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A Shift in Perspective

By Sandra Eagle

At the recent SITE Canada Education Day, held in Toronto, a session on the New Landscape of Event Cuisine shows how perceptions have changed in the last few years on the sustainability front in food & beverage options. Mina Shekarbani, a chef and program manager at Centennial College in Scarborough, Ont., says a different mindset motivated our menus in the past.

“The quantity of food signalled generosity—think chocolate fountains, unlimited coffee and overflowing buffet tables. Remember how people used to feel after a heavy carb-focused lunch at a conference?” joked Shekarbani. “No one ever wanted to speak in the afternoon.”

Shekarbani thinks a shift started a few years before the pandemic, as ideas of local sourcing, food and material waste, and health and nutrition concerns gained traction.

Today’s different approach is to move away from outdated models of hospitality. Smaller portions, frequent refills and fewer and healthier options are the way of the future. Shekarbani says the use of local producers and food in season, thinking of nutrition first and smaller displays of food remind us all that our resources are finite.

In a keynote, Michael Dominguez, CHSE, president and CEO of Associated Luxury Hotels International, noted that the avian and swine flu has increased the cost of those centre-of-plate proteins to an all-time high. In fact, the protein that costs the least right now is salmon. “It’s an important time to talk with your chef about menu options,” says Dominguez.

In addition to protein choices, he noted that in the coming months, the costs of wheat and corn are due to skyrocket—so be prepared to pay extra for those high-end spirits such as Scotch and bourbon.

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