Food and beverage is always evolving, from the trendiest cuisines to the latest dietary restrictions.
While meeting planners need to keep up with the times, banquet chefs have your back. Here are six insider F&B tips from banquet chefs across North America.
Use Puff Pastries as Insulators
Led by AHC+Hospitality’s Corporate Executive Chef Josef Huber, the Amway Grand Plaza and JW Marriott Grand Rapids in Michigan frequently service the 160,000-sf DeVos Place Convention Center’s banquets for groups of several hundred. In an effort to prioritize both presentation and service, the team discovered that topping butternut squash soup with a puff pastry not only complements the first dish, but also doubles as an insulator, ensuring each bowl of soup is steaming hot no matter when it gets to the table.
Try Butter as a Gradual Basting Mechanism
At Florida’s Bahia Mar Fort Lauderdale Beach – a DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel, Executive Sous Chef Sun Sin Pak helps lead the meetings and events program at the hotel’s more than 25,000 sf of newly renovated, flexible meeting space. One F&B trick of the trade involves placing flavored butter, using white wine, honey or truffle parmesan and herbs, underneath the skin of pre-seared chicken breasts prior to final cooking. This technique provides additional flavor depth, while also retaining moisture and acting as a gradual basting mechanism.
Incorporate Live Edible Plants into Buffets
The Westin Cape Coral Resort at Marina Village in Florida is prioritizing the request for more locally sourced foods. As such, Executive Chef Christiana Menassa prepares nutrient-rich and balanced buffets that don’t skip out on presentation by incorporating living plants and herbs in live-cooking demonstrations, which also give attendees the opportunity to see and know exactly what they’re eating.
Offer Bites for Big Groups
For meetings and conventions, Windsor Court Hotel’s custom catering company, CELEBRATE!, offers a Dinner by the Bite option for those groups looking for a major change from the traditional buffet. Director of Catering & Conference Services Meagan Cook continues to see that abundant buffets are viewed as daunting, wasteful and too much to tackle for groups. So, Executive Chef Vlad Ahmadyarov and his team offer bite-size entrees of classic dishes like baby lamb chop, chicken roulade, crispy duck and everything in between to ensure attendees get what they want without becoming too overwhelmed or too full.
Flexibility Is King
With dietary restrictions and allergies on the rise, Hilton Orlando’s Assistant Director of Events Laura Hartmann advises always being prepared for attendees with special dietary needs. Ensuring menus are designed with vegetarian, vegan and gluten free options layered in from the start, Hartmann also works to make certain that all vegetarian entrees include special signage, all menu items are labeled with proper dietary codes and that gluten-free options are available upon request.
Consider Meals That Reach New Heights
The Bahamian Grand Hyatt Baha Mar’s Executive Chef Brent Martin takes the resort’s catering capabilities to the sky—literally. As altitude heights can significantly affect taste buds and sense of smell, Chef Martin creates a menu that is both complementary to the changing palette and especially caters to attendees who fly private. Case in point: Dishes such as steak, ahi tuna and lobster smothered in flavorful sauces and spices do just the trick. While these would be too flavorful on land, they become quite the crowd pleaser in flight. Plus, these moisture-infused meals allow for easy reheating capabilities via the airline’s convection oven.