Event Engagement: Help Attendees Connect Through Meal Prep

Author: Curt Wagner       

event engagement

Ravello sous chef Massimiliano Gallinoni gets the bolognese sauce cooking before a pasta-making class. (Curt Wagner photos)

In most event environments, food and beverage — no matter how outstanding — remains a way to finish up the day or to refuel before more sessions, meetings, or decisions. Banquets aren’t necessarily boring, but they aren’t exactly a thrill-a-minute, either. When Visit Orlando hosted me on a press trip in early May, I got a taste of how an interactive F&B experience can energize attendees and even bring them out of their shells.

During a stay at the Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort, five other writers and I not only feasted on Italian dishes made at the on-site restaurant Ravello, we also got our hands messy making pasta for an evening meal.

event engagement

Ravello sous chef Massimiliano Gallinoni shows the writer (left) how to knead homemade pasta.

Sous chef Massimiliano Gallinoni welcomed us to the restaurant’s demonstration kitchen, which seats up to 36 guests who can take part in a variety of food-related experiences. It’s great for team-building, or if you just want to learn how to make homemade pasta, like I did.

Chef Gallinoni chose pappardelle — the large, broad, and flat pasta noodles that Ravello pairs with traditional bolognese sauce. The name comes from the Italian verb “pappare,” which means to gobble up. And I did just that, but only after we all took turns during various stages of making the pasta from scratch.

Using semolina flour as well as regular flour is key, Chef Gallinoni explained. It wasn’t long before we were mixing eggs and olive oil in a well created in the center of the two-flour mound and some salt. Chef walked us through all the steps, including using a tabletop pasta machine and how wide to cut the noodles.

Thankfully we didn’t have to eat the pasta we prepared — waiting 30 minutes for it to rise would have been a problem. The Ravello team took good care of us, though, serving a three-course meal of items on the Ravello menu. I chose calamari salad, the pappardellle and bolognese, and manzo (an 8-oz. prime fillet).

The chefs teach several classes (see the list below), but planners also can customize a class based on the group’s interests. Dana Berry, director of public relations at Four Seasons Orlando, told Convene that the conference services team also has done “Top Chef” inspired events, where attendees break into smaller groups. Each team is given pantry items and must come up with their own dish. Talk about pressure. I mean team-building.

Another recent event the team created was a chocolate and rum pairing party. The mixologist and pastry chef guided attendees through the tasting experience, and explained how the combination of the chosen rums and chocolates work so well together.

What I enjoyed about our F&B experience, besides getting to show off my cooking skills, was how it brought our group a little closer as we learned about one’s Italian background, another’s love for cooking, and another’s inability to make anything not from a box.

At least not before our class.

Available Classes at Four Seasons Orlando

  • Spanish Tapas
  • Southern Food and BBQ
  • Pasta and Risotto
  • Modern Turkish and Traditional German Food
  • Latin Cuisine
  • American Regional
  • Chocolate Truffles and Plated Desserts
  • Carnival Treats and Classic Americana Desserts
  • Modern Cuisine Molecular Gastronomy
  • American Smokehouse — Grilling 101
  • Healthy Cooking (diet-specific cuisine)
  • A la Carte demonstrations of select items from restaurants on the property.

Curt Wagner is an associate editor at Convene.

More from our F&B Event Experience

event engagement

Ravello's demonstration kitchen seats up to 36 guests who can take part in a variety of food-related experiences, including classes taught by sous chef Massimiliano Gallinoni.

event engagement

It was all hands in as our media group learned how to make pappardelle pasta noodles.

event engagement

Ravello sous chef Massimiliano Gallinoni showed our group different size pasta noodles, but we stayed with the wide pappardelle.

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A pile of pappardelle pasta awaits the boiling water while more is being cut.

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It didn't take long before this plate of Ravello's pappardelle and traditional bolognese with pecorino was empty.

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Ravello's Manzo: 8-ounce prime fillet, Fabrizio's rub, frilled asparagus, roasted potatoes, and chianti sauce.

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Calamari e Patate: calamari salad with potatoes, haricots verts, hazelnut vinaigrette, and pepperoncino calabrese.

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It was difficult to choose which items we wanted from the menu Ravello provided for our cooking class.