The airwaves are filled with cooking shows, culinary competitions and travelogues dedicated to finding the best food in the world, whether it’s in a food truck or award-winning restaurant. Planners looking to attract and engage sophisticated attendees are taking inspiration from foodie culture by finding creative ways to incorporate palate pleasers from culinary competitions to chef-hosted, pick-your-own garden tours into their events. Not only do these activities put attendees at ease and break the ice in a casual setting, they leave guests with new memories and knowledge to take home. Colleagues at Fairmont Hotels & Resorts - which include AAA Five Diamond and Michelin-starred chefs, in-house beekeepers and many culinary experts - are well versed in creating memorable gastronomic activities that will have delegates asking for more.
At Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, which recently opened its new $20 million Palomino Conference Center, team-building culinary competitions are a big hit with groups. Taking inspiration from the Southwestern culinary landscape, Salsa-making Competitions, Chili Cook-offs and Bloody Mary Battles complement a full roster of tastings, mixology classes and more.
For groups who aren’t afraid of getting dirty, Grape Stomps at The Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa offer one of the best ways for groups to let loose and experience California Wine Country. Using authentic wine barrels as well as real wine grapes from local vineyards, each participant squishes the grapes between their toes while fellow team members push the grapes through the filter and into the one-gallon jugs. The team with the most juice wins!
Recipes that Bring the Destination Home
Helping attendees learn to create a unique local dish or use unfamiliar ingredients is an experience that they will remember every time they go to the kitchen to put their newfound culinary skills to use. Fairmont Chateau Whistler takes advantage of British Columbia’s abundant food and wine scene with multiple workshops that incorporate local ingredients – whether it’s for a competitive Culinary Showdown or lower key Chef for a Day experience. These activities include working with the resort’s Executive Chef to make dishes such as Seared BC Salmon Niçoise Salad, BC Forest Mushroom Risotto, Grilled Organic Sidney Island Venison or Pemberton Valley Strawberry Shortcake, and can be tailored to the group’s needs.
“Cooking is something that everyone does to some degree and has some familiarity with, making it a great way to have people come together without having anyone feel left out,” said Kourtney Mckercher, Director of Conference Services at The Fairmont Chateau Whistler.
Bermuda’s The Fairmont Southampton and The Fairmont Hamilton Princess work closely with local rum purveyor Gosling’s to give meeting attendees a true taste of the island with its Rum 101 Programs. Experts from Gosling’s take guests through a tasting of three rums – Gosling’s Black Seal, Gold and Old Rum – and are treated to recipes and tastings of signature cocktails such as the Dark n’ Stormy and Rum Swizzle.
A Walk in the Herb Garden
While Farm-to-Fork is a popular buzzword in the foodie world, few guests have had the opportunity to go through the entire process themselves. In China, Fairmont Yangcheng Lake lets attendees fish and harvest seasonal vegetables from the resort’s onsite organic farm. Within the surroundings of the onsite Lotus pond or rice field, they can then work to create culinary treats in one of two outdoor cooking demonstration kitchens.
In the summer months, Executive Chef Dana Hauser conducts interactive guided herb and vegetable garden tours at Vancouver’s Fairmont Waterfront. Chef Hauser teaches gardening techniques as delegates select the ingredients for a fresh garden salad, including a variety of lettuces, tomatoes, peppers, chives, baby carrots, edible flowers, and herbs. Afterward, everyone heads down to the kitchen to prepare the salad and mix up their very own house made dressing, complete with rooftop honey.