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Hearing-Impaired Cook at Bethesda Marriott Suites Rises Above
his Handicap to Serve up Signature Marriott Quality 

BETHESDA, Md.- April 17, 2009 - Bethesda Marriott Suites’ cook Siau Lioe was born deaf; but despite his handicap, he exceeds customer expectations at the hotel’s Democracy Grille through some creative communication between himself and his boss, Executive Chef Stephen Malfatti. 

Some may mistake it for a game of charades, but in fact, it’s hand signals developed between the two that help them to communicate during the restaurant’s busy times. It may begin with Chef Malfatti grabbing a hanging warming lamp and tipping it up to shine at Mr. Lioe to get his attention. It could include a variety of hand signals representing chicken (arms flapping), ribs (laying a hand on your rib cage), and crab (wiggling the fingers of your right hand in the palm of the left to simulate a walking crab). When things are slower, Chef Malfatti writes on a clip board that he carries with him so that Mr. Lioe can read his instructions. 

Chef Malfatti using heat lamp to start conversation with cook Siau Lioe

Chef Malfatti credits his experience in dealing with his daughter’s low vision as the reason he and Mr. Lioe have been successful. “My daughter was diagnosed with low vision, a form of impaired vision, at a very young age and it has never gotten in the way of what she wants to do,” says Chef Malfatti. “She is a competitive ice skater, an avid reader, and always approaches things with a positive attitude. I could see that Siau had a lot of potential, so I gave him the chance and adapted the way I communicated with him so that he could show his abilities.” 

Mr. Lioe is from Surabaya, Indonesia, and immigrated to the U.S. in 2002. His experience in the culinary world was formerly in the role of dishwasher and in food prep. In 2003, he joined Marriott, also as a dishwasher. Here he began to take an interest in cooking, and through the guidance of his supervisors, was able to step up into that role. 

“American sign language is different than Indonesian sign language, which has made communicating difficult at times,” explains Mr. Lioe. “But I can read lips some, and I’m always trying to understand what people are saying to me. I have been happy that my colleagues want to understand who I am and like to work with me. I’ve been working for Bethesda Marriott Suites for over five years, and I’m glad they appreciate my hard work.” 

The hotel’s Democracy Grille piloted Marriott’s 5-10-20 menu— a collection of food items ready within 5, 10 or 20 minutes. These culinary items are classic American, chef-crafted, simple, fast and fresh. This type of menu is especially popular now because the items are moderately priced, so diners don’t have to drop a small fortune to enjoy a meal out. This menu features original items from Marriott’s Hot Shoppes, including the well-known Mighty Mo triple-decker cheeseburger, and the Running Boy, also a Hot Shoppes original, with two Mini Mo sliders, cheese fries, coleslaw and barbeque wings. 

“The Bethesda Marriott Suites was the first hotel in the country to launch the trendy lobby reinvented concept that is becoming popular now,” explains Keith McNeill, Bethesda Marriott Suites general manager. “In 2007, we created a lobby ‘great room’ where there is space to work, lounge, drink and enjoy our restaurant. The furniture is comfortable and good looking, and you can plug your lap top right into it. We at Bethesda Marriott Suites continue to be the pilot location for new hotel concepts and menus developed by Marriott.” 

Chef Malfatti and Mr. Lioe invite the public to join them at the Democracy Grille, open seven-days a week for some culinary delights off their 5-10-20 menu and a relaxing evening in their great room. The Bethesda Marriott Suites is located at 6711 Democracy Blvd, Bethesda, MD. Visit or call 301-897-5600 for more information. 

The Bethesda Marriott Suites features a newly renovated lobby and great room area that illustrates the trendy lobby reinvented concept. The hotel boasts seven meeting rooms with 5,000 square feet of banquet space perfect for weddings or other events. The hotel offers 272 suites on 11 floors with 7,000 square feet of total meeting space. The hotel provides complimentary shuttle service to adjacent Montgomery Mall, Strathmore Hall, and the Grosvenor Metro station. For more details, go to 


Bethesda Marriott Suites

Also See: DiamondRock Hospitality Company Acquires the 276 suite Bethesda Suites Marriott Hotel in Bethesda, Maryland for Approximately $41.6 million / November 2004

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