A Taste of the South with the InterContinental Hotel Kitchen Passport Program
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The Daily Meal helped develop recipes for the resort’s cookbook app and learned a little bit about the South, too
Consider fine dining at a luxury hotel, and then imagine if you could recreate that type of meal in your own home. This is all possible with InterContinental Hotel’s kitchen cookbook iPad app, which shares recipes created by their state-of-the-art culinary team from around the world. Always determined to give their guests an insider experience, InterContinental recently launched their Kitchen Passport Program, and joined their talented culinary team with food influencers from around the country to create new and creative recipes for the app.
Their first round of the program was held at the InterContinental Hotel Buckhead Atlanta site, where I joined InterContinental and chef Art Smith at the hotel's restaurant, Southern Art, to develop three new recipes for the iPad app. Ironically enough, while working to create one-of-a-kind experiences for InterContinental guests, I enjoyed a few of my own while working with the animated Top Chef Masters chef. As we worked to develop an appetizer, main dish, and dessert, chef Smith and I bonded over our love of cooking and the South, and our recipes reflect just that, ranging from innovative and creative to healthy and ground-breaking. Our time together finished up at a tasting event at InterContinental Buckhead, where food influencers of Atlanta and the press gathered to speak with chef Smith and I about our recipes and to try them first hand.
Click here to read A Southern Spin on a Classic Favorite with Chef Art Smith
Click here to read Making Southern Food Healthy with Chef Art Smith
Click here to read What Are...Persimmons?
Anne Dolce is the Cook Editor at The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @anniecdolce
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Hotel Born in Denver, Colorado: Shop the Farmers Market
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Guests at Hotel Born can shop the Union Station Farmers Market with Citizen Rail Executive Chef . [+] Christian Graves. The day culminates with a lunch prepared by Graves, created with the farmers market finds.
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How did street food recipes travel 9,000 miles from Southeast Asia to Resorts World Las Vegas? A webcam.
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LAS VEGAS – What’s it take to bring authentic street food 9,000 miles from hawker stalls in Southeast Asia to a new resort on The Strip?
A kitchen with a laptop, webcam and chefs eager to learn.
That’s what’s happening behind the scenes at Resorts World Las Vegas, where the hotel-casino is preparing to launch Famous Street Eats — a 24,000-square-foot food market filled with dishes from Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and beyond.
In a video lesson, Famous Foods Street Eats Executive Chef Kevin Hee and assistant chef Angela Ng practiced flipping dough to make authentic Roti Canai from Singapore hawker Springleaf Prata. (Photo: Photo Provided: Megan Blair)
In normal times, hawkers would have boarded a plane in Southeast Asia and flown here to teach Vegas chefs the secrets to perfecting the dishes.
COVID-19 made that kind of journey impossible, but the resort opening on June 24 used the power of technology to transfer all that culinary know-how to the Nevada desert.
Here’s how Resorts World found the dishes overseas and transported them here.
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A search for street food
The idea driving Famous Street Eats is a simple one, according to Andrew Li, CEO of Zouk Group, the Singapore company behind the concept: Go to the source.
“In Asia there are all these amazing food cultures,” Li said, “and they come from these mom and pop shops. They’re not in hotels, they’re not in malls. They’re on the side streets, and they’ve been perfecting these recipes for decades.”
The hawker recipes coming to Resorts World have been passed down from generation to generation. Some of the chefs behind these dishes have been crafting them for more than five decades.
Famous Street Eats will be a place tourists and foodies will find dishes they won’t find anywhere else that are cooked with techniques they’ve never heard of, Li said.
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One of the dishes from Singapore is called Char Kuey Teow, rice and egg noodles fried with fresh seafood on a charcoal-fired stove to produce a smoky aroma called "wok hei” –– or "dragon's breath."
The man behind this hawker dish is Chef Ah Guan. Because he wears goggles while cooking to protect his eyes from searing hot oil, he is known as the "Googgle Man."
Singapore's Chef Ah Guan – also known as "Googgle Man" –must wear goggles while cooking to protect his eyes from the intense heat. (Photo: Googgle Man Char Koay Teow)
“The fire you need to cook these noodles is so hot,” Li said. “They want it so hot you can almost taste the burn –– that char taste of the noodle. Things like that will be very interesting to educate people about and share the story.”
