Supersized Sustainability Local and large are not mutually exclusive concepts in B&C sourcing. By Tad Wilkes
Client expectations drive sustainable B&C menus—potentially beyond the capacity of many hotels to source in large volumes. But properties can make up for the shortfall through increased networking with local farmers and a focus on marketing truly seasonal ingredients to clients. Local sourcing is something clients often assume is easy, but depending on a hotel’s location, it’s not. Even when the area is rife with good ingredients, massive groups can be a problem.
HERE THEY COME At the Peabody Little Rock [Arkansas], Executive Chef Andre Poirot already had relationships with local farms to fuel the hotel’s farm-to-table restaurant concept, Capriccio Grill Italian Steakhouse, but “not so much for banquets, because of the volume,” he says. “It is really hard; there are not enough farms around here.” Poirot, then, faced quite a challenge when he had to prepare a menu for an event in January for a conference for—believe it or not—farmers, with a head count of 1,000. “The emphasis was on local farming,” Poirot says. “For the menu itself, I had to source from local farms.” For the conference menu, Poirot used local greens and pecans for the salad and roast chicken for the entrée, with local brown rice, along with carrots, turnips, squash, shittake mushrooms, and other local produce. The dessert utilized local sweet potatoes. Sourcing local fare in Little Rock is made somewhat easier by a company called Arkansas Natural Produce, which Poirot says rounds up foods from farms and is “one-stop shopping. They just send an
email each week to let us know what they have.” Of course, no matter how convenient the one stop may be, sourcing in volume can get dicey.
TENNESSEE TITAN If anyone knows what it’s like to feed a big crowd, it’s Matt Foreman, executive chef at 2,881-room Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center in Nashville. A tour of the property’s underground F&B nerve center reveals an operation jaw-dropping in size, number of kitchens, and sheer volume. One’s first hunch would be that they can’t possibly execute a significantly sustainable menu for one of their behemoth events, which sometimes host thousands of guests. But that assumption would be wrong. Foreman and his team offer the sustainable Tennessee Farms Lunch for groups as large as 3,000 people. “The farm-to-table craze isn’t something that’s going to go away, and it shouldn’t,” says Foreman. “[Consumers] are getting very aware of what they’re eating—a lot more than 10 years ago...It’s definitely a direction I’m proud we’re going. [In the past] we never really had a sustainable offering in our banquets; we always kind of shied away from it. I just implemented it last year, and it happens to be one of our topselling buffets.” Among the local ingredient touches on the Tennessee Farms menu are Cruze Farm Dairy buttermilk ranch, Benton Mountain country ham, sugar plum Tennessee chow-chow, Noble Springs chèvre, an Arrington Vineyards Firefly Rosé reduction, Sweet Valley Farms smoked cheddar cheese, and Readyville Mills cornbread with local honey. “Benton Mountain bacon from eastern Tennessee is very popular not just in Tennessee but in New York City right now,” Foreman observes. “We try to use as many Tennessee products as possible in buffets. That’s really what people want when they come to see us; they want to taste what Tennessee is all about. They come here for the convention, but it’s really around the F&B program that they’re focused on.”
FRESH THINKING The bigger the head count, the lower the percentage of local ingredients, but it’s no reason to give up. It just requires adapting. “Educate your meeting planners to be more open to not being so specific on menus,” says Jeff Simms, executive chef of banquets at the Breakers Palm Beach [Florida]. “If they have confidence in the chef or conference manager that we can utilize local and fantastic tasting things, they should give us more leeway.” It stands to reason. Visitors want the local flavor, so many are suggestible based on what the local chef advises. The menu is just a starting point for discussion. “More than 80 percent of our menus are custom menus,” Foreman notes. “They don’t necessarily go off our standardized banquet menu. It depends. Some groups are from Tennessee and come here to stay and want to see certain products. Sometimes they’ll look through our menus and say, ‘Well, that looks pretty neat. I want to try that.’ Or they’ll ask me for suggestions, and I’ll offer up some local stuff.” The bigger the group, the more creativity comes into play in making sure local, sustainable products are a common thread, not an all-or-nothing proposition. “Don’t be so concerned with having every single item on that menu be sustainable,” Foreman says. “You can cherry-pick items and be creative with the ingredients and still use local products from small farms. You’re just not necessarily making it the main ingredient. It’s something that’s in the sauce or something it’s garnished with or something like that. You can come up with some really nice offerings and still deliver a local flavor profile.” Gaylord Opryland can’t get sustainable, local chicken for 3,000 people, Foreman says. “So, instead of trying to get the chicken local, we’ll do a wine reduction, with wine from a local vineyard, to go with the
chicken. We engineer the menus to still offer Tennessee products, but for 3,000 to 4,000 people.” It’s an important tactic not only from a practical standpoint of getting enough product, but also in keeping the client’s budget under control. “You have to charge a little bit more, because any kind of artisinal or local Tennessee product is typically a little more,” Foreman says. “If that’s the case, we have the flexibility in other offerings to offer something a little more cost-effective to meet their price point. If I’m getting a certain goat cheese from Tennessee that’s a little more money, I’ll look at something else on their menu a different or less expensive way.” For larger groups, the chef must adapt based on what is seasonal or available at the time—and persuade the planner to go with same. “A lot of our meeting planners are repeat customers, and I have a great relationship with them,” Simms says. “I could have a group of 400 come in, and they could have sea bass on the menu, and I can talk to my fish guy, and he’s having a huge run on wahu or snapper, and if [the planner] is open, we’ll change the menu to the dish they want to serve. Even though the menu is out, they’d rather have something fresher that is caught right here in South Florida. I make suggestions and have never had anyone say, ‘No, I don’t want to change that.’”
