When it comes to creating menus not typical of the North American convention scene, look no further than chef Duff Lampard. The executive chef of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre (MTCC) in Toronto has more than 20 years of experience in some of the most renowned hotels across Canada. He has also worked in London, England where he brought to life exciting menus for renowned clients such as Chanel Paris, The National Gallery and Sir Richard Branson. He took the helm of one of Canada’s busiest kitchens in 2014.
“I’ve had the opportunity to work with some incredible culinary teams and chefs in both high-end restaurant and hotel environments. As executive chef / culinary director at the MTCC, I continue to evolve and grow. At this stage in my career, the realization has set in that I need to not only embrace what made me successful along the way, but use different elements of my leadership and focus on my team’s success more than my own,” says Lampard.
He shares some insights with Corporate Meeting Network about event planning, food trends and how the hospitality and tourism industry will need to rebuild from COVID-19.
How do you approach meeting and event planning?
Our culinary team collaborates well with our catering department and we work together to understand the needs and vision of the event. In the past, we were able to plan some of our larger events well in advance, at times travelling to other international venues and centres. In the process, we got to know the event well and worked with their team to create a customized experience based on our overall perspective and mutual trust. At this point in time, it is important to openly and honestly discuss what is possible and what can be executed in today’s climate as we work to overcome some of the road blocks and obstacles we face due to the pandemic years.
How do you see trends such as sustainability, local sourcing and dietary needs affecting events?
I think sustainability by nature is not a trend, but more of a reality moving forward as we see gaps in the global market due to volatile factors, including environmental stability, economics, inflation and the increase in transmission of disease in the food chain. I think everyone in the industry has a responsibility to try to use products that are as sustainable as possible.
Local sourcing and the subsequent interaction with local producers, farmers, and vineyards is a win-win situation for everyone involved. I enjoy learning about the collective stories of local businesses and their passion for their products. It is great to get out into the fields and get to know individuals behind the scenes and see firsthand the quality and freshness of what is available. I think supporting local gives a voice to local products and communities. It educates and stimulates growth in our hospitality sector and reminds us how cool it is to be involved in such a dynamic and evolving industry.
Dietary needs have increased during the past decade or so. We continue to see a high demand for vegetarian options and an increase in requests based on food sensitivities and lifestyle choices. When we look at our typical groups as an overall breakdown of special meals it would be represented by approximately 1 per cent that have a medical condition (e.g. celiac or anaphylactic shock), 3 to 5 per cent – sensitivities and requests and 10 per cent – vegetarian and vegan.
What impact has the pandemic had on F&B?
I think we have yet to see the full effects of the pandemic on the industry as a whole. It ran through like a wildfire and impacted all aspects of what we do in the hospitality and tourism industry. We are seeing suppliers that have completely shut down their normal operations, some that have gone in a new retail direction and many that are struggling to replace proven brands and goods.
We have seen a large percentage of staff leave the industry to pursue other professions and lifestyles and some that were on the fence to retire made that decision. At the same time, we’re also seeing a drop in the overall number of enrolments and graduates in hospitality and tourism colleges.
We are all facing the reality of higher costs for goods and services and the impact this has on the viability of maintaining adequate profits and sustainability. All these factors and others will be part of the landscape for a while. I think we need to pull together to stay the course, continue to build on our successes and rebuild ourselves in a positive way back in the spotlight as a global leader in hospitality and tourism.
What can event planners expect at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre?
The MTCC is the hub for world-class events in Toronto. We create exceptional events and food and beverage experiences on a huge scale and offer a contemporary dining experience created in-house with incredible modern kitchen facilities and equipment. Our team is the key to our success and we invest in their development and well-being in order to elevate our offerings and create unforgettable experiences for guests and attendees. Each event is treated as a single entity and we try to customize our offerings by designing menus that fit the feel, wants and needs of the individuals that attend.