To the JW Marriott Grande Lakes. Why am I being so generous, you ask? Because at this large convention hotel in Orlando, doing the same day in and day out isn’t acceptable. I spent time there recently with Nector, the catering director, and we talked about what’s going on at Grande Lakes.
One item we see a lot in our industry is stale properties. As a matter of fact, I’m working with a stale large-hotel property now. These properties are often bogged down by corporate BS and can’t get unstuck. Nector explained that somehow Grande Lakes has worked through the red tape and is doing innovative things that hopefully will trickle down through the company.
For starters, the hotel has its own large farm. An interesting move, since it’s in Orlando and can have a productive crop all year long. The bonus is that the farm gives the hotel another outdoor event space. Plus, the hotel takes advantage by growing interesting fruits and vegetables that may cost too much if bought in bulk.
Next, Grande Lakes has become really progressive with hiring young culinary talent and giving these folks a strong foundation. Too many times chefs coming out of culinary school feel entitled to start in the middle and not in the basement. Remember, folks, that a strong house is built from the ground up. Not the other way around.
The culinary management team at the JW works hard to recruit culinary talent that understands this philosophy. (I will sidebar by saying it’s important to us as buyers of catering to ask about the background of the caterer’s culinary team. I’m not interested in where they had their last job, I am more interested in how they started. This gives me in indication of their range of skills.)
Lastly, Grande Lakes is following a “from-scratch” philosophy. Personally, I’m not as enamored with this concept as the rest of the world. It’s OK that some things aren’t made from scratch. It ensures consistency, but here it’s something they feel strongly about. I say have at it.
That’s my story for now, and I’m sticking to it.
Claire Gould has been writing our Monthly Morsel column for many years and has decided to pass the spatula. We cannot thank her enough for her dedication, spirit and great work. If you’d like to write future columns for PYM, please email email@example.com.