HEAD START Another key tool in tackling local sourcing for big events often is time, as was the case for the Peabody Little Rock in preparing for its January conference. “You need to plan well in advance,” Poirot advises. “We began to plan eight months ago and put in orders six months [before].” Six months out, Poirot contacted a chicken farm he’d worked with before and told them he’d need about 260 chickens. “You have to make sure you get everything in place.” Tad Wilkes is managing editor of Hotel F&B.
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Tiramisù - Cream Use 5-Star Chef Pastry Select Pronto Tiramisù to create a complete and instant custard for the Italian delight tiramisù. Simply mix the powder with the milk then refrigerate.
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Pastries & Confections
Ingredients: 270g (9.5oz) 5-Star Chef Pastry Select Pronto Tiramisù 250g (8.8oz) milk 750g (26.4oz) heavy cream
Directions: 1. Whip together all ingredients in a mixer on medium-high speed to obtain a fluffy, aerated mixture. 2. Pipe into desired molds, cake rings, or cups and refrigerate.
3. Dust with PreGel Cacao Togo (Cocoa Powder) as desired.
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Strawberry Vanilla Verrine Combine two deliciously sweet pastries, crème brûlée and pannacotta, layered with strawberry filling and topped with white chocolate glaze to create this decadent Strawberry Vanilla Verrine. Create this recipe using 5-Star Chef Pastry Select Pronto Crème Brûlée (Burnt Cream), 5-Star Chef Pastry Select Pronto Pannacotta (Cooked Cream), 5-Star Chef Pastry Select Strawberry Compound, 5-Star Chef Pastry Select Strawberry Filling and PreGel Mirror Icing - White Chocolate. Recipe created by: PreGel Professional Training Center
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Pastries & Confections
Ingredients: FOR STRAWBERRY FILLING LAYER as needed ____________________ FOR CRÈME BRÛL ÉE 100g (3.5oz) 250g (8.8oz) 250g (8.8oz) ____________________ FOR STRAWBERRY PANNACOTTA
5-Star Chef Pastry Select Strawberry Filling _____________________________________ 5-Star Chef Pastry Select Pronto Crème Brûlée milk cream _____________________________________
200g (8.8oz) 600g (21.2oz) 600g (21.2oz) 70g (2.5oz) ____________________ as needed
5-Star Chef Pastry Select Pronto Pannacotta whole milk heavy cream 5-Star Chef Pastry Select Strawberry Compound _____________________________________ PreGel Mirror Icing - White Chocolate
Directions: Strawberry Filling Layer 1. Fill the bottom of a verrine glass with a small portion of 5-Star Chef Pastry Select Strawberry Filling. Cr ème Brûlée Layer 1. Whisk together all ingredients. 2. Place a layer of Crème Brûlée on top of the Strawberry Filling and allow to set in the refrigerator for one hour. Strawberry Pannacotta Layer 1. In a pot, heat the whole milk to 40 °C/104 °F. 2. Remove from heat, whisk in 5-Star Chef Pastry Select Pronto Pannacotta (Cooked Cream) powder and then whisk in heavy cream. 3. Whisk in 5-Star Chef Pastry Select Strawberry Compound and stir until completely incorporated. 4. Pour a layer of Strawberry Pannacotta on top of the Crème Brûlée and allow to set in the refrigerator for one hour. 5. Finish with PreGel Mirror Icing - White Chocolate . *Notes: You can replace 5-Star Chef Pastry Select Strawberry Compound with PreGel Strawberry Fortefrutto® . This pannacotta can also be flavored with any of our Traditional Pastes and Fortefrutto ® . We recommend adding 3 to 7 percent of total ingredient weight.