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.

Menu Trends: Starting a Local Foods Program

It’s certainly not a fad or a food trend; it’s more of a lifestyle choice. The American dining public’s growing appetite for foods of high integrity—that not only taste great but also support sustainability and the local economy—is here to stay.  At some point in the very near future, it will be the norm and an expected component of any restaurant or food service provider. This will not be exclusive to the fine dining or the upscale casual restaurant segment, but all restaurants. There are many amazing airport restaurants, quick service and even health care kitchens leading the way. Many chefs and colleagues have asked me how I got started, so this blog began.

In Atlanta there are several restaurant groups that are dedicated to serving high integrity, organic, local, and creative foods in familiar and non-pretentious environments.  A great example is Yeah Burger, a restaurant that some might consider “fast food,” serving a menu that is produced with predominantly organic, local, non GMO ingredients. They are so dedicated that even the fryer oil that cooks up unique and delicious treats such as crispy Brussels sprouts with local blue cheese and Crazy Cauliflower is local non-GMO oil. A pretty insignificant detail for most restaurants, but not the chefs, owners, and operators who are sworn to the mission of serving only local, organic, and pure foods. Read more of this >>

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2014 CIA-Food Art Flavor Summit

The Summit is an amazing event sponsored through a partnership between Food Arts magazine and The Culinary Institute of America-Greystone. The Summit brings together chefs, hospitality leaders and other related experts from across all segments of the industry. It is designed as a fast paced series of demonstrations, discussions, tastings, and collaborative team exercises that provoke and spark dialogue on innovative approaches and in some cases solutions to many of the challenges we face as an industry. This year’s conference was so relevant and thought provoking that I couldn’t help but to leave questioning my current business model and operating standards.

The core of the Summit and some of my takeaways were that as an industry we are constantly shifting our operating standards to meet ever-changing guest expectations and preferences. We shift priorities to keep pace with the rising cost of goods, heated sustainability issues, labor costs and benefits, and countless other challenges. We have become to some degree an industry with a one-size-fits-all mentality; we are so determined to meet every expectation of every guest at every price point that we have often lost our identity as a brand. Read more of this >>

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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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