Hotel at Auburn University employees win top honors at Alabama Stars of Industry gala

AUBURN – Five employees of The Hotel at Auburn University were recognized at the Alabama Hotel and Lodging Association’s Stars of the Industry Awards gala in Birmingham Oct. 24, with two taking home top honors. Catering and special events chef Leonardo Maurelli was named Chef of the Year and engineer Charles Smith was named the Hospitality Employee of the Year. Finalists in their fields were Laura Stirling, director of housekeeping; Ted Dempsey, member of the audio/visual department; and Caleb Reeves, bartender.  Reeves also took home the silver medal for the Alabama Bartender Competition.

“We are so honored and proud to have two individuals from The Hotel at Auburn University win these very prestigious awards and three others named as finalists,” said Hans van der Reijden, managing director of The Hotel at Auburn University.  “Chef Maurelli’s continued dedication to his craft and all of the effort he put into organizing Chefs to the Rescue, the June fundraiser event to benefit Alabama’s April tornado victims featuring 24 chefs from around the country, were some of the characteristics that helped him win his award.”

Maurelli has served as the catering and special event chef of the hotel since August 2009.  His love of food and cooking can be seen in the numerous special events he organizes for The Hotel at Auburn University throughout the year.  He often works closely with local craft brewers to develop unique menus for weekly craft beer dinners and for the hotel’s signature events – AprilFest and Oktoberfest.

Charles Smith has been an engineer at The Hotel at Auburn University since August 2009.  His commitment to going above and beyond normal job responsibilities helped him win this year’s award.

“Mr. Smith’s outstanding and unusual service to the property, to our guests and to the community made him a top candidate to win the Hospitality Employee of the Year award,” van der Reijden said. We are lucky to have him as a member of our team.”

The Hotel at Auburn University and Dixon Conference Center is managed by the Atlanta-based West Paces Hotel Group.  For more information about dining or accommodations, call (334) 821-8200 or go to

Contact: Hans van der Reijden, Managing Director, Hotel at Auburn University and Dixon Conference Center, (334) 321-3178 (, or
Mike Clardy, Office of Communications and Marketing, (334) 844-9999 (