At Innisfree Hotels, we’ve learned there are sometimes high stakes when eating steaks.

The following stories are true, and they happened ‘Back in Topeka’.

These particular tales have been long passed down by Harlan Butler, former president of Innisfree Hotels, who is very funny … a distinguished storyteller.

“Steak in the Hat”

There was a chef who was a wonderful cook, always came to work on time and always stayed late. He was good at what he did.

The chef was leaving the hotel one afternoon, and the General Manager called him back.

We should note it was summertime.

So the GM called the chef into the parking lot and said he needed to talk to him about something – food costs, labor costs, upcoming banquets.

He was standing there in the hot sun wearing his big white chef’s hat, which chefs usually take off before they leave. The manager began to notice the chef was sweating profusely. The longer he stood there, the more he would sweat.

Suddenly, the sweat turned red.

It became evident the chef had something under his hat.

He was smuggling steaks out of the hotel.

Needless to say, that chef doesn’t work for us anymore.

“Midnight Steak Snack”

At one of our earliest hotels in Mobile, Alabama, the night auditor had an interesting habit.

He would leave the Front Desk to go turn on the grill in the kitchen.

Then he’d come back, take a few calls. Do his thing.

He’d go back to the kitchen, put a steak on the grill.

Come back to the desk.

Go back to flip the steak.

Come back, and so on …

The graveyard shift is 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. One night, this went on over the course of an hour.

Apparently at some point, the night auditor had cut up the steak and was taking a couple of bites each time he visited the kitchen, when he choked and fell out on the restaurant floor … and died.

They put this together based on the evidence when they found him the next morning.

The moral of the story is, when eating a steak that doesn’t belong to you, consider the stakes.

– As told to Ashley Kahn Salley

Lead Storyteller, Innisfree Hotels



In order to have a great future, we must celebrate and learn from our incredible past. The Innisfree Hotels story began in Topeka, Kansas. So when the folks who were around back then start a story with ‘Back in Topeka,’ we know it’s time to listen. These are tales of the challenges, of the laughter and tears that come with building a company like ours. That’s the sentiment behind this blog series, a chronicle of days gone by at Innisfree Hotels – and a map to get us where we’re going.