But how are chefs like Googgle Man teaching Las Vegas chefs how to cook dishes?
Every week, alongside two assistants, Famous Foods executive chef Kevin Hee takes a video lesson. His teachers are 9,000 miles away in different parts of Southeast Asia.
Hee is learning the street food alchemy of the menu coming soon to The Strip. Every lesson begins with a recipe.
“We first try it on our own until we feel we’re at a level where we’re not ashamed to show the proprietor,” Hee said. "Once we get to that level, we set up a video call, and we will do our rendition of whatever dish we’re doing.”
Hee is now working on roti canai. The flatbread item comes from Springleaf Prata Place, a family-style shop in Singapore serving South India cuisine. Roti canai is difficult to make, as the dough must be stretched so thin it’s almost transparent.
It's so difficult, in fact, that Hee and his team are now in a second round of lessons.
In a video lesson, Famous Foods Street Eats Executive Chef Kevin Hee and assistant chef Angela Ng practiced flipping dough to make authentic Roti Canai from Singapore hawker Springleaf Prata. (Photo: Photo Provided: Megan Blair)
During the video lesson, the Las Vegas cooks go through each step of making dough for roti canai. Meanwhile, the proprietor watches, offering tips and tricks along the way.
When they're done with their rendition of roti canai, the proprietor’s team shows them how they do it.
“The show us what corrections we can make while flipping the dough,” Hee said, “and it’s a back and forth from there.”
There haven't been many language barriers, as almost every hawker speaks English and Hee’s team speaks Mandarin or Cantonese.
Famous Foods Street Eats Executive Chef Kevin Hee watches assistant chef Angela Ng practice flipping dough to make authentic Roti Canai from Singapore hawker Springleaf Prata. (Photo: Photo Provided: Megan Blair)
When proprietors approve how each dish looks, the plate must pass a taste test.
“We have several executives that have lived in Southeast Asia that are familiar with the flavor profiles,” Hee said. “We have them try the dishes to see if the flavor profiles fit.”
Once each dish has a final blessing, Hee and his team will teach a bigger team of chefs how to cook the menus at Famous Street Eats.
Along the way, he’s learned techniques that made his own kitchen game better.
“Just getting the dough to not stick to the pot itself takes a lot of technique. That was the hardest part to master,” Hee said of the roti canai. “I’m just lucky to learn new things.”
Ed Komenda writes about Las Vegas for the Reno Gazette Journal and USA Today Network. Do you care about democracy? Then support local journalism by subscribing to the Reno Gazette Journal right here .
I Miss Travel, So I Found Italy on a Plate Inspired by Spaghetti alla Nerano
There are many things I love about food. The inherent ability of a few humble ingredients to showcase cultures from around the world, the unique and beautiful flavors that can surprise and connect us to each other, and the absolute joy that brings me to prepare a plate of food for someone as an act of love — to name just a few. Especially during this time when our travels have been grounded, I have loved the gift of food to transport us somewhere entirely new.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve been religiously spending my Sunday evenings watching Stanley Tucci on Searching for Italy. The limited food series on CNN has truly been a gift for my soul during this time. It has been a one-hour time block to indulge in a little wanderlust across Italy. Maybe it’s the soulful way in which Tucci takes us across different regions in Italy, highlighting traditions and cultures behind some familiar foods from Italian cuisine while introducing us to some lesser-known (at least to me) regional specialties. He shows what makes the food-centric culture of Italy so special.
There were so many incredible dishes on the show that inspired my online search for recipes to replicate, and until I can make it to Italy myself, the one recipe that I immediately made was the Spaghetti all Nerano.
It’s the same dish that Tucci learns to make from a chef on the Amalfi Coast at Lo Scoglio, and oh. my. gosh. y’all. I am already counting the days until I can visit Italy myself.
Before I side-step into a full-on television show review, let’s talk about this dish. The one thing I really enjoyed learning about on Searching for Italy was the inherent emphasis on simple ingredients that when treated well, gift you with something magical, and how the joy and care put into a dish can really make all the difference. So often we’re rushing to get dinner on the plate without truly experiencing the process or the care of the ingredients, and I want to get better at this.
