Hotel F&B Observer Blog

Hotel food and beverage professionals share experience, skills and commentary. These hotelier blogs reflect a variety of unique career perspectives and real-life workplace stories, observations and opinions.

Fusion: The Natural Evolution of Food

The ability to blend the foods, preparation methods and unique styles of different cultures and cuisines into harmonious dishes that make sense is often the result of food evolution not fusion. Fusion is the term currently used and is often thought of or is referred to as a food revolution. There are countless similarities between cultures that lend themselves well to localized cuisines and indigenous ingredients. I am always amazed at the creative development of great foods that just make good sense, almost always leading me to think, “Why didn’t I think of that?” Read more of this >>

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2013 Food Flavor Summit

Recently I was invited to participate in the CIA/Food Arts Magazine “2013 Flavor Summit.” The summit was developed and designed to address and collaborate on the challenges and opportunities that are relevant and universal to all high volume/high quality hospitality organizations.

The list of attendees included F&B leaders from Wyndham, Marriott, Ritz Carlton, Four Seasons, and Waldorf Astoria, full service restaurant groups, casinos, and cruise lines.

Well-known chef and restaurateur Charlie Palmer was the opening presenter. Chef Palmer spoke about his journey and transition into hotels and the operating philosophies that helped him succeed. Chef Palmer’s first hotel 12 years ago was the Healdsburg Hotel in northern Sonoma. At the Healdsburg he learned through trial and error about the hotel business and eventually added properties and planned future expansion. Chef Palmer spoke a lot about doing what you can to make the most of a property’s inherent limitations.

Chef Palmer does not try to be something to everyone and focuses on boutique properties. He is currently working on a property in Las Vegas that will be a non-gaming boutique hotel. One of the things I found the most interesting happened at his Mystic Hotel in San Francisco; due to less than favorable elevator service, traditional room service was eliminated and a restaurant to-go delivery system implemented. I am told the menu is not big; it has a burger, wings, a great sandwich, and a few signature items. Many other attendees spoke of the same scenario at their hotels.

Something that was consistent throughout the summit and part of everyone’s presentations (including Charlie Palmer, Susan Feininger of Border Grill fame, Chef John Fose and countless other presenters) is you can’t do it alone. They stress that it is the ability to recognize talents in staff who are both strong technically as well as energetic and positive and possess natural hospitality skills as a crucial component to their success. Taking care of your people by providing opportunities for professional development, some level of job security through positive organizational growth and eye towards the future was also at the top of the list.

Here is a summation of concepts, operating philosophies and strategies that were discussed and examined throughout the summit.

•You can’t be everything to everyone; you have to have a product that is consistent, of high quality, different, a value in its peer group and then work it.
•The age of the core customer is shifting; an evolution must take place to address this.
No organization wants to be thought of as their father’s favorite hotel or restaurant.
•No Jackets or Ties Required
Many 4 and 5 star hotel white table cloth restaurants are being reinvented as more casual dining venues.
•Millennials have Brand Loyalty, But Have No Tolerance for a Negative Experience
They will switch brands and move to where the next hot spot is very quickly. There are over 70 million of them, preparing for their lifestyle should be one of your priorities.
•Living Room Bars, Few Tables, Lots of Conversation Areas
Gastro Pubs, Chef-Tenders that bring an element of culinary excitement to the bar. Not a Chef working behind a bar, but a high bird who has additional culinary knowledge and passion for food, mixology and service.
•Food Trucks in the Hotel Lobbies are Gaining Popularity
•No Rules Menus, My Food Cooked My Way, When I Want It
•Global Street Food Cuisine Is Endless and Exciting
•Nutritionally Dense and Pure Foods are Not an Option
•Butter and Fat are OK. We Were Served Pork Butter at One Meal
As long as it antibiotic additive free, high quality and there are lighter alternatives.

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The Natural Evolution of Food in America

They say that “You can’t please all of the people all of the time.” That may be true to a certain extent, but for the hotel or restaurant chef, turning away customers does not make good business sense either. Without a well-balanced menu we stand the potential of not only losing restaurant covers but hotel room revenues, future meetings, banquets, and special events.

