By Emily Williams
The new Grand Bohemian Hotel Mountain Brook is not just a place to stay or host events; it’s designed to be a cultural experience in and of itself.
The hotel, which is preparing for its grand opening in Lane Park on Oct. 23, includes an art gallery, cooking school, wine-blending service and spa in addition to the traditional event venues, restaurant and bar, which, in this case, aren’t traditional at all.
Offerings at the hotel, The Kessler Collection’s newest property, have a decidedly local flair, said hotel General Manager Thomas Hoffman.
“Food, art and music are three really important components for each property,” Hoffman said. “Each property has an art gallery. We have the biggest one in our collection. We display art, we sell art, we talk about art and you will see art throughout the hotel.”
The hotel’s art gallery will house works by international artists as well as local and regional artists.
The Grand Bohemian will be unique in The Kessler Collection in that it incorporates everything the company has to offer.
“This property has all of the bells and whistles,” Hoffman said. “We have the cooking school, wine blending and the spa. We have all of the toys to play with and we are very proud of that.”
Hoffman said that the concept for the hotel is to embrace the region and become a part of it.
“We don’t want to box ourselves in too much, but we want to maintain a sense of place and time,” he said. “What’s in season, what is actually growing right now and what you can find around here.”
The hotel’s restaurant will offer dishes that incorporate ingredients from the mountainous northern areas of Alabama to the Gulf Coast. Hoffman said that the restaurant’s chef, Kirk Gilbert, is knowledgeable about the region’s cuisine, having worked closely with both Frank Stitt and Chris Hastings in his career.
“We want to be an addition to the food scene,” Hoffman said. “We just want to add a little more excitement. That’s our goal. We made a big investment in our restaurant and that’s really for the local community.”
They are also catering specifically to the locals with the rooftop bar, which Hoffman described as “huge,” stretching from the indoors to an outdoor terrace.
“We want people to come in just to have a good time or enjoy a drink after work,” Hoffman said. “We’re keeping it casual. We don’t want anyone to think of it as a special location. We want to be a place where people come every day.”
The 12,000-square-foot ballroom already is raking in reservations for fundraisers and weddings. Hoffman said that the hotel’s event management team is prepared to handle a wide variety of events and the banquet chef will be delivering the same high-end culinary experience that guests will find in the hotel’s restaurant.
“We don’t want to be just another boring banquet venue,” Hoffman said. “We want the food to be exciting in the banquet rooms, as well. That’s what we are going to focus on.”
The Grand Bohemian has enlisted former Little Savannah chef Clif Holt to take control of the on-site cooking school.
“The cooking school is kind of an extension of our restaurant,” Hoffman said. “That’s how we look at it… this whole concept of being regional, being seasonal.” He said Holt recently finished the company’s culinary training program in Savannah, Georgia, to prepare for upcoming classes.
The schedule will begin with two to three courses offered each week and will evolve from there. Hoffman said that, once spring rolls around, the school will offer a farmer’s market component.
“We’ll take to the farmer’s market, go shopping a little bit, talk about local products, take them back to the hotel and then cook a little something,” Hoffman said. The staff is also looking forward to offering courses for couples, as well as specialized classes such as pasta making and canning. For now, they are focused on the holidays.
“We’re going to do a class on how to cook the perfect Thanksgiving dinner and perfect Christmas dinner,” he said.
One of the more unique offerings in the hotel will be the wine-blending experience, which gives guests the opportunity to make a wine that suits their personal taste preference.
“We are working with a vineyard out of Napa Valley called Raymond Vineyards and the concept is that we would take some of their red wine and we would work around it,” Hoffman said. “We’ll teach you how to blend your own wine. You are in charge of it and you can decide how you want it to taste.”
Once the class is over, the hotel will keep each guest’s blend on file and offer a bottling service, as well. Hoffman said guests can even order their personal bottled wines in the restaurant, should they choose.
A wine-tasting area will offer 32 wines by the glass to give guests a sense of what flavors they prefer.
“We feature some interesting and unusual wines, wines you would not find as a by-the-glass offering in a normal restaurant,” Hoffman said.
After a soft opening, The Grand Bohemian will hold a grand opening and ribbon-cutting event Oct. 23 and is completely booked for its first weekend.
“We appreciate the support we have gotten from the local community and the excitement, so now we are just ready to open the doors,” Hoffman said. “We want to get it underway and we hope we’ll be a good addition to Mountain Brook and Birmingham.”
For more information, visit www.grandbohemianmountainbrook.com or call 877-253-2859.