The Most Interesting Man in Auburn

Hans Van der ReijdenFrom Washington D.C., to Bali, Indonnesia, the most interesting man in Auburn has seen almost every corner of the world before bringing his hospitality talents to The Plain’s.

Hans Van der Reijden, managing director of hotel operations and educational initiatives at The Hotel at Auburn University and Dixon Conference Center, is in his 12th year of successfully combining his worldly perspective with Southern hospitality.

Van der Reijden was born and raised in The Netherlands, where he obtained a degree in hotel and restaurant management. His family owned a business in Zeist, The Netherlands, specializing in crematory and funeral home services, but Van Der Reijden decided at a young age his heart was resided more in hospitality.

“We lived very close to the number one restaurant in the country,” says Van der Reijden. “It was a two-star Michelin restaurant, but it was the number one place where all of the celebrities and the royal family went. I used to go with my family on business dinners and sit in the corner and do my homework, but I was fascinated with the restaurant scene.”

After being exposed to the restaurant industry in this particular venue, Van der Reijden at age 14 inquired the restaurant owner about potentially working for him. The store owner said yes, but placed Van der Reijden in the dish pit part of the restaurant.

“I washed dishes for the entire day at age 14 and did not quit there,” says Van der Reijden. “I kept getting promoted and promoted.”

From there, Van der Reijden was able to secure a prestigious year-long internship in Antwerp, Belgium, which opened his eyes to wanting to practice hospitality in the United States. Securing a work Visa in America was difficult though, so Van der Reijden joined Holland America Cruise Line, where he was able to sail the seven seas for over three years.

“After the cruise line, I really wanted to work with The Ritz-Carlton, Hotel Company” says Van der Reijden. “I got accepted and got to work in the The Ritz-Carlton in St. Louis.”

After residing in St. Louis, Van der Reijden moved all over the world to work with Ritz-Carlton in places including Washington D.C., San Francisco, Atlanta, New York, Singapore and Bali.

“I lived in Bali for four and half years, and after 11 years with Ritz-Carlton our company got bought by Marriott,” says Van der Reijden. “Our president at the time, Horst Schulze, was going to start a new hotel company and I wanted to be part of it. I got a call one day from Schulze to come to Atlanta to be a part of the new company, and was told that I was going to be moved to Auburn, Alabama. I had no idea where that even was.”

Van der Reijden worked in The Hotel at Auburn University for a year and half, before moving to Chicago, Illinois, to open another hotel. He was told just a year later to move back to Auburn, because they needed a partner to be onsite at the hotel. They needed an official to stay onsite because of its partnership with Auburn University’s hotel and restaurant management degree. The Hotel at Auburn University and Dixon Conference Center is actually owned by Auburn University, thus making it extremely accessible to students in hospitality programs.

“In this program we teach, we have field trips to California wine country and have fundraisers that raised over $300,000,” says Van der Reijden. “Also, every dollar spent at the hotel flows straight back to the university, whether this means staying as a guest, eating at Arricia Tratoria, having a drink at Piccolo or a function in the conference center.”

Despite having an incredibly successful career, Van der Reijden is passionate about donating his time to grooming leaders in the future generation of hospitality management.

“One thing I want students to do is get a job,” says Van der Reijden. “It doesn’t matter if it is full-time or part-time or even in the industry, but having experience will really help you in a job interview. As an employer, we want to know if you have been accustomed to the cadence of getting up, going to work and also balancing it with school.”

For more information about The Hotel at Auburn University and Dixon Conference Center or Hans Van der Reijden, please visit http://www.auhcc.com/about.

 

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