Executive Chef, Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center, Long Beach, Calif.
Fresh off a $50 million renovation that focused on creating flexible meeting spaces that foster collaboration, the Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center’s F&B offering has also risen to challenge of creating immersive environments for attendees.
Executive Chef Adam Crisafulli is part of a Premier Catering culinary team that is transforming the SMG-managed convention center’s culinary experience by challenging the traditional convention center mass-consumption model.
It’s all part of an effort to appeal to the changing demographics and tastes of convention-goers, such as Millennials, by offering action stations and creating F&B spaces that inspire collaboration. And while you won’t see linens, you will see contemporary, modern-style tables offering small bites at the same sitting, and in a unique twist, especially in the convention center segment, you’ll even spy crystal chandeliers.
The innovation certainly doesn’t stop with the settings, as the culinary team also capitalizes on the latest farm-to-table trend—benefiting from its Southern California location—and cutting-edge twists such as molecular gastronomy, which focuses on the physical and chemical transformations of ingredients, with results that provide an element of surprise.
Examples of the molecular gastronomy effort include a French onion soup with caviar that “explodes in your mouth,” watermelon spears with feta cheese “snow” and a fresh caprese salad that offers up the de rigueur cherry tomatoes and mozzarella spears, but changes it up by roasting the cherry tomatoes, adding cherry vinegar, and then serving it up on a bed of “basic dirt” (dehydrated basil) on spoons.
“My goal is the produce menus so people don’t leave here and say ‘this is convention center food,’” Crisafulli said, adding that the team’s experiential philosophy extends even to less exotic convention center food.
“That’s why we do flatbreads, instead of the pizza, hot dogs and nachos—and I like to make the food a little interactive, so they can touch it and understand it,” he said.
Other F&B elements worthy of star billing include liquid nitrogen-powered ice cream and alcoholic beverages, and interesting setting options can include taking groups outside to a special event site overlooking the city of Long Beach.
The facility customizes its menus for every group based on consultations of its demographics and likes and dislikes, with an emphasis on using fresh herbs from its on-site gardens and products from local suppliers.
“We are a sustainable operation, per se—farm-to-table,” Crisafulli said. “I use a lot of local farmers within 100 miles of my area—it’s good for business for both of us. Our sustainability program features beef with no hormones, and grass-fed, occasionally, and seafood that’s line or wild caught. I try to stick to the California coast because that’s truly sustainable for us, and we’re also 100 percent compliant with the Aquarium of the Pacific [sustainability] program named Seafood for the Future.”