Food & Beverage Q&A: Elaine Cali, Anaheim CVB

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We sat down with Elaine Cali, VP of Communications for Anaheim CVB to learn about fun F&B events.

Q: What are some of the most significant trends that you’re seeing at hotel F&B events?  

A: Farm-to-fork continues to be all the rage, as well as organic and sustainable cuisine. Keeping it local and inventive is key today. It seems that gluten-free and creative vegetarian options are becoming the norm, yet it is necessary to raise the bar on these offerings and think beyond simple pasta.

As for presentation, think small plates, chaffer-less heating elements like cast iron skillets or griddles. And it’s always a good idea to complement the overall theme by serving food in creative and sustainable vessels, such as bamboo.

Q: What trends are you seeing in private dining, both on- and offsite? 

A: Family style or chef’s tables for smaller groups are very popular today. Our OC Chef’s Series features interviews with local Orange County chefs who provide bite-sized insights on everything from where to find the freshest local food to how they get their menu inspiration.

The feedback from planners about the Chef’s Series has been really positive so far. For more information, visit

Q: Are there any new spins on group cooking classes or any other culinary-themed events?  

A: Debbie Juliani, Director of Marketing & VIP Services with ARAMARK Sports, Entertainment & Conventions at the Anaheim Convention Center says, “We do small groups of interactive cooking in teams for teambuilding in our kitchen. They’re great for small VIP groups or president/executive events. We have done various themes ranging from groups making pasta from scratch to making Mexican tamales or even candy making. In many cases, the end result is delivered to local children’s charities, which is a win-win.”

 Q: How are you helping meeting planners make F&B events more interactive?   

A: Cocktail creation adds a playful element, such as creating specialty margaritas with a local favor of your choosing, including ingredients like fresh mango, coconut, and berries. And olive oil tastings prior to dinner during a reception are great for networking and getting the crowd involved.

If there is a local brewery in town, invite them to pour and educate the group about their products during a special event. This showcases both the character of the destination and local flavor.