A panel discussion about what we see happening in current food culture, and how we as a business will fit in 2017.
Left to right
Brent Simms is the Executive Sous Chef for GP special events and venues - at over ten partner cultural institutions, including Jazz at Lincoln Center, Asia Society, Museum of the City of New York and BAM. He oversees menu development and seasonal, programmatic specials at the partner venues. Chef Sims is inspired by the connective element of food and enjoys highlighting local and seasonal ingredients. He believes that food should be nourishing, exciting and approachable.
Rob Valencia is head of our production kitchen. Most recently, Chef Rob worked with Liberty Tavern Restaurant Group in Arlington, Virginia where he served as the Executive Pastry Chef for the group's three restaurants: Lyon Hall, Northside Social and The Liberty Tavern. Chef Rob is dedicated to using local ingredients, an approach he has taken since he first started his career in San Francisco after graduating from the California Culinary Academy in 1999.
Mark Russell is Chef de Cuisine for GP, and oversees menu and recipe development to create new seasonal menus and drive culinary excellence and innovation. With an interest in foraging, fishing and gardening, Chef Mark is an ingredient-driven chef with a desire to highlight simple, honest food. Prior to GP, he was the Chef de Cuisine at Creative Edge Parties and the Executive Chef at Dean & Deluca. At RA he worked on menu research and development for the Guggenheim Museum and the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum.
Mike Deuel is Executive Chef of Catering Ops. His Dad was vegetarian, only with canned veggies, so he hated eating as a kid. He was introduced to fresh veggies at his first job in a pizza kitchen, who had their own farm out back. He oversees the culinary logistics for all catered events and the training of off-premise culinary team members. He has seen our culinary system from bottom to top, and is our most valuable resource in operations, problem solving, logistics, and training. He leads our family expertly, and often says, “We all bleed green.”
Geoff Rudaw is Executive Chef at the iconic Plaza Hotel. With his team he executes all of the events and Galas in the Grand Ballroom, Terrace Room, Palm Court, Oak Room and Plaza Meeting Spaces. He previously managed Royalton, Restaurant 44 under The Morgans Hotels Group as the executive chef, Soho Grand Hotel among several others. He might also be the sweetest man you ever met.
What do they all have in common? The all started as dishwashers at around 13 years old and actively learned their way to the top.
Q & A
What trends do we predict for 2017?
Geoff: Grains - things GP has done for years. Quinoa crusted chicken, corn crusted, gluten free. I also see a lot of ethnic foods, and nose-to-tail, root-to-leaf. We’re now selling to an educated consumer – and Sustainability is what they care about.
Rob: Yes, even bigger, it’s seed-to-scrap stories. What's happening to our waste, what happens to the leftovers on events? Questions we get a lot from clients and in the field. Hence, our intro of vegetable ash crusted beef, etc. All produce is used as much as possible
Mark: Also looking at how we are contributing to our community with our refuse products.
Brent: Another trend is sustainable seafood
Liz: It’s much harder to confirm seafood traceability, production methods, where it's from, and what is left sustaining our oceans
Rob: portion size is getting smaller. For health (don't kill the customer) the definition of value has changed
Linda: Something I was asked was, are people eating dessert at lunch? It's not about budget but about waste – we decided just cookies instead of a dessert plate.
Mark: First comment from a recent client for a tasting was "you Americans have so much food on the plate"
RD: Meeting expectations of the rest of the country for is also a concern. They want the duel entree, cheese, sauce.
Jill: How do we balance portion trends with ticket prices? I.E. ticket price was $5,000 a plate. So t can also be about more art and creativity in plating to justify our value
Mark: Guests are also paying for the greater idea of the event. My thinking is we talk to each clients about what we value and our knowledge of the industry and sustainability – but remain customizable.
Rob: Yes we can justify that ticket value by upping labor to add more artistic plating for artful presentation and nutritional value. Value in the cut of meat, and being able to call out that nutritional value of a local, organic, clean meat vs. a shitty cut.
Liz: We are leaders in a very narrow market of fine diners. Speak about our principles and values with clients. Today we want everyone to understand the philosophical choices we are making to define GP. We always start with the idea that what we are serving is fantastic - but it's also about service in a 360 view of our events. So how about micro trends?
Brent: I’d say hyper-local and culturally specific flavors. More authenticity. I.e. Asia society - making sure we are speaking to flavors found in Laos, the Philippines, Morocco, etc.
Rob: And Scandinavian. Eating bark! They are the original foragers and advocates for preserves and fermentation to stay local and seasonal all year long. Also rediscovering American cuisine as a trend: we are a nation of immigrants, thus we are not one blanket cuisine. American is about the heritages of all who are native to, and landed here, and old world methods of all of the traditions and produce that were brought here, and where they started within our country.
Mike: Which brings us to our current R&D – we’re visiting our NYC pockets of influence. Calling our bank of 900 contacts we’ve made in our freelance team and past experience. “Joe Cho, tell us about Flushing food? Take us there.” And we did - tasted a lot and bought new toys to play with for Mark’s menu development. And my Mother-in-law always takes me to Russian stores.
Liz: GP is really about the food (And planning ops. And beverage. And design…) But it’s great to hear from where we start on the plate with our food.