Aaron Lenz, Perry graduate, will work as the General Manager of the Hotel Pattee, alongside new owner, Tom Maxwell. Lenz began his transition into the Hotel earlier this week and is excited to pay tribute to the Hotel Pattee’s Roberta Ahmanson roots.
“I’m a fresh set of eyes on the whole place, so my memories of the hotel are when it was under the Ahmanson scope and how they ran things,” said Aaron Lenz, new General Manager for the Hotel Pattee. “That doesn’t necessarily make sense from every perspective, but we can get back to that level and still be a financially strong operation.”
“That’s my goal.”
An early interest in the restaurant business
Growing up in Perry, Lenz fell in love with cooking after working at Breadeaux Pizza in Perry.
“It’s just fun being around people and entertaining the masses,” Lenz said. “I did that for most of high school and then when I went to college I got involved in more fine dining.”
After graduating from PCSD in 2001, Lenz studied hotel restaurant management at Iowa State University.
“I worked at Aunt Maudes in Ames which is pretty much the nicest place in the town, then I was working at the Hotel Pattee at the same time,” Lenz said.
During Lenz’ original venture with the hotel, he worked alongside previous executive chef, David North, who really impressed him.
“I just decided to make a career out of it,” Lenz said.
Following his graduation, Lenz moved to New York where he studied at the Culinary Institute of America.
“I never wanted to be a Chef, that doesn’t appeal to me,” Lenz laughed. “I want to teach people how to cook.”
Following his graduation, Lenz’ career took him to Georgia and Colorado, where experience ranged from running an airport restaurant to operating a group of mexican restaurants.
“When I took over as a General Manager for the Rio Grande [Mexican Restaurants], I had a blast,” Lenz said. “I like to tout that I know more about tequila than probably 99 percent of the state of Iowa.”
“So expect some tequila pairings on stuff or teaching classes if you will,” Lenz laughed.
More recently, Lenz relocated back to Iowa from Colorado in order to be closer to relatives.
“I met my wife in Colorado and she’s from Iowa,” Lenz said. “We’ve got two kids, they’re currently one and four, and they needed to be around their families.”
Lenz was later recommended for the position as General Manager for The Hotel Pattee by Dan Spellman.
“I just moved back to Des Moines a couple of months ago and he said, ‘This guy is pretty good at what he does, give him a call and see if he’s interested,’” Lenz recalled.
Due to Maxwell’s primary location in Illinois, Maxwell decided to seek out a General Manager for the operation while he was away. Maxwell sought out help from the community and credits Dan Spellman and Matt McDevitt for their guidance during the search.
“They came up with a couple of names for me to consider,” Maxwell said in a previous interview. “When I talked to the person I ultimately hired, I realized it was just going to be an absolute perfect fit for the Hotel.”
Lenz echoed Maxwell’s positivity about the hiring process.
“We chatted for a while and met up and frankly, all of the pieces fell together just right,” Lenz said.
Reintroduction to The Hotel Pattee
Lenz is learning all of the ropes, he explains.
“I’ve instructed all of my staff that they need to tell me where I need to be and it needs to be action packed during the day,” Lenz said. “I’m bouncing all over the place and figuring out where I am best utilized.”
In 10 days, both Maxwell and Lenz will work alongside one another as Jay and Denise Hartz depart from the business.
“The Hartz have ran this place very well overall,” Lenz said. “They’ve set a very good stage for me to now take over and hone a lot of these things, and with the guidance of Tom whose phenomenal - his support and overall enthusiasm is unmatched.”
Lenz’ role will consist of maintaining all realms of the hotel.
“We’ve got the restaurant that needs some tweaking,” Lenz said. “It’s got a good base to it, but I can bring a new level of quality with keeping price points in line; I can bring a new level of service to the whole place as far as the hotel maintenance go.”
The staff has been both accommodating and resourceful, Lenz details.
“The staff is fantastic here,” Lenz said. “I’ve been impressed by more people in their overall dedication and passion for this place. The goal is to keep them doing exactly what they’re doing, and very slowly improve upon it.”
Overall, Lenz is happy to be back.
“I’m excited to be back in town,” Lenz said. “I walk in already and I see faces that I haven’t seen in a long time. It’s a good start in any new position in the community.”