BUFFALO, N.Y. (Nov. 17, 2014) – More than 600 people – the majority traveling from outside of the region – attended the 2014 Delaware North Food & Beverage Summit, which began the evening of Nov. 11 as the annual GuestPath® Conference came to a close.
About 330 food and beverage industry representatives were on-hand, promoting 168 companies and their latest products at a trade show for Delaware North chefs, managers and corporate professionals Wednesday at the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center. Among the food and beverage companies that had booths at the trade show were Tyson Foods, Rich Products, General Mills, Cargill, Heinz, Pro-Act and PepsiCo.
But this year’s conference was also jam-packed with excitement from a competitive standpoint.
Nov. 12 brought about a much-anticipated announcement. Delaware North Principal Jerry Jacobs Jr. unveiled the winners of the company’s first Innovation Challenge, awarding each of the three winning teams with a check for $25,000.
The winning concepts are: “Brew-Fusion” (Mary Ellen Molle, Rich Lamb and Leon Lascelle), “High Adventure” (Paul Pokigo and Ken Leone) and “Chips off the Old Block” (Jennifer Rodgers, Kenneth Miles and Kimberly Allen).
There were 27 teams, and Jacobs said that all participants – including the other six finalists – will receive a cash prize.
Jacobs announced the competition during last year’s summit, where he challenged the company’s global workforce to collaborate with colleagues from a different operating company and bring forth an innovative concept. The concepts, which had to impact the entire company, required a thorough business plan and were vetted through the company’s senior leadership team.
The summit also included the Delaware North Culinary Challenge, with the Delaware North Sportservice team coming out on top. The team – Richard Ferranti, Tom Schlaker, Mark Szubeczak, Michele Demarco, Larry Johnson and Carlos Vargas – won over voters with its menu consisting of Takoyaki dumplings, miso-marinated black cod and tuna tartare.
The always-exciting Delaware North Culinary Challenge is a competition among chefs and front-of-the-house management staff in teams representing Delaware North’s sports hospitality, travel hospitality, parks and resorts, and gaming divisions, as well as its hospitality operations in the United Kingdom. During the competition, which took place at the summit’s opening reception, each team prepared three dishes and a beverage pairing. The teams were tasked with creating a menu based on a historic World’s Fair and its host city. The UK team, for example, created its menu based on London’s World’s Fair of 1851.
“We really focused on innovation this year,” said Steve Eden, director of Delaware North’s Culinary and Hospitality Council, who also heads the Summit Committee. “Between the Delaware North Innovation Challenge – which has been a tremendous experience to date – and pushing the envelope as a company, it just made perfect sense. We couldn’t have asked for a better turnout, and certainly look forward to future innovations, which will only make our annual summit that much better.”
Other highlights included a dinner event on Nov. 12 at the historic Buffalo Museum of Science and keynote speakers such as Tito Beveridge, the founder of Tito’s Homemade Vodka; and Jeff Sinelli, founder of Which Wich – both of whom gave compelling, inspirational presentations on the summit’s final day.
Jacobs initiated the first annual companywide culinary gathering in 2002 and drove its expansion into a full-fledged trade show and conference. In 2003 he also created the Delaware North Culinary & Hospitality Council, which organizes the summit and whose mission is to consolidate and advance the company’s culinary and hospitality objectives across all of its divisions.