PARSIPPANY, NJ—“For travelers who stay at an extended-stay hotel for weeks or months, their stay isn’t a vacation—it’s life,” said Larry Hambro, VP, brand operations, Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham. A major portion of that life is cooking and eating meals. According to a recent survey conducted by the brand, many of its guests want to cook in their rooms to get that feeling of home.
Last month, Hawthorn Suites, the lone extended-stay brand of Wyndham Hotel Group, launched the Homemade @ Hawthorn program aimed to help guests cook in their rooms by offering easy-to-make recipes created by professional chefs.
“Food is such a critical part of our daily regimens, and it can be really tough to stay on track when you’re on the road for three weeks or three months at a time,” said Hambro. “There’s nothing worse than ordering delivery night after night only to get bland, hockey-puck hamburgers, cheese-less pizza—because it’s all stuck to the top of the box—or soggy fries. Homemade @ Hawthorn lets our guests maintain their lifestyles and feel at home with a home-cooked meal.”
The aforementioned survey of 1,000 respondents, conducted late September in collaboration with Wakefield Associates, found that 66% (including 84% of millennials) agreed that being able to cook in a hotel room would make them feel more at home when traveling. Hambro also noted that about 25-30% of existing long-term Hawthorn Suites guests already cook in their rooms during their stays.
“One of the hardest things about cooking, though, is deciding, ‘What am I going to make tonight?’” he added. “Now, we’ve made it easier for guests to get fresh, quick and easy home-cooked food. While other extended-stay brands are pushing guests out of the in-room kitchen, we’re inviting them in.”
Creating the recipes, which can be found in the brand’s e-cookbook at www.hawthorn.com/homemade, are Chef Hari Nayak, a New York-based chef, restaurateur, author and culinary consultant, and Chef James Rigato, a former Top Chef competitor and owner of The Root Restaurant & Bar and Mabel Gray in Michigan.
“We sought chefs who not only had impressive résumés and the ability to develop creative recipes, but we also wanted partners who understood the challenges our guests face on the road, and who could create easy and delicious dishes specifically for those guests,” said Hambro. “Chef Nayak’s unique take on modern Southeast Asian and fusion cuisines appeals to a wide variety of flavor palates. And, his busy schedule keeps him on the road and away from home more than 100 nights a year, so he understands how challenging it can be to find the foods you want when traveling. Chef Rigato lived in an extended-stay hotel when he competed on Season 12 of Top Chef. He knows eating takeout gets old quickly, and cooking in a hotel can be easy and enjoyable. We knew he’d be a great partner because he understands how to get creative—without getting complicated—even when you don’t have your usual pots and pans.”
Nayak noted that convenience is not the only benefit of cooking a recipe from the Homemade @ Hawthorn program. “Eating out constantly gets monotonous to a point and, more importantly, it’s not very healthy,” he said. “I believe travelers should have the option to eat healthy wherever they are and should have provisions to cook home-made meals for themselves and their families wherever they are while on the road. It’s my preference when I travel. Providing healthy, easy and homemade meal solutions is a great initiative, and I am happy to be a part of it.”
Rigato knew the recipes needed to be easy, since many of the brand’s guests are novices in the kitchen. “I have stayed in extended-stays before and can relate to the desire to cook for the comforts of home, while away,” he noted. “So, I put myself in the mindset of the traveler and created simple dishes, full of flavor and easy to make. There’s no better way to make yourself feel comfortable in a place than being able to cook your own food.”
When Hambro was asked to pick his favorite recipe from the program, it was such a difficult decision that he picked two.
“This is like asking me to pick a favorite friend,” he said. “Each dish is incredibly easy and tasty, but I really enjoy Chef Nayak’s grilled New York Strip steak—it has all of my favorite spices mixed together—and Chef Rigato’s rigatoni with kale, pecorino and pine nuts. It’s hearty and comforting; when I cooked it at home a few weeks ago, my 14-year-old son couldn’t get enough. It was his first time tasting kale and he loved it.
Each Hawthorn Suite contains all the tools needed to prepare the meals, according to Hambro. “We designed our Homemade @ Hawthorn recipes with our in-suite kitchens in mind; every tool a guest needs for these custom-created meals can be found in the kitchen,” he said. “Each is fully equipped with a two-burner stove, a microwave and a refrigerator (some have ovens, too), as well as your standard pots, pans, dishware, cooking utensils and cutlery. All hotels also have outdoor grills, so guests have the option to grill up Chef Nayak’s steak or salmon recipe on a warm summer night, just like they might at home.
All of the more than 100 Hawthorn Suites hotels are located in suburban and urban markets, so there’s always a local grocery store or farmers market nearby to stock up on the recipes’ ingredients, noted Hambro, who added, “But we know convenience is king, so we’re exploring regional grocery delivery partnerships where our guests can purchase the items online—along with their personal favorite foods—and have them delivered right to their hotel.” HB