After doing some research—okay, more like going down the rabbit hole on pasta dishes on the internet—I came across a column from Emiko Davies, who has lived in Italy for over a decade and talks specifically about this dish. “This pasta dish is an example of how little Italian towns and villages can have their own specialties, just like cities—where dishes speak not only to the traits of an area but also to a very specific time and place. While the beaches are one thing that brings people to Nerano, a tiny fishing village built into the mountains on the Amalfi Coast, so does this pasta with fried zucchini.
All the locals know the story: The legendary dish was invented in 1952 by Maria Grazia, who owned a restaurant in Nerano that bears her name (and where two of her grandchildren, Lello and Andrea, still work to this day). So many have tried to recreate this seemingly humble dish of pasta and local summer zucchini that it has become known as “Spaghetti alla Nerano” to distinguish it from any other spaghetti with zucchini.
So let’s get to the recipe. First of all, my version of this dish is still probably a far cry from the Italian version, even with such a short list of ingredients. But I tried my best to emulate it the best that I could with what we have here.
Because the dish is so simple, it’s about getting the technique right. Even on the show, Tucci talks to the chef about how when he and his wife try to make the dish at home, it’s still not quite as good as what they get at the restaurant. The chef shows them how the sliced zucchini has to be fried in lots of oil (literally a whole pot) until slightly crispy, then refrigerated overnight to soften them. The zucchini is then heated in a pan with cooked spaghetti, butter, and grated cheese to finish. Given that most nights I’m just looking for a 15-minute dinner and not wanting to wait overnight, I did take some liberties, which is why I mention that my version is still a few steps removed from the original.
While I welcome you to try the frying method mentioned above because it is delicious, I’ve been pan sautéing the zucchini slices with some shallot—not traditional—and garlic, until they take on just a shade of gold. You then take about a third of the zucchini and add to a blender with a little pasta water, and basil—also not traditional—for the sauce. Bring everything together with a pat of butter and some grated parm and you have a winner. Even my dad who is Mr. Picky Eater was a fan!
Although not quite the same as traveling to Italy, this plate of pasta was a close second. And even more so, I’m excited to continue peeling back the layers of Italy’s regional cuisine to go further than just my favorite Neapolitan pizza (um, was that my favorite episode when Tucci got to try the freshest buffalo mozzarella and San Marzano tomatoes?). A few books I’m excited to dive into since the show just aired its last episode include Tasting Rome, Food of the Italian South, and Bitter Honey.
Just a reminder that cuisine is always more than meets the eye that regionality and local makers are so much more than what we often think of as a monolith and there are so many beautiful recipes to learn from. I hope you enjoy this dish as much as I did.
A Taste of the South with the InterContinental Hotel Kitchen Passport Program - Recipes
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Our first time visiting. First, it’s a great facility, made of old repurposed pine beams, beautiful. Heated covered back patio area. Small plates were actually bigger than we expected, especially for the money. Charcuterie and calamari were good, mussels were great, chicken kabobs and skirt steak were what you expect. Drink menu was very interesting. Apple empanadas for dessert were wonderful. Very friendly and attentive staff. You need to check this out
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2021 hospitality and travel trends
Covid-19 has upended millions of jobs and many have been forced to make the abrupt change to working from home. It’s been almost nine months at the time of writing since the World Health Organisation declared a pandemic, and in this relatively short period of time remote working has become normalised. It’s the first time in our collective history where personal and professional networks have moved onto virtual platforms en masse. The world of work has undergone a paradigmatic shift, even if we don’t yet know exactly how this will transpire.
We’re presented with the opportunity to reimagine the traditional 9-5 and the ways in which businesses are run. For some, cost-saving strategies and time-efficiencies will prompt the shift to a remote workforce. According to Global Workplace Analytics, around 25 to 30 per cent of the global workforce is expected to work from home multiple days a week by the end of 2021. Coworking offices are therefore likely to appear as hubs and pockets integrated into existing spaces. The potential scope and scale of the idea is enormous – it could extend far beyond the typical hotspots of remote work in hotel lobbies and cafes to include retail such as garden centres and leisure facilities such as gyms.
