth says the rule was each chef had to bring something from his freezer and then “leave your ego at the door.”

After touring Creekstone Farms in Arkansas City, Roth says he wanted his chef friends from Kansas City to see it, too.

“Well, it kind of just blew up into this chef Funday again,” he says.

About a dozen chefs are meeting at the Ambassador Hotel in Kansas City on Sunday and taking “a booze cruise down to my property.”

There will be a reception in the rock star suite. Creekstone is donating some prime bone-in rib eyes that have been aged for 55 days.

“It’s, like, crazy,” Roth says.

The extensive menu also will include sea urchins that Seattle Fish is donating.

The chefs will tour Creekstone Monday and have lunch before heading home.

Roth is inviting some Wichita chefs as well and hopes Funday might become a tradition here.

“It’s going to be a blast,” he says. “Should be a good, fun, wild evening.”

You don’t say

“By the way, I was back at Siena today. The sidewalk view was every bit as good as I remembered.”

– An e-mail from Denice Bruce of Professional Engineering Consultants joking about the Ambassador Hotel’s website, which brags the hotel has views “overlooking the sidewalks of Wichita”