Ramsay Pub & Grill in Atlantic City, N.J. She
can be caught working at dawn in the kitchen,
carefully rolling the beef wellington, Ramsay’s
signature dish, to ensure its perfection.
“People are really excited when they come
into my restaurant and ask to see me and see that
I’m a real person,” she says. “I’m running around
and I’m sweating. My hands are in the food. They
see me on television and know they can have a
connection to Gordon Ramsay through me. I
think that’s what drives a lot of business.”
Once You Taste Foie Gras...
Along with our palates being upgraded, meeting attendees have gotten more selective as
gourmet cooking has moved mainstream.
Knowing who’s cooking our food and where
they’re sourcing their ingredients has become
less of a trend and more of an expectation.
“One in four guests ask if Gordon Ram-
say is in the kitchen,” says Cory Johnson, vice
president of food and beverage at Caesars
Entertainment. “People want to touch and
experience it. They have a heightened vision
of what the experience should be, and we do
not want to let them down. Our challenge is
to take the dining experience—what they see
on TV—recreate it and incorporate it into
Johnson notes that people come to Las
Vegas for a little bit of self-indulgence, and
food now counts as one of the top draws.
This has in;luenced the way we eat, the way
we serve and the
way we tap into both
the celebrity chefs
as entertainers and
executive chefs as
experts to dream up
the food-as-enter-tainment experience.
Here are just a few
examples how meeting planners can take
advantage of these
Menus. Carlos Collado, CMP, executive
director of catering
services at MGM
Grand, notes the
mind-boggling number of specialty diets now
needed for attendees.
“Back 15 to 20 years ago, at a convention
of 5,000 people, you might do 60 specialty
meals. Now, you could have up 400,” he says.
“There are more vegetarian and gluten-free
diets, dairy-free and nut-free meal requests,
and the amount of food allergies has increased
James Benson, executive chef at Wynn Las
Vegas, says people are more health conscious.
“They want to know what’s in the product and where the
produce is sourced,”
he says. “Guests recognize names like
Mary’s Chicken and
appreciate we source
Specialty Chefs as
Celebrity chefs now demonstrate how to cook
their signature dishes
for VIP audiences
and act as motivational speakers (many
started with virtually nothing and built
Executive chefs can
create fun team-building competitions such
as MGM’s food competitions, where peers
compete to make the best canapé, or attendees can sample specialties from their favorite
restaurants during receptions with inspired
presentations and cooking demonstrations.
Gill understands why chefs have strong
business lessons to convey.
“Chefs are motivational
speakers on a daily basis,
because we have to inspire
our teams to work hard to
get our jobs done,” she says.
“Gordon Ramsay pushes you
almost to the breaking point
because he wants you to fall
in order to see how you can
get back up. In the kitchen
you are measured by your
stability because at some
point everyone stumbles.
Everyone around is brutally
honest with you. You need
to be competitive with the
person standing next to you,
because if you are pushing
each other, together both
will be stepping things up a notch. Perfection
is what we ;ight for—it’s everything.”
Networking as a Food Experience. As
formal dinners get replaced by upscale food
stations, old-fashioned breaking bread has
modernized the networking experience,
allowing meeting planners to combine dol-
lars and achieve two goals—feeding their
attendees and networking. The tableside
show is coming back, but in the case of meet-
ings it’s staged at food stations in order to be
interactive with attendees. Guests can learn
what’s involved in cre-
ating the famous meat-
balls at Rao’s, because
the expert is right there,
demonstrating how to
make the dish.
“A formal dinner
ties up people. At a
reception you get the
bene;it of networking,”
Myers says. “We do
At Caesars, you can
walk around the reception and get teppanyaki
from Nobu, beef wellington by Gordon Ramsay, meatballs and pasta
from Rao’s. We’re not
just putting the food out there; we’re creating
more interaction with the guest so they have
the ability to see how the product is cooked.
We’ll have a pasta station right there cooking—you can smell the garlic.”
Handcrafted Cocktails. Johnson notes
that over the past couple of years the beverage program has played a bigger role in food
“It used to be when you wanted a beer you
had two choices, regular or light,” he says.
“Now beverages are on the same level as food.
It’s no longer a sweet-and-sour mix. Handcrafted cocktails are the staple of millennials.”
This new interest in exotic cocktails has
entered the meetings arena, where mixologists are now a part of the offerings. Groups
can hire a mixologist to craft beverage favorites such as the infused pineapple mule
served at Caesars’ Vista Cocktail Lounge and
create team-building activities where attendees create their own cocktails for the event in
a competition judged by a mixologist.
Buyouts. “We can sell out MR CHOW for a
group of 200 or hold a reception in the Mon-tecristo Cigar Bar to sample ;ine whiskeys,”
Johnson says. “You can have Giada cook for
your group from one of the recipes from her
cookbook. Our team does a fantastic job on
educating the consumer what our brands are
and what they are about. It’s about tying it
into the Las Vegas experience instead of it just
being a place to hold their event.” ■
Giada De Laurentiis