Viewing this cultural shift from a hotel lens, there’s great opportunity to attract the growing remote workforce. Buildings will be conditioned to address the flexibility of workers, for example reconfiguring communal spaces to better accommodate working needs. Third-party hot desk operators such as AndCo and BYHOURS partner with hotels to help drive that much-needed revenue. Simultaneously, the pandemic is ushering many professionals to move out of city centres. B2C marketplace Anyplace is observing this trend across its platform in the US, which will lead to a change in relationships with secondary and rural locations. Countries like Barbados, Estonia and Georgia have all introduced a digital nomad visa to attract the emerging anywhere worker. The office will no longer be static but a dynamic and mobile setting.
2. Repurposing hotels and their spaces
Empty guest and conference rooms, unused banqueting halls, and other under-utilised space has prompted owners and managers to reimagine functionalities. I’ve seen several hotels here in the UK refurbish meeting rooms into fully equipped studios. Royal Lancaster London invested £1.8 million in kitting out its XR Mixed Reality Production Studio, and Pennyhill Park unveiled The Event Studio with TV cameras, stage lighting and production facilities. When it comes to hosting events, planners now expect venues to support hybrid experiences and rank technology as an important consideration on both the planning and delivery side. Those repurposing now will be better positioned in early 2021 to capture business demand throughout next year.
Vacant office blocks and retail stores also offer the chance to convert. Hotels in tourist-heavy gateway cities remain an attractive asset for investment despite the challenges they have faced thus far. In London’s Covent Garden, Manex Properties will transform a former office building into an Amano branded hotel, and The Portfolio Club will convert the entire Wellington block into one of several Residents’ Clubs.
Aligned with the staycation surge, Deloitte reveals Cambridge, Oxford and Edinburgh as the top three attractive cities in the UK for hotel investment in 2021. Honing in on Oxford, Graduate Hotels is set to debut one of its first European properties here early next year. With further development activity expected such as the repurposing of Boswells department store into a boutique hotel, the city and others like it could witness a growth in supply relative to high demand levels.
3. Hotels pivot to extended stay
The resilience of serviced apartments has been largely observed during the pandemic. In the States, the extended stay hotel sector has outperformed the overall hotel industry in Q3 of 2020 according to the latest report from The Highland Group. In fact, early preliminary data from back in April revealed that extended stay properties were suffering far less than their traditional hotel counterparts, with the crisis creating additional demand for longer visits.
In response to this trend, several hotel brands have introduced an extended stay offer. Names such as Ace Hotels, Four Seasons, 25hours Hotels, Banyan Tree Group and Red Lion Hotels have all diversified into this market. Whilst some are adapting and expanding their base product, others are innovating and launching new identities within the space.
AKA Serviced Residences, which also operates a hotel in New York, saw a growth in the length of stay across its entire portfolio in all five markets: New York, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Los Angeles and London. Elana Friedman, chief marketing officer at AKA, said: “We are seeing even shorter booking windows than we have experienced over the past year, in many cases, inside of one week. This is understandable as travellers are not willing to commit to long term travel plans if there is any risk. Our guests are traveling less frequently, but staying longer, and compressing as much as they can into their stays – whether personal or business travel. We are also finding that many guests, at this moment, want less engagement and more privacy.
“AKA always catered to three key segments: business, leisure, and lifestyle transitions, such as home renovations, medical tourism, temporary assignments, relationship changes etc. The third segment is seasonless, less impacted by world events, and an important category for us. Likewise, some of our top corporate clients, whose offices remain closed, have secured blocks of suites for their employees who need a more productive work (work/life) space than their home. These companies are seeking a secure, quiet, private environment with ample work-space and super-fast secure wifi. AKA expects this trend to continue to some degree, even as offices gradually reopen.”
The crossover of hotels and apartments is set to become more frequent and more broad. All five of the largest hotel groups (Wyndham Worldwide, Choice Hotels, Marriott International, InterContinental Hotels Group and Hilton Worldwide) have managed extended stay hotels for many years. Changing traveller needs as a result of the coronavirus is merely accelerating the transition amongst smaller brands.
