Prevue spoke with David Skorka, senior executive chef at Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas, about his fresh take on group F&B.
Prevue: Can you share information on new group F&B experiences, both on and off-site?
Skorka: We’re always exploring how to be cutting edge and how to incorporate different stations and presentations. We’re always looking for the culinary theater and the “wow factor” with the guests. For example, we incorporate hands-on and exciting action stations such as oyster shucking stations, English muffin stations, or even wasabi dipping dots that we made with liquid nitrogen. Coming out of COVID, the client’s expectations are even higher so we are always looking for the next “wow factor.”
Prevue: How do you incorporate farm-to-table offerings into the food you provide?
Skorka: Because of the size of our venue, most farms can’t handle the volume of our conventions. However, that doesn’t mean we don’t utilize many local vendors and local products. We often contact the local greenhouses to see what they have in stock or what’s going to be coming into season. In addition, if the menu is set far enough in advance, we contact local hydroponic farms or beef farms, tell them the group size, and usually, depending on growth cycles, the farms can accommodate. We like to call local vendors such as Paula with the Mozzarella Company to showcase incredible cheeses from right here in Dallas.
Prevue: Have you seen many healthy eating trends or vegan options being demanded or asked for by those groups?
Skorka: Healthy eating and dietary restrictions have become huge components of conventions over the years. We don’t want anyone to feel like second-class citizens because of allergies or eating choices such as a keto, paleo, or vegan diet. We will always try to note dietary restrictions for each item on our menus. We listen to groups’ needs and create custom menus for each. There are many great vegan dishes that can be produced to please large crowds without missing any protein sources.
Prevue: Is dessert still on the table, and how has that changed for groups?
Skorka: Yes! I, for one, have a big sweet tooth and love desserts. While not quite as many people gravitate towards the dessert tables as in years passed, even the groups that want a healthy menu still tend to order cookies and sweets for afternoon breaks. We like to be cautious and have vegan and allergy-sensitive options such as nut-free or gluten-free desserts. We like to also offer seasonal and healthier options such as peaches, macerated berries, or other similar fresh, local choices.