{INTERVIEW} Food Trends from Chef Rosie of the Long Beach Convention Center

Disclosure:  The Long Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau has invited me to attend the grand opening of its renovated Long Beach Arena free of charge and has agreed to pay for my accommodations during the event in exchange for my sharing news about it on my social media channels and blog.

As we come to the close of 2013, what are your predictions for food trends in 2014?
Food trends:  We will continue to focus heavily on healthy choice options and food allergy options into 2014.  We will move into haute comfort foods like twists on donuts and the classic peanut and jelly.  Seaweed will surpass kale as a snack option and there will be a big focus on sustainable seafood choices.

As you know, there is a big move towards serving healthier food at events. This could be vegetarian/vegan options, local/sustainable food and now, potentially eliminating trans fats. How are you seeing these trends carried out at the Long Beach Convention Center?
We have a daily focus on healthy choice options and food allergy options due to the large number of guest we see.  We find that where it was once less than 3% of the attendance for a conference requested special meals now over 5% of attendees are requesting vegan, vegetarian, dairy or celiac options.  We build 3% overage in specialty meals in every menu we serve this allows for the right thoughtful focus in preparation without having to react last minute and create potential room for error.

Often times, making food healthier for a convention-center sized group can be very challenging. How can we reinvent food while still making it scalable?
We can reinvent our food by choosing seasonally when making our food choices.  This means we buy our food by the season and by doing this we have food that has the best flavor, vitamin and mineral content.  We focus on seasonality to create new dishes for instance, in the summer a citrus sauce would be acceptable however in winter a pomegranate blanc would be a seasonal choice.  Seasonality recreates the dish with focus on what is naturally available for the time of year.  By choosing what is naturally available we are also assured that there is an abundance of that item when we scale up.

Where do you think event planners could be better when working with caterers?
Planners will always be better if they plan for the dietary restriction, instead of saying there is no need for vegetarian, celiac, dairy free or vegan plan to have a few.  Guest love when facilities plan thoughtful nutritious meals for them and when it is planned chefs can create plates that are creative, delicious and meet the needs of the person who is requesting it.

What is your favorite food?
My favorite food is food that someone else cooks!  I love soul food anything cooked from with heart and soul, I have an Aloha spirit and love Hawaiian culture and food.  My favorite dish is a fresh Poke with Mango on a won ton crisp.  I can see myself on Kauai by the pool so simple and delicious.

Are you a sweet or savory person?
Savory give me a french fry over chocolate any day!

There is such a push for events to be greener and more sustainable. Where do you think we are with this? What can we do to be better?
Good question, I honestly think we are getting better at focusing on sustainable practices, every year we grow we implement a new process but I still believe we have a lot of work to do.  Food is the largest single source of waste in California.  If just 5 percent of Americans’ food scraps were recovered it would represent one day’s worth of food for 4 million people.  Producing food consumes water, estimates show that more than one-quarter of water use is allocated towards food that is ultimately wasted. Aside from water, wasted food accounts for 300 million barrels of oil per year, or approximately 4% of U.S. consumption. over 36 million tons of food waste reach our landfills each year in the US alone if more people understood those numbers we would have much less waste.  One of the most surprising facts I have is when food rots, it releases methane, and a greenhouse gas which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says is 20 times more damaging to the environment than carbon dioxide (CO2).  When the average person contemplates the issues surrounding landfills, it’s doubtful they give much consideration to the tons of food that fill them.  The more we educate our staff and guests on understanding the impact we have the better decisions we will make for our future.  We have the opportunity to impact either positive or negative we make this choice every meal we eat out to and every time we throw usable food away.

How are green/sustainable methods being incorporated into events at Long Beach Convention Center?
In Long Beach we are making an impact we have our own garden we recycle our old oil, aluminum, and bottles we compost and use composting disposables.  At the convention center we run our dishes through a large flight dishwasher we replaced a 19 years old and 26’ long unit that used 2.85 gal of water, 640 kWh power and costs .12 per 100 dishes washed.  We changed to a more eco version of the same unit that saved 2.2 gal of water, 335 kWh power and .07 per the same 100 dishes.  We replaced all of our ovens with new energy efficient replacement models, t’s about the little things you do if we all do our little parts it helps big in the long run.

What can we do with decor to make it more sustainable, rather than throwing everything away after the event?
We can use items that can be re-used, recycled or donated to community partners, for example we are putting center pieces out at our Biz Bash conference luncheon that are artisan bowls filled with seasonal fruits and vegetables.  After the conference we will donate to our local mission.

Do you have any initiatives that involve giving back to the community?
Savor long beach has a monthly volunteer program were Savor employees sign up to volunteer for organizations such as Ronald McDonald House Charities, LB Mission, Mayors Trophy and Aquarium Scholarship Fund.  We take great pride in being a contributing member of our community.

What is your favorite sustainability campaign?
Our partnership with the Long Beach Mission, as I expressed earlier every meal we keep out of the landfills is less green house gas we produce.  By donating the unused food we support our community by feeding people who are in need we are proud to have a strong partnership with this city organization, they do great work and have fed over 54,000 meals.  Helping people feeds our soul.


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