Convention center food has not always had the best reputation in the meetings industry. However, as F&B prices continue to increase, in-house culinary staff are being utilized in meetings & events to combine affordability and quality in the food they prepare. The menu at the new San Jose McEnery Convention Center gala event was a prime example of this. Figs and bison were key ingredients that stood out on the menu, making the culinary experience just as impressive as the Bugs Bunny at the Symphony II performance that entertained guests.
Prevue spoke with Executive Chef Gil Hitzler of Team San Jose about what meetings & events food and beverage trends he has noticed in the industry and how he works with meeting planners to craft a high-end menu that might even impress major foodies in your group.
What is the appeal of incorporating trendy foods such as figs into menu items?
Hitzler: Team San Jose offers locally sourced fresh vegetables and fruits in many dishes offered. Figs are a great addition to salads and desserts and fig season runs through fall. In addition to the health benefits of figs, Team San Jose is seeing resurgence in clients wanting healthier food choices and lighter meals, such as more fresh vegetables, fruits and light carb options, to promote higher energy and brainpower. Team San Jose offers vegan and gluten-free options as well.
How do you incorporate food trends into dishes being prepared specifically for groups?
Our team specializes in creating theater concession and convention menus, which focus on customer service, pairing food quality with any budget. They monitor group culinary trends and offer creative, trendy options from wild game and ethnic dishes to vegetarian. They can do this for groups of 20 or 5,000 or more, meeting the quality of many top-rated restaurants, but on a large scale. Because we live in California, ingredients are abundant and relatively easy to find; however, wild game is not always found through traditional channels so it can take a little more planning to ensure we have the quantity needed.
What types of trends do meeting planners tend to request, and how do you accommodate those requests?
San Jose’s in-house food and beverage culinary team offers healthy options for meetings of all budget types, such as eco-conscious groups. We can easily provide everything from composting and local, organic ingredients to biodegradable serve ware. We also offer many other green practices and products, reflecting the city’s innovative reputation in this area. We use recycling programs and donate excess food to local food banks and shelters.
What food trends do you see on the horizon for 2014?
These days, delegates want to dine with sense of place. Our culinary team understands this by sourcing seasonal, local, organically farmed products for our clients. The result is outstanding dishes that capture the flavors of the season and an unusually California-fresh experience. Our food looks as good as it tastes, and clients feel good knowing we are using sustainable products that support their green requirements. We are also seeing more demand for regional wines to complement the dishes.