Competition comes in many forms; in some cases we are actually competing against ourselves. Decisions on menu items, cooking methods and ingredient integrity ultimately define who we are as a business and who our future customers will be. Read more of this >>

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The First Annual Flavor of Napa

Days One and Two …

The Flavor of Napa was a world-class celebration of food and wine highlighting some of Napa’s best-known chefs and winemakers. Events took place up and down the Napa Valley over four days in November and included culinary demonstrations, multi-course dinners, wine tastings, and a closing brunch. Proceeds from the festival benefited the scholarship fund at the Culinary Institute of America. Participating Chefs included Thomas Keller, Bob Hurley, Christopher Kostow, Masaharu Morimoto, Tyler Florence, Michael Chiarello, Cindy Pawlcyn, Richard Blais, Todd Humphries, Jeff Jake, Christophe Gerard and dozens of others.

The main purpose of my week-long visit was to lend a hand and support the culinary team at the Dolce Hotel & Resorts Napa Valley property, the Silverado Resort. Dolce’s Silverado Resort was the host hotel, and I had the opportunity to work side by side with many of these iconic chefs. Read more of this >>

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Local Whenever Possible, Sometimes Organic, but Always Pure

As a young chef, eggs, tomatoes, and other staples came straight from the farm to my back door. I didn’t think much about it at the time; it was just what happened in places like Burlington, Vermont, Connecticut, and, believe it or not, Long Island, New York. The phrase farm to table was not around yet, but many chefs did what came naturally to them, serving fresh local foods. As farms became factories and we began to forget how things should taste, fresh high quality produce began to take a back seat to inexpensive factory produce, massive mega ranches and irresponsibly harvested seafood. Read more of this >>

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I’m Addicted to Chicken

I have a friend who proudly proclaims that he is a chicken addict; he loves chicken, he eats it most days and states he just can’t get enough. I don’t want to sound like Bubba Gump, but I tried to count all the chicken dishes we do here at our restaurant and stopped at 50. Chili Lime, Lemon Pepper, Portobello Stuffed, Smoked, Coconut, Pecan, Maple Bourbon, Fried, Braised, Fricassee, and on and on. Chicken’s versatility lends itself to all types and methods of preparation and at a price point unmatched by most other proteins. Read more of this >>

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Are You Ready For The World Stage?

I recently spoke with my culinary team about always being on stage. No big deal; it’s not really a new concept. Who hasn’t preached this for the last 50 years? Unfortunately I was not referring to the pre-planned, rehearsed productions we usually think of.

It is the hidden camera, breaking news type scenarios that I am concerned with. Its mind boggling to think that most people can record and broadcast to the entire world from their personnel electronic devices. The ramifications of a poorly trained associate making an isolated mistake, or a fluke situation on the part of a staff member or guest, can become the next YouTube sensation. The potential for negative publicity resulting in embarrassment, loss of prestige, and business is very real and does happen. Read more of this >>

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Can Your Organization Really Afford Lost Opportunities?

It’s easy to fool yourself into thinking that your organization is in tune with the needs of both your existing and potential customers—that your organization is going after every opportunity to gain market share by working existing clients, stealing customers from your competitors, or creating new demand. Slick advertising, touted corporate cultures, and presumed levels of quality mean nothing to a disgruntled consumer.

Often staff shortages in customer service and point of contact positions serve as corporate crutches during tough times to justify poor performance. I am rarely satisfied by my purchasing experiences and will only support companies that get it right. I am sharing a recent experience that I had with purchasing customized chocolate pieces to illustrate my point.

My client required a logoed chocolate piece for their awards dinner. They wanted to see a mock-up and get a price as soon as possible, so I called America’s largest and best known foodservice/restaurant chocolate design and customizing company. I was told it would take three days to do a simple computer-generated mock-up. That was not what I wanted to hear, so I called their competition, America’s number two chocolate design and customizing company. Within minutes, I had a mock-up and price. This was followed up with support to ensure I received and was happy with my purchase.

Over the Valentine’s weekend, I used company number two a second time. Guess what? I will use them again and again. They get it and have won my loyalty. Loyalty breeds future success at a very economical cost. The cost is usually as little as people doing what you are paying them to do and doing it well, 100 percent of the time.

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