Food and beverage takes a pretty standard path in most event environments: The culinary experts in the kitchen do the cooking, and the service staff delivers it to the hungry attendees at the table. That traditional process certainly fills stomachs, but it’s often lacking in one thing that makes for a memorable experience: energy. When Visit Florida hosted me on a press trip to the Sunshine State in early December, though, I got a taste of a new approach to the F&B experience on a visit to the Loews Miami Beach.
Rather than show off what staff members could do behind the kitchen’s closed doors, James Kelly, chef de cuisine at the property, invited the five convention journalists on the trip to put our cooking skills to the test. The challenge: Make your own ceviche. As someone who rarely eats anything from the sea, my ability to make a fresh, flavorful fish dish is non-existent. However, Kelly guided us through a tutorial of the dish — the typical serving styles, the science behind citrus marinades, and the various ways to bring different flavors to the bowl of fresh mahi-mahi sitting in front of us.
“Ceviche is all about personal preference,” Kelly said. “You really can’t go wrong with this. It’s all about using the ingredients that appeal to your own palate.”
I wasn’t alone in my lack of ceviche knowledge. My peers were equally unsure of the proper proportions of lemon, lime, and orange juices, and spices. But those uncertainties made the entire exercise more fun. Some were pleased with their concoctions. My sriracha addiction caused some challenges, and I went overboard with the heat. Thankfully, the menu wasn’t all on us. Kelly’s team prepared a spread of small plates that included sea salt macarons with foie gras, beet salad, and lobster mini-rolls, and we celebrated our new ceviche expertise with freshly made mojitos.
Regardless of the success or failure of each of our individual ceviche bowls, eating turned into a hands-on, DIY adventure that made us step out of our comfort zones. If I had been sitting at a table, I most likely would have turned down the ceviche. The setting allowed my taste buds to experiment, but more importantly, the evening helped our small group create an experience together — instead of simply having that experience delivered to us on a tray.
Interested in more insights to make your next menu more meaningful and more tasty? Check out Convene’s Bites & Sites archives.