San Diego Convention Center Catering Team Adds Local Flavor to Taste of the Port

On a typical day, the talents of the San Diego Convention Center’s catering team help us feed visitors who might have traveled across the country (or around the world) for a convention, meeting or trade show.

But it was local San Diegans whose palates were made to please at the Port of San Diego’s Taste of the Port, an event that celebrates sustainability in cooking. Our food and beverage team from Centerplate enjoyed the opportunity to showcase samples of their work.

"It's always a pleasure to come out to this kind of event and serve our food to the community," said Executive Chef Daryl O'Donnell. "For a lot of people, this is their first time seeing that their convention center has such an elaborate catering team."

Over a dozen Port restaurants participated, and as Port tenants ourselves, we had the chance to join our neighbors and have our staff contribute to this celebration of San Diego's food and beverage scene.

The main dish we served was a Short Rib Taco. It's served on a local tortilla, with crème fraiche and turmeric pickled shallots. The dish also features greens from a local San Diego business.

Centerplate is proud to partner with New City Farms to bring freshly grown "Living Micro Greens" to our dishes. They're delivered as plants grown in trays, able to be trimmed directly off the vine and into a dish.

Centerplate General Manager Bobby Ramirez talking with guests who just tried our dish.

"We aim to source as many ingredients as possible from within a 100-mile radius," said Centerplate General Manager Bobby Ramirez. "Over 30 percent of our current purchasing is from within that range, and we have made lasting partnerships that support our local economy."

Some of our local suppliers include Stehly Farms Organics, Blue Heron Farms and Moceri Food & Beverage.

To compliment the main dish was a sweet treat: the Convention Center Con-Fection Signature Chocolate Bark. It's dark chocolate mixed with local marcona almonds, figs and honey. The unique appearance sets it apart from a traditional chocolate bar, but it tastes just as delicious.

We had this treat available in our booth for guests to pick-up, but also handed them out whenever the line for tacos built up.

From left: Executive Sous Chefs Khalifa Garnaj and Sufi Karaien preparing the meat on the morning of Taste of the Port.

For two of our newest team members, this event was particularly special because it was their first time participating in a community event as part of the San Diego Convention Center team.

Taste of the Port marked the debut of Executive Sous Chefs Sufi Karaien and Khalifa Garnaj. They both used their culinary expertise to prepare and serve these dishes.

The Taste of the Port’s sustainability goals were a perfect match for the convention center’s daily environmental practices. Instead of having single-use cups, the attendees were provided a reusable glass for all the beverage tastings. Additionally, composting was available for not only the food, but the disposable dishware and cutlery as well.

Sustainability practices are what allowed the San Diego Convention Center to be designated a LEED Gold facility this year. For example, in fiscal year 2017, we recycled a record-breaking 3,790 tons of materials.

In the food & beverage department, we donate all edible leftovers to the San Diego Rescue Mission, resulting in 54 tons of food donated in FY17. And for non-edible food, we compost it, resulting in 173 tons composted in FY17.

For more information on our sustainability practices, check out our Green Meetings Fact Sheet.

Posted by Alec Church, on September 22, 2017
Attendees, Between Meetings

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