Fresh, seasonal, locally sourced, and “made from scratch” are all the typical buzzwords that we, along with many other top kitchens, are proud to have incorporated into our new menus. However, “engineered” is one word that we are confident that you won’t read anywhere else but here. At first glance, you would probably want to keep it that way. But, please give us a moment to explain the challenge that we’ve put to ourselves.
Just over a year ago Convene’s culinary team, led by Chef Stephen Meade, paired up with our VP of Strategy and Research, Joyce Bromberg. Their challenge: to tackle and, ultimately, reverse-engineer out the top problems that meeting planners deal with during meal times. Through observation and interviews, we discovered allergies, dietary restrictions and special food preferences were almost always communicated at the last minute. Providing for those special needs as an afterthought placed a lot of unnecessary stress on the meeting planners and the service team. As part of our commitment to make planner’s lives less difficult, we challenged ourselves to deliver a menu that would be, by default, “special order proof”.
Countless tastings later, all food allergies and dietary restrictions are now anticipated. Vegans, vegetarians and diabetics have plenty to choose from. We never use tree nuts or shellfish in our cooking, as those allergies are particularly severe. We have gluten-free options at every meal. Additionally, all of our dishes are designed and selected to hold well even if a meeting runs exceedingly long, because that seems to happen often. Having observed that food is frequently enjoyed standing up, while people are in conversation, and potentially in front of someone that our participant is trying to impress, we make a concerted effort to provide bite-sized portions that are easy and elegant to eat.
The best part is that even with all of our self imposed restrictions, our food is still delicious. Carefully curated seasonal menus (Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter) keep cuisine fresh and varied by introducing a new mix of options every day of the week so that the cuisine is interesting even for multi-day programs. Sugar and salt are always kept to a minimum, and generous portions of veggies and proteins are served to keep our cuisine light. Hot and cold drinks and snacks are always available and include a variety of unsweetened, anti-oxidant-rich bottled teas. In addition, all of the sugary staples that some folks just can’t do without are also provided. Ultimately, nutrition to power the mind and body is the most important aspect of our conference centers culinary offerings. It is behind every ingredient, slice, shake and stir that happens in Convene’s kitchens.
We’ve coined what Chef Meade has designed “Perfect Plates”. We think it’s a cool new way to think about food and we’re hopeful you will, too.
VP, Strategy and Research
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