Nearly a year after the death of Claes Andersen, the chef-proprietor and wine aficionado who restored the historic Hotel Laguna, Heinz U. Hofmann was named this week as its chief operating officer.
He succeeds Michelle Wheeler, the hotel’s 10-year general manager, whose departure came as a surprise. “It was an amicable separation and we wish her much luck in her future endeavors,” spokeswoman Sarah Lawson said.
Hofmann described his new position as a “home-coming” due to his relationship of long-standing with the hotel’s proprietors, Claes and Georgia Andersen, as well as his frequent visits as a guest.
Hofmann, who will be handling the day-to-day operations of the 65-room hotel and its two restaurants and bar, brings with him 50 years of hospitality experience. He began his career apprenticing in the kitchens of his native land, but went on to manage several large hotels and more recently worked as a hotel development consultant. His most recent project includes the $25.7 million La Quinta Country Club.
Hofmann, a native of Switzerland, and Andersen, who was Danish, were members of the gastronomic society Confrèrie de la Chaîne des Rôtisseurs in 1985 when they met. They developed a friendship over their shared culinary interests and European roots. Both men traveled to Paris often as members of the Chaine’s ruling council.
Hofmann recently inducted the hotel’s executive Chef Paul Bauer and Claes’ son, Stefan, into the group.
“We are very pleased to have Heinz join the Hotel Laguna family and look forward to adding his expertise to our continued commitment to delivering an outstanding experience for our guests,” Georgia Andersen, owner of Hotel Laguna, said in a statement.
The hotel property remains in the hands of Richard W. Merritt, a Central Valley rancher, who purchased the building in 1973 and leased its hotel business to Claes Andersen in 1985.