I recently attended Delaware North Companies Food and Beverage Summit in Buffalo. It was a nice event that brought our company’s culinary minds together. During the event, our six regional chefs took part in a cooking challenge. They had to run through a mock grocery store and purchase items that would help them prepare delicious food in just an hour. I’ve asked them to share their thoughts on the challenge and the conference. Chef Percy Whatley’s thoughts are below.
Reflecting on the 2010 F&B Summit can really impress a feeling of what a great culinary team I am a part of. Arriving on Saturday, pretty late in the evening, Chefs James Major and Kevin Doherty were kind enough to come out to the airport to pick me up. I could have easily taken a cab downtown to Buffalo and not burdened them. They insisted.
After a night’s rest we all met in the lobby of the Embassy Suites where we split up as Kevin and James were going to Ralph Wilson Stadium to help out for the Bills’ game and Chefs Chris Matta, Christopher Tunnel and I began our mise en place for Monday’s grand meet and greet reception on the 9th floor. We got as much as we could do without getting ahead of ourselves and called it quits for the day around 5 p.m.
The next day I awoke around 7 a.m. and went downstairs where I was able to meet Pastry Chef Jami Caudy. She was already hard at work on her sweet bites that were to be served 15 hours later at the reception. She was also making the best of a kitchen that was a little challenging for a pastry person as the hotel does not have a designated pastry area.
In the next hour or so, the rest of the crew began to show up and we were really on top of each other. The kitchen is designed for small teams and we were 10 strong with only one being on the what we call “slim” side. We worked fast, clean and diligent. We communicated effectively and the direction of the event became very clear. The greatest part of it is that we are all chefs, running pretty big properties, and we all have our opinions, but we all moved in one direction, we all spoke the same language from beginning to end. One said jump, the other said “how high?” Seamless!
At the beginning of the event, we were all in the back putting the finishing touches on the food and setting the food stations, training the Embassy Staff on what the food is and the expectation of the serving of the food items. It was impressive and I am proud to know all of the Regional Chefs and the others that pitched in to help without hesitation.
So, now the reception is over, but our work is not over for the Summit. We were committed the next day for a “for the fun of it” competition. All of us took it in stride to simply do the best we know how. It was a blast to take off running with the grocery baskets. The greatest thing was we all headed to the produce booth first. With a 45-minute shop time and an hour to cook, it is not as much time as you would think.
Here is an attempt at the thought process that swims through your head in these circumstances: I saw Fritos, thought it would make a good crust for the fish. The flavor started to get into the Southwest, then a salsa, then a citrus pomegranate salsa…needed a starch…any potatoes, fingerlings…perfect, butter poached with some of the Chardonnay from one of the booths. The steak…I saw pesto…what kind???…sundried tomato…good, a marinade…beer, yes…apples…beer braised apples with thyme and butter, needs a salad…arugula good…with some long beans and some of this baby bok choy…what about dressing, there has to be some dressing booth around here…yes, apple cider vinaigrette. Flat bread, yes, and they have a Panini grill….a little grilled toast point…
The hour went by very quickly but all went well except for the steak marinade burning a little and imparting a bitter scalded flavor. The main point to this exercise, to me anyway, was for all of us to get together and have a blast cooking. Hopefully all who saw us found it entertaining!!!
We worked so hard and so long the day before and we got up the next morning and performed at the competition, now it was time to get a little bit of relaxation in. The next few days were spent bonding with these guys, what a team.