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San Diego Convention Center's Chefs Accomplish Extraordinary Feats

Catering to thousands of guests is nothing new for the food and beverage team at the San Diego Convention Center, but the past several weeks were record-breaking for three of the venue's newest chefs.

The month of April was the busiest month Centerplate has had since 2016. Centerplate prepared more than 45,000 meals for a single event with more than 150,000 meals made for 11 different groups over the entire month.

In their most recent accomplishment, Centerplate prepared a buffet-style meal to more than 10,000 attendees at the Association for Talent Development's annual conference. The Centerplate catering team plays a pivotal role in combining meetings and meals into a seamless experience.

From first-class service to innovative food trends, these culinary wizards are challenging the norm and introducing a new flare to the table.

Our newest chefs are:

  • Sufi Karaien, Senior Executive Sous Chef
  • Khalifa Garnaj, Executive Sous Chef
  • Chanel Mitchell, Garde Manger Chef

The new chefs join Executive Chef Daryl O'Donnell, (a San Diego native) and the rest of the culinary team behind-the-scenes, serving food for all types of events, from intimate gatherings to banquets for thousands of guests.

"My experience has been making 400 to 500 plates a day in the kitchen and now I do that on a much larger scale," Garnaj said. "It's very fulfilling to create and execute a meal for a huge room of 5,000 just as well as I would for a table of five."

Centerplate staff serve lunch to thousands of attendees in the exhibit hall.

"We're not all the same. You have chefs focusing on the cold elements, the hot side of the kitchen and all the skills in between," Karaien said. "So when you take all the moving parts and put them together, you have a system that makes a really successful culinary department."

Creative cuisine comes with the new talent. This team strives to stay ahead of food trends