4. Explosion of the subscription economy
The disruption to travel and sharp drop in footfall has compelled many hospitality businesses to seek out new revenue streams and as a result there’s been a flurry of activity within the subscription space. The model leverages a longer-term, fixed variable compared to the reliance on transient trade, and several hotel brands have jumped on the bandwagon.
Concurrent with the burgeoning anywhere worker is the introduction of daily, monthly or annual work and travel passes. citizenM led the charge on this front, launching its corporate subscription and global passport. Marriott, Accor and Karma Group are among other big names to have implemented similar payment plans. It’s unsurprising that efforts are focussed on the lucrative business traveller – MICE was a significant source of income for hotels prior to lockdown and social restrictions. In effect, it’s a resourceful move for hotels to monetise the way they already operate.
Looking wider afield, travel group Inspirato claims to be one of the first operators to adopt a fully subscription-based model. Offering two separate memberships, travellers have access to hundreds of five-star hotels, luxury private homes and experiences either on an all-inclusive basis or for additional nightly fees. It’s the first I’ve seen where a subscription service spans different accommodations on a global level, and it’s a strong indicator that it may well become subsumed into other segments of the travel industry too.
5. Appetite for dark kitchens
Just as a rolling monthly subscription provides a stable stream of income, dark kitchens can allow for the continuation of operations (on a takeaway basis) when dine-in venues such as hotels and restaurants are forced to close. Also known as ghost kitchens and satellite kitchens, the model works by leasing a secondary site such as hotel kitchens, shipping containers or other industrial units to cook and produce meals for consumption on-premises and elsewhere.
Companies such as Flipdish, which specialise in online ordering for restaurants, witnessed increased activity during the first UK lockdown from hotels that were looking to set up a digital ordering system. This tells me that there’s appetite from hoteliers to expand their business, and where the concept of dark kitchens has potential. Whether hotels utilise their own menu from a delivery hub, or partner with third-party vendors that develop their own recipes and food brands in-house, its scalability and scope can improve weekly turnover and lead to a strong ROI.
The online component of dark kitchens also correlates with the growing preference amongst travellers to use a hospitality app. In a study by Criton, 47 per cent said they would be more likely to take advantage of room service and 48 per cent more likely to visit the hotel restaurant if they could order via an app. New York-based Butler Hospitality is already riding off this trend having reached more than 35,000 hotel rooms across New York and Chicago. CEO and founder Tim Gjonbalic said: “Essentially, we lease restaurants inside full-service hotels and assume responsibility for staffing, brand standards, and logistics. We then transform the back-of-house into delivery hubs that have virtual room service to nearby hotels. With the ghost kitchen trend on the rise, we are continuing to expand our services soon to Miami, Washington DC, and other cities in 2021.”
The weeks and months we have individually and collectively spent in lockdown has shone a bright light on the local community. There’s been a global effort to support and serve those most in need. The Hoxton in LA and Portland offered rooms to wildfire evacuees, and Rosewood hotels in Bangkok and Miramar Beach created a food delivery service for frontline workers. The act of giving back is feeding into the much larger and deep-rooted trend of regenerative travel.
In a nutshell, regenerative travel is about actively improving the social and environmental conditions of the area, region or country that someone is visiting. In this respect it goes one step further than sustainability – its entire premise is about building back better. Luca Franco, CEO of Luxury Frontiers, describes the biggest cultural behaviour shift stemming from the pandemic as “travelling with purpose” and believes this will manifest itself in “greener, smarter, and certainly less-travelled” trips. “Regenerative travel… is to leave a place in a better condition than when we found it,” he said.
A survey by Clink Hostels also revealed that 86 per cent of respondents felt that companies should do more to challenge social, political and environmental issues. With this in mind, those hotel brands that are championing and supporting specific causes are most likely to resonate with travellers. The introspective swing in consumer taste will drive closer affinities to brands that uphold shared values, and I suspect other businesses will seek to cater to this behavioural change – we’re already seeing Hyatt Hotels rolling out its Hyatt Loves Local initiative worldwide. The seeds for sustainable solutions were planted long before the pandemic the green shoots of regenerative travel are now sprouting.
Interested to hear more? You can watch a recording of the Boutique Hotel 2021 Trendsetter webinar here. I was joined in conversation by: