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Meeting & Event Planning

What It Takes To Pull Off A “Perfect Plate”

Posted August 14, 2016 By Jennifer Nelson

A perfect plate helps attendees work better by maintaining energy and focus, and avoiding blood sugar highs and lows—anything that might cause a mid-afternoon slump.


How do savvy planners ensure every attendee receives a delicious, balanced plate suitable to their palate preference—without losing valuable time or their sanity? If you are planning an event with culinary options today, it is assumed that you are going to receive a mountain of special dietary preference requests.

At Convene, we approach food as an integral part of our working philosophy, meaning we build menus with the individual consumer in mind. Think science-based nutrition mixed with local ingredients to provide clean eating and a productive day, all while paying attention to allergies and dietary restrictions.


Here’s what a perfect plate looks like for each of your attendees:

A Perfect Plate Energizes

It comes down to doing your homework, says German Villatoro, regional executive chef at Convene. “For example, if you’re going to do sushi,” he says, “what a lot of people don’t know is that soy sauce has wheat gluten, so you have to provide something close to soy. We use tamari, which is gluten-free.”

Restrictions aside, a perfect plate helps attendees work better by maintaining energy and focus, and avoiding blood sugar highs and lows—anything that might cause a mid-afternoon slump. “We don’t do heavy, rich dishes that put people in a food coma,” says Villatoro.

Convene avoids the stereotypical conference food like, “the pot roast with mashed potatoes smothered in gravy” and aims for high-energy, nutrition-rich ingredients like fresh fish, chicken, roasted seasonal vegetables and quinoa. Recent menu items include mahi-mahi with charred pineapple salsa and fresh Meyer lemon sauce; sautéed chicken filets with root vegetable hash; and steak with a wild mushroom au jus.

Being energized doesn’t mean dessert is off the table. Convene chefs go simple with strawberry shortcake, scones with Chantilly sauce and fresh local strawberries or cannoli with a variety of fillings.

Meals are eaten as much with the eyes as with the mouth, and should be something your attendees look forward to. Venue chefs should strive for balance between fresh, in-season ingredients and varying textures—crunchy next to soft, a savory item with something citrus—and arrangements that entice with their look as well as aroma and flavor.


A Perfect Plate is Transparent

The best food comes from local sources and is harvested in unison with the season. Convene sources produce for its summertime watermelon gazpacho and wintertime butternut squash through local vendors like Hudson Valley Harvest. “If there is one thing I hate to do it’s serve berries in the winter. They are not perfect as they come from Chile,” he said. “I try to use sustainable food that’s local to us.”Transparent catering means the customer and planner knows exactly what they are getting and from where.


A Perfect Plate is Flexible

Finally, the perfect menu needs to be collaborative. To build individualized menus, Convene chefs engage with meeting planners, customizing the menu to their meet their preferences.

“If it’s not on the menu ,we will find a way to get it,” says Villatoro.

The chef/client relationship is about more than simply planning a menu. Convene chefs bring their culinary expertise, but the planner brings critical information—special requests and event-tailored dishes. Think fresh-pressed juices and grilled fish at a cardiologists’ conference or munchies for millennials and students.


A perfect plate is preparation coupled with presentation. At Convene, the balance of food science with design thinking is used to craft a culinary service that pleases each participant.


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