Being on top of the trends is the stock in trade of any elite chef, whether serving two patrons in a five-star restaurant or large groups in a banquet setting at a hotel, resort or conference center.

Manfred Lassahn, who boasts a 33-year history in executive-level chef roles within Hyatt, brings his trend-watching prowess to the kitchens of Southern California’s Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort & Spa, where meeting groups and an increasing number of locals are savoring his culinary creations.

“I’ve always tried to stay ahead of the curve, but what I then do is try to create a play on the trend,” he says. “So starting in about mid-year, I’ll start researching what’s trending in food the following year…and from that I will do a complete spin on it.”

Examples of this have included turning the tables on the trend of ice cream sandwiches a couple of years ago to by using his pastry chef experience to craft cherry ice cream in almond croissant pastries from scratch, or split chocolate donuts with a scoop of coffee ice cream inside.

“I’m always about the unexpected,” Lassahn says. “When biscuits were really hot, in the banquet area we did an afternoon breakout of biscuits—pineapple upside-down biscuits, sweet potato and honey biscuits... I think things like that set me apart from the rest of the stampede.”

Before joining the Huntington Beach Hyatt, Lassahn plied the kitchens of Los Angeles and Beverly Hills, including the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza, where “Awards Season” brought with it a star-studded demand for marquee-quality cuisine. Lassahn parlayed this scene-stealing style to create the Hyatt’s signature restaurant, Watertable, which is setting the pace for an influx of more-refined restaurants in the increasingly more upscale “Surf City.”

“When I built Watertable it was not built for the resort,” he says. “The whole intent was it was built for the Orange County food scene, to capture Newport, Santa Ana, Irvine, because there was nothing like Watertable in Huntington Beach.”

Group Offerings
When working with meeting planners, chef Lassahn says he likes to know information such as the demographics of the group, the ratio of males to females and what part of the country most attendees are coming from to help him target-in his F&B offering.

“It’s extremely important for the chef to get involved in the very beginning,” he adds. “I am personally at each and every event, whether it be a breakfast or a break.”

And like meeting planners, chefs are busier than bees, so an up-front planner-and-chef meeting always results in time being saved on the back end, he believes.

“I sat with a planner for two hours one time, which saved us probably a dozen e-mails and a week’s worth of work.” Lassahn says.