Jun 11, 2010 Beyond Banquets: Hotel Menu Planning
When it’s time to start the food and beverage planning with a hotel catering team, event producers are most likely to be handed a big file of “banquet menus” presented with fancy wording and packaging. Buffets, plated dinners, themed events, and food stations – you know the drill. Other than a glance at the pricing model, I generally spend little time with these menu packets. While I do respect that a skilled culinary team has spent many hours crafting and packaging these menus, I simply find this method of menu planning to be sterile, lacking in personality and that it provides little clue to the heart and soul of the hotel’s Chef de Cuisine and the seasonal offerings. I want more!
At Wilsonwest, we start the process with a conversation with our catering and conference services manager and from there we ask to be introduced to the Food & Beverage Director. Once we have a solid understanding of the property, the kitchen, and the connections to local purveyors, we then ask for an introduction to the Executive Chef and the Banquet Chef. We LOVE seeing what’s going on in the kitchen and what the Chef is enjoying doing at the moment. What’s a new favorite? What are you most proud of? What are the limitations of the kitchen and better yet, what special equipment, facilities or culinary resources do you have to really make the meal a special event?
We share information about our audience, however during the planning stages, we rarely dictate the specifics of any menu. We want to hear from the experts first – encouraging them to share the very best of what they have to offer and hopefully create an opportunity for them to try something new. We generally find that at first, the Chef is hesitant, thinking that a couple of event planners have turned “culinary” and they are protective of their space and rightly so. We respect that. It’s precisely the reason we solicit the expertise from the Executive Chef rather than solely a catering or conference services manager who may have little or no experience in the kitchen.
From here, it’s on to the tasting where we pay careful attention to presentation, portion, service, flatware, dinnerware, and (of course) taste. The banquet and conference service team are engaged in this process and from here we connect and build the team who will stage and serve the meal. We ask the team to taste along with us – it’s a collaborative with just the right amount of cooks in and out of the kitchen.
By this point in the process, almost every Chef we’ve worked with is excited, engaged and completely passionate about executing a new and exciting menu – so much so , that our joint creation often becomes a new addition to the banquet menu!