Mixing it up is always on the menu for Michael Poompan, executive chef of San Diego’s Marriott Coronado Island Resort & Spa, which is retooling its F&B offerings to cater to the preferences of today’s health-conscious meeting attendee and complement its new Spa Coronado.
“We’re really ramping up at this hotel,” said Poompan, who has worked at the property for about a year and has been named Renaissance Hotels Chef of the Year for the Americas and received Marriott’s Award of Culinary Excellence in 2011. “When you come to the hotel for a meeting or event, the food should be part of your experience at the hotel and leave you energized, versus the old model of some meat, a few potatoes and vegetables.”
Breaking from F&B tradition has become the mission at the Marriott hotel, with a philosophy of filling guests and attendees with food that will fuel their objectives for the day, rather than saddling them with a post-meal power-down.
“For breakfast, the old model was continental with croissants, pastries and Danish,” Poompan pointed out. “Now, breakfast is couscous with grains, wheat berries—things that will leave you full for the day. If you’re going to eat a big bowl of oatmeal for breakfast you’re not going to be hungry till lunch, but if you eat a Danish and coffee you’re going to be hungry an hour later.”
This effort to offer food that will boost an attendee’s performance also extends to using local ingredients, from farm and sea.
“We’re very much coastal, so we work with the local seafood here in the Baja and the Pacific, and local farms—sustainable seafood, local vegetables, knowing everyone in our system, and closing the loop with our recycling and composting,” he said. “I can make you a grand plate with a lot of garnishes and sauces, but there’s nothing better to me than a fish maybe caught a couple hours off of San Diego and some vegetables from Suzie’s Farm down the street, about five miles from the property.”
This outlook is reflected in the hotel’s Culinary Mission Statement: “Our menu is simple food created with great ingredients. Our entire team celebrates the farmers, artisans, fishermen and ranchers who bring the best of California to us.”
When it comes to serving meeting groups, Poompan said it’s all about listening to, and asking questions of, the planner.
“[I say,] ‘Tell me about the best experience you ever had,’ so you find out what’s important to them,” Poompan said. “It’s about learning the first day of the event. Most events go two, three or four days, so our banquet team, our kitchen and our servers learn to work with the customers. The meeting planner hears that feedback and we cater to them, and that makes the meeting planner want to come back.”
Set in a climate that is perhaps the most agreeable in the U.S., the property also boasts many outdoor function sites.
“Along with the food, the one advantage we have here at Coronado is we have so much outdoor space, including a pier that shoots off into the ocean that we do events on,” Poompan said of the resort, which offers 273 rooms, 27 suites, 23 meeting rooms and 25,000 square feet of event space. “While the food invigorates you, so does the atmosphere—it helps me finish the experience. It’s not four walls and a chandelier.”