How often have you seen attendees sleepy in the afternoon because of food comas? Or have you opted against coffee stations in the afternoon, only to look around and see those needy eyes looking for the stations? Food and travel have a relationship, both within leisure and meetings. As meeting professionals, we know how essential nutrition is to attendee engagement and involvement in our discussions, but how do you stay up to speed on food trends and best practices? What is happening in the culinary world that we can refer to as a guide?
One organization that’s consistently informative and on top of the game is the James Beard Foundation, a group of chefs and food experts that support and share the notion that food matters. Industry partners recognize the James Beard Foundation in a variety of ways. Destination Marketing Association International honored the James Beard Foundation this year at its annual Destination and Travel Foundation Dinner in Washington, D.C., this past February. It was a notable moment to see DMAI recognize the importance of restaurants and chefs in creating captive fans of visitors to their destinations. I was geeking out in the audience over the delectable bites during the meal and sat starry-eyed as Chef Art Smith took to the stage to accept the award on behalf of the foundation. I met other notable chefs, including Chef Keegan Gerhard of D Bar Desserts in Denver and Chef Tory McPhail of Commander’s Palace in New Orleans. These chefs help define the taste of the cities in which they cook—the tastes that keep us coming back.
Visit Orlando and partners hosted a trip recently that focused solely on the James Beard nominees in the area. Taking visitors from one gourmet meal to another, Orlando featured multiple chefs and some of its award-winning food in the city. Attendees feasted on some of the country’s best food and sipped their way through local speakeasies to a James Beard announcement reception in Orlando.
Events and food are linked, whether we like it or not. It’s important to remember that some of the best inspiration and professional influences for the events we plan often come from outside conference services and inside leading organizations such as the James Beard Foundation. We need to expand our circles to stay on trend and give attendees what they want. It’s even better when some of our most trusted industry organizations, like DMAI, also recognize the importance of wide-ranging influences.