Designing Great Events
By Micha Bentel
Curiosity and creativity are two of the qualities that we look for in people who join us at Great Performances. You’ll see it in our food, from the delectable hors d’oeuvres, delightful dishes, and decadent desserts, and at our events with the dazzling displays, quick-thinking staff, and exquisite décor.
Our in-house design team is a key aspect of all that we do at Great Performances. Working closely with the culinary, production, sales, and events teams, they’re constantly looking for new ideas, materials, and objects to bring to our food presentation and displays and to or large-scale design installations. From creating mood boards to building custom installations, our Design Team turns ideas to reality.
We interviewed Micha Bentel, Creative Director, to learn more about design at Great Performances.
What helps you come up with design ideas?
It depends on the circumstances. Sometimes I will see something hung on a wall or out in nature and will want to turn that into a tray just because it is cool and intriguing. Sometimes I am inspired and overtaken by a concept and theme. Other times, clients will specifically ask for something and I am not in the business of saying no. I want to create whatever I can to make the event stunning and immersive. It is the main objective.
What does the design process typically entail?
Do you remember what it was like when you were a kid going to the grocery store with an adult? You’d pick up a wild cereal and put it in the cart and the adult would take it out and put it back on the shelf. Then you’d grab a cool looking soda and put it in the cart, and the adult would take it out and put it back on the shelf. But sometimes you’d grab something cool-looking and fruit-based and put it in the cart and it would remain there until checkout. Success! The design process is like that. We go back and forth with concepts, usually starting with the wild cereal and soda ideas and then add new ideas and take some away until we get an idea and…success! We have an idea that everyone agrees will be fun, elegant seasonal and thematic.
What important themes do you carry in your designs?
One of the reasons we commit so much time to design at GP is because we are committed to great design which is consistent with our core values. We are a forward-thinking sustainable company. We source locally, grow our own produce, use only disposables that are biodegradable, design the life cycle of every menu item, re-use as much design inventory as possible, and plan seasonally to make sure every party and menu is unique as a design and is good for the planet. We never compromise one for the other. The results speak for themselves.
What are you excited for in the upcoming new year and beyond?
We have many cool designs coming up that will be introduced in tandem with the seasonal menu. We work directly with our culinary team to develop concepts which enhance their work – and that collaboration is fun. I don’t want to give too much away, so stay tuned for exciting new stuff! Here is a hint: it is furniture themed.
What kind of impact do you see when growing this new era of design and food?
It is such an exciting time for hospitality and design right now. We are all back from the Covid interlude and the hospitality world which was heavily hit is bursting with new ideas and approaches to the presentation of food. Because of the obsession with how well everything is marketed to our social media outlets, our audience is thinking more and more about the way food is presented and looks (sometimes even more than how it tastes). As a design team, we embrace the opportunity to create powerful visual moments. But that is not enough. We seek synergies between a dish and its presentation at an event. Collaboration with our partners in the garden, in the kitchen, and on the floor of an event forces us to mind the details. “Food and Design” IS our profession – both, together, working between the lines, creating bridges between what happens in the kitchen, on the plate, as part of a menu, at an event, and before an audience.
Every member of our design department has culinary and hospitality training as well as design training which makes the collaboration with our teammates seamless. We communicate with the culinary team to design something fun, elegant, or crazy while also handling the functional side. It is a difficult balance, but it is so important to get it right. At the end of the day, if the menu and the presentation spark an emotional response from our audience – awe, nostalgia, curiosity, surprise – just by framing the food in the right way, while also making it fun and elegant, we’ve done our job.
What is the GP Design legacy you’d want to leave?
As I mentioned, the hospitality world is awash in visual images broadcast over social media. Too often this phenomenon translates into guests’ expectations for visual entertainment at catered events. At GP we want the experience to be about food and design by telling a story through its presentation that connects them both. For example, a vegetable station that recalls the life of a carrot from root to hor d’oeuvre right in front of you. That’s our goal. It certainly doesn’t hurt that our food is delicious too. This is everything to us.