The Greystone Flavor Summit

The Greystone Flavor Summit, co-presented by The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone and Food Arts, brings together each spring a select group of top food and beverage executives, corporate and executive chefs, and other experts in American foodservice and hospitality to explore, discuss, and taste their way through a stimulating, critical set of flavor and related kitchen and dining management issues.

Our more than 20 presenters and panelists thoroughly and candidly covered some of the elements that make the success of their operations and shared some of their challenges. We talked sweet and savory menu ideas, wine and cocktail pairings, sustainability and social media, expansion and story creation. Through presentations, demonstrations, and many incredible meals and tastings we got to think about ways to expand the flavors of our menus and the reach of our operations.

Charlie Palmer
Charlie Palmer
CIA Board of Trustees Chairman Charlie Palmer's presentation focused on the two hotels that are part of his company, along with eleven restaurants: Hotel Healsburg, in Sonoma, CA, and Mystic Hotel, in San Francisco. Chef Palmer spoke of the importance of attracting locals to a hotel's restaurant, which creates a dynamic atmosphere for hotel guests, and the challenge of retaining guests in hotels' food and beverage outlets because of the stigma attached to hotel dining; he and his team aim for a one-night dinner retention, and as such create stand-alone restaurants within the hotels that make them competitive with the local dining scene. Chef Palmer also discussed the experiences his hotels' staff create for guests, offering them access to special tastings at wineries, for example, that they could not access otherwise, or offering only Sonoma wines at Hotel Healsburg—elements that make the hotel unique.

John Folse
John Folse
The importance of creating a story with one's operation, be it a restaurant, hotel, or cruise ship emerged as a key point of the summit, repeated by presenters such as Louisiana star chef John Folse, who spoke of R'evolution, his latest venture and first one ever with a partner since he founded Chef John Folse & Company in 1975. Each of the seven rooms of the New Orleans, Royal Sonesta Hotel-based restaurant he conceived with Chicago's Rick Tramonto features a different aspect of Louisiana's history, using furniture and décor to tell the story along with the food, which also expends the public relations value of the restaurant, since these elements are attractive to writers always looking for a good article idea. "Great food is a given—you can't compete in the restaurant development world with mediocre food," he said. "You compete by having fed the need to make the story much bigger." Chef Folse also spoke of the need for the hotel and the restaurant teams to mutually train, understand, and respect each other, in any similar operational structure.

Tom Kaplan, senior managing partner of the Wolfgang Puck Fine Dining Group (WPFDG), talked about his division's global expansion, including some of the precautions taken when opening, or planning to open, in some of the world's more volatile regions. Around the world, WPFDG opens restaurants located within hotels, which allows them to operate synergistically and benefit from the hotel's skills set and local knowledge. The group and each team studies the culture of the location, including its media, and tries to vary the spatial design and menu everywhere to reflect preferences and cultural context. Cut, Spago, and a variable Asian restaurant concept similar to The Source in Washington, DC are the three restaurants WPFDG plans on further expanding internationally.

Bill Corbett
Bill Corbett
Chefs Susan Feniger (STREET), Bill Corbett (The Absinthe Group), and Brad Farmerie (Avroko Hospitality Group) discussed and demonstrated some of the dishes currently featured in their restaurants and events, with Harvey Steiman of Wine Spectator and Linden Pride of Avroko Hospitality Group offering wines and cocktails to match. Chef Corbett makes much use of savory ingredients like mushrooms or vegetables in his desserts, while Chef Feniger finds inspiration in street foods from around the world for her Los Angeles restaurant, her events, and her food truck.

Brad Farmerie
Brad Farmerie
Peter George, who leads the culinary team at CN Tower in Toronto, and Arlin Wasserman, partner at Changing Tastes, offered strategies for more sustainable business practices that ranged from better organizing an operation's systems and workflow to menu design and sourcing.

Social media was a topic of high interest for the 2013 attendees, as they seek to understand their growing millennial customer base, for whom satisfaction does not automatically translate into loyalty. By 2016, several presenters and panelists remarked, millennials will overtake baby boomers. The younger generation makes great use of social media, from posting reviews on sites like Yelp to turning to Twitter or Facebook Susan Feniger
Susan Feniger
to interact with companies from which they expect immediate answers. Paul Barron, founder and CEO of DigitalCoCo, spoke of the 385 million global social restaurant consumers who interact with 30,000 hospitality brands through social media. Using two case studies, Barron showed how hospitality companies can proactively use social media to gain awareness of their customers and use that knowledge for staff training; to map trends and their impact on businesses; to develop direct connection with their customers; and to cultivate sustained and purposeful relationships with them. Patrick McDonnell, partner at the international consulting firm McDonnell Kinder and Associates, said that now when operations make mistakes, these are mentioned on Twitter immediately; it is thus key to take control of the message.

To foster knowledge exchange and interaction, attendees were broken into teams and took part in a two-hour ideation session Orion Balliet at Raymonds Vineyard
Orion Balliet at
Raymonds Vineyard
during which they had to come up with one of two concepts: a rooftop bar and lounge or an F&B operation to fill dead space in a hotel lobby. Teams then presented their suggested concepts, complete with floor plans, projected revenues, food and drink menus, service flow, décor and entertainment, servingware, staff needs, and more. More operator-to-operator information was shared during the final panel, as John Washko of Auberge Resorts, Brad Nelson of Marriott International, Orion Balliet of Holland America Line, and Rainer Zinngrebe of Ritz-Carlton discussed their latest operational hits and challenges.

We hope that our attendees enjoyed a memorable experience and took back concrete ideas to their operations, and look forward to welcoming another group of influential food, beverage, and hospitality executives to next year's Greystone Flavor Summit from April 9-11, 2014.

View the Conference Program (919 KB)

View Presenter and Sponsor Company Biographies (250 KB)

View Recipes (816 KB)


Operational Hits and Challenges: Directions for the Future, Orion Balliet, Holland America Line
214 KB

Operation-Driven Social Media Strategies, Paul Barron, DigitalCoCo
7.6 MB

Scaling Up: Perspectives from the Sweet Side, Bill Corbett, Absinthe
2.4 MB

Pistachios in Innovative Desserts, Stephen Durfee, CIA
1.1 MB

Global Food and Cocktail Pairings, Brad Farmerie and Linden Pride, Avroko Hospitality Group
4.6 MB

Street Food-Inspired Dishes for High-Volume Fine Dining, Susan Feniger, STREET
1.1 MB

Giving Hotels a Sense of Place, John Folse, Chef John Folse & Company
17.8 MB

Sustainability in the Hospitality Industry, Peter George, 360 Restaurant, CN Tower
1.7 MB

Menu Positioning with New Pork Cut Nomenclature, Stephen Gerike, National Pork Board
2.4 MB

Building a Global Brand, Tom Kaplan, Wolfgang Puck Fine Dining
6.7 MB

A Review of Restaurant Trends, Martin Kastner, Crucial Detail
18.9 MB

Street Food-Inspired Dishes for High-Volume Fine Dining, Judy McArthur, Unilever Food Solutions
1.9 MB

High Volume: The Next Frontier, Patrick McDonnell, McDonnell Kinder & Associates
38.9 MB

A Review of Restaurant Trends, Andrew Klimecki, Steelite International
22.7 MB

A Review of Restaurant Trends, John Miles, Steelite International
22 MB

Strengthening Food & Beverage Programs, Charlie Palmer, The Charlie Palmer Group
336 KB

Sustainability in the Hospitality Industry, Arlin Wasserman, Changing Tastes
2.9 MB

Operational Hits and Challenges: Directions for the Future, John Washko, Auberge Resorts
3.7 MB