Chef's Table - High-tech cooking

Austrian-born Hermann Schatzer is the executive chef at the Georgia Tech Conference Center and Hotel, which opened in August 2003.

You are the son of a butcher?

I grew up on a farm, we slaughtered pigs. My dad had his own smokehouse, made sausages, salami, hams. By 14, I was cutting pigs like a champ.

How is it different working here than at restaurants?

That's really, really interesting. I've done a little of everything: fine dining, a five-star resort, a country inn. But coming to a conference center, you gotta rethink. You've got to think corporate. Breakfast and lunch are very fast paced. We serve 500-600 people from groups and companies here for training or conferences. Sometimes they are here half a day, sometimes five weeks. The challenge is variety — not to repeat anything and to handle requests, like vegetarian meals.

I guess you do a lot of buffets.

It's about consistency. We want to keep getting the customer back. Would you stay here every night, eat here every night, with so many options in Midtown, in Atlanta? Especially if you were from out of town?

How would you describe your menu?

Everything from Asian to Creole. Southern influences — people request meatloaf and fried chicken every week. Caribbean influences from my 12 years in Florida. My Mediterranean is pretty strong.

Can I dine here?

Why would we want to turn anybody's money down? We have the best deal for lunch. We do 60-100 walk-ins.

I was just in Austria. Do you miss the strudel?

It's very easy. If I miss it, I just make it.

What about your fellow countryman, Wolfgang Puck?

I've never met him. I'd love to have dinner with him one day. He grew up 20 minutes from my hometown. He's a big hero in Austria.

Georgia Tech Conference Center and Hotel, 800 Spring St. 404-347-9440.

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