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Convention Center cuisine receives an upgrade

Gaylord PalmsAt convention centers throughout the U.S., food service providers have started bringing on professional chefs to head up facility kitchens. These culinary elite are creating new food and beverage programs and up-ing the ante for convention center cuisine.


Ovations Food Services, who handles food and beverage catering for many public facilities, recently announced that Chef Michelle Bernstein would craft a culinary program for the Miami Beach Convention Center.

Bernstein, who is a Miami-area native, owns several restaurants throughout the area and is also known as the host of Check, Please! on PBS.

“I chose to partner with Ovations because we share the same passion for delivering beyond our clients’ greatest expectations and the endless push for excellence,” said Bernstein.  “The potential for this partnership is huge and I’m optimistic we’ll be able to deliver amazing food, and ensuring any Ovations event is a smashing success.”

Ovations currently manages 128 convention, sports and entertainment centers throughout the U.S.

“It is only natural that we would partner with world renowned celebrity chef Michelle Bernstein to provide a truly authentic Miami Beach culinary program for the many international and local visitors at the Miami Beach Convention Center,” said Todd Wickner, chief operating officer for Ovations.  “If chosen as the food service team at the Center, we look forward to leveraging this partnership to deliver spectacular results for the City and the Miami Beach Convention Center.”

Another Florida facility that has taken on the challenge of improving tradeshow cuisine is the Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center, located in Orlando. The upgrade to the center’s food services comes with a $50 million renovation that includes adding new venues, networking environments and upgrading guest rooms.

“Our meeting planners spoke and we listened,” said Johann Krieger, senior vice president and general manager of Gaylord. “The changes and additions are based on the recommendations from our clients who know that we share best practices and that we understand the importance of ROI.  A creative partnering approach not only works to meet the objectives of a meeting, it also works with the planning team to maximize the effective use of space.”

Executive Chef Peter Daledda has joined the resort to focus on developing the synergy between the resort’s banquet team, culinary professionals and food and beverage outlets. Daledda has over 30 years of culinary experience, bringing a passion to the job that will enhance the center’s level of banquet service.

Savor, much like Ovations, is another food service provider in the U.S. Savor currently manages McCormick Place in Chicago, where Chef Vincent Lai has recently been hired as the new director of culinary services.

Chef Lai previously worked at both the San Jose and Vancouver Convention Centers and has spent the last decade refining his Asian-influenced style of cooking. He has prepared many different kinds of meals, from box lunches for 16,000 to sit-down dinner for 4,000.

“We use the freshest ingredients and taste everything,” said Chef Lai. “Our client tastings are done as true to the event as possible, including appropriate holding time as it would be for the actual event. It’s important to me that a meeting planner has the same experience that their attendees will have. SAVORChicago is committed to excellence at every step of the experience.”

Other convention centers, such as the Georgia International Convention Center (GICC) have not only added new chefs but have implemented a whole new food service program.

The CulinAero program, which was recently added at the GICC, will be led by Executive Chef Douglas J. Kieley who brings more than 20 years of training to the position.

The CulinAero program is a commitment to a higher quality of meals at the Center and also extends itself to the presentation and service that guests will receive at the GICC.

“The GICC is an established leader in hosting events and now we’re ready to build a leading food and beverage program that will continue to enhance our reputation,” said Mercedes Miller, interim executive director of the GICC. “There are a lot of associations and companies looking for meeting destinations that can serve restaurant-quality food made with fresh ingredients, and we believe the GICC can provide value to this market.”

Throughout the center, CulinAero will be represented by new packaging, remodeled concession stands and new services such as digital monitoring boards and “green vest” floor managers who will address guests’ every request.

“Our commitment is to bring restaurant-style food into the convention center environment,” said Chef Kieley. “Everywhere I’ve ever worked, we’ve had a reputation and standards to uphold. We made everything from scratch using top-notch ingredients. It’s all I know.”


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