• Resorts driving diverse menus
• Sustainable focus
One of the most memorable parts of an event is the culinary experience. Participants are looking for their taste buds to be delighted and meeting professionals are working with chefs to create unique and diverse menus to deliver on this expectation.
With so much interest in culinary arts and the latest trends that are constantly evolving, how can chefs and planners continue to serve the next best thing, as well as act sustainably and reduce waste?
From Indiana to Wisconsin, top resort chefs from French Lick Resort and The American Club are setting high standards for others to follow.
Know Thy Guests & Industry Trends
Paul Owens, Executive Chef of French Lick Resort, brings his vast experience working with conferences to help create the memories their guests are seeking.
He shares that one tremendous benefit to both creating menus and avoiding waste can be as simple as knowing your guests. By working closely with groups and taking meticulous notes post event, they are better able to make sure they have just the right menu and just the right amount.
With years of wisdom, experienced chefs, like Owens, have mastered objectives like quantities by item and group down to a science, especially when it comes to planning buffet menus. He can easily recite the ounces of protein and number of sides and starches based on the particular items being served. “When you plan a buffet with four entrées, salads, sides, etc. you have to think about it regionally. In our area country-style green beans is still a great seller and then I look at starches, from both a popularity and standard. I try to plan 10 oz. protein per person. In working with a lot of agriculture meetings, sliced tenderloin filet, fried or grilled chicken, and a fish, I know I need to go heavy on filet, and a little less on chicken and salmon. When we have more health conscious groups, I can plan on lighter consumption since they typically won’t eat heavy and the priority is focused more on diverse menus.”
Lucas Oppeneer, Banquet Chef/Manager with The American Club in Kohler, WI, takes pride in creating cutting edge menus too. Through research in not just trends at resorts, but the food industry overall, he and his team seek to find the ingredients and techniques that are coming to the forefront and then add their twist to create special menus.
Farm to table is not just a trend, it’s a sustainable and tasty way to showcase local flavors and support the community.
By working with local farms, resorts have the ability to integrate community sourced ingredients more easily than large stand-alone venues. Since resorts have menus for not just banquets, but smaller dining venues too, they can take advantage of these local sources easier.
Owens and his team get a list of available items from their local farmers who created a co-op to more easily work with venues like French Lick Resort. They can then create menus based on what is going to be available, from produce and herbs to other products.
In Owens’ experience, “It is great to be able to create a variety of menus, otherwise if we were only working on a 1,000-person banquet we could use an entire crop. Local farmers who [produce] cattle and pork can work with us more easily too, especially with smaller groups and our individual venues within the resort.”
Working Together = Little to No Waste
One of the many benefits to working and staying at resorts is the many amenities they offer and, often, the size of their facilities.
When resorts have multiple groups and venues, they are more easily able to work with other groups in-house, as well as other venues onsite to maximize costs for everyone.
In situations of dealing with excess food or raw ingredients, resorts can work to avoid waste by incorporating them into other venues, from onsite restaurants to areas such as the employee dining room. With large resorts like French Lick, who serve 300-600 employees per day, they can easily repurpose extras in a delicious way. Owens says, “When a group has steak on their menu, which is a product that comes in case sizes, we can avoid waste by planning to use any extra in the other food and beverage outlets, this helps us to use fresh ingredients versus frozen.”
Oppeneer looks at a variety of factors when planning menus that are both creative and eliminate waste. Some things they’ve done are cross utilizing items. “Salmon for example can be used in multiple ways on a menu, from preparation, such as grilling or poaching, as well as using different sauces. Or another great example is our Thanksgiving menu. We get in whole turkeys that are broken down by hand, then we can use some for deli meat, and other parts to make soups and stocks to avoid waste and ultimately create a better product.”
Owens shares in this philosophy and works with groups to also minimize waste, “Many sharp meeting planners will ask to see who else is here and what meals they have planned. They do this to see if they can piggy back off another group’s menu.” Chef Owens and the culinary team also take time to review the various items they are using, from proteins to vegetables, and then consider the different recipes in which they can use them. Oftentimes, they can repurpose foods into three or more different recipes.
Diverse, memorable cuisine and limited waste can go hand in hand. By working closely with resorts and having a good understanding of your participants, beloved and memorable meals are a breeze when collaborating with resort partners.