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Schmidt Honored As Outstanding Hospitality Industry Professional

New York City College of Technology’s (City Tech) Department of Hospitality Management honored Arno Schmidt as the 2011 Outstanding Industry Professional at its annual Spring 2011 Baccalaureate Celebration held on Monday, May 9.

Mr. Schmidt – who is president of Arno Schmidt Enterprises, a consulting firm specializing in commercial kitchen design and concept development – received his award at the event, which was attended by most of the College’s 125 hospitality management students who are graduating as part of the Class of 2011.

“Arno Schmidt is an iconic figure in the culinary world,” says City Tech Hospitality Management Professor Jean Claude, in explaining why the College was honoring Mr. Schmidt. “He is an immigrant who worked his way to the top of the food and beverage industry and became one of the most revered chefs in New York. He inspires our students to work hard and fight for what they want."

Mr. Schmidt, a resident of Jackson Heights, Queens, was born and raised in Austria and apprenticed there as a chef. After having worked in five countries he arrived in the United States in 1959, starting out as chef poissonier (head fish cook) at the St. Regis Hotel in May of that year.

His first job as executive chef came in 1960 when he opened Restaurant Associates’ John Peel Restaurant in Westbury, Long Island. Other positions as executive chef in prestigious hotels followed. He experienced firsthand the desperate shortage of trained cooks when those who were European-trained retired.

Mr. Schmidt accepted an invitation to teach at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), then located in New Haven, Connecticut. After one year, he was promoted to chef supervisor with the responsibility of synchronizing teaching spread over six buildings and two campuses.

In 1969, he was offered the position of executive chef at The Waldorf-Astoria Hotel and worked there for ten years. “I experienced the re-opening of the Empire Room Nightclub, the exciting and exacting dinners given by heads of state during the Bi-Centennial, the glorious society balls and the nationally televised New Years Eve shows conducted by Guy Lombardo,” he notes.

Subsequently, he looked beyond the kitchen door and was appointed food and beverage director  of the Harley (Helmsley) Hotel, followed by a three-year stint in the same capacity at The Plaza Hotel.

In 1985, he established Arno Schmidt Enterprises, specializing in concept development, evaluation of operating practices and commercial kitchen design in conjunction with Post and Grossbard. His client base extended from Cyprus to Abu Dhabi, and to New York City’s Russian Tea Room and Time Warner Center.

The lifestyle change gave Mr. Schmidt time to teach, and for a number of years he conducted the Food Service Management certificate course for NYU and at community colleges. There was also time to write a number of industry textbooks.

Schmidt received the IFMA Silver Plate in 1984 and was elected Man of the Year in 1985 by the Food and Beverage Association of New York. He was the founding president of the ACF Big Apple Chapter, a board member of the Chefs de Cuisine Association of America and member of the Société Culinaire Philanthropique. In addition, he is a past board member of the International Wine & Food Society and a Commandeur of the Chevaliers de la Chaine des Rôtisseurs.

Mr. Schmidt and his wife, Margaret, have two grown children.

New York City College of Technology (City Tech) of The City University of New York, located in Downtown Brooklyn, is the largest public college of technology in New York State. Its hospitality management program, founded in 1947, offers the only public bachelor’s degree program in New York City. Currently, 834 hospitality management students are pursuing either associate or bachelor’s degrees. Alumni include some of the New York City and the country's top chefs, such as Michael Lomonaco (Porter House New York), Michael Romano (Union Square Café) and Sherry Yard (Spago Beverly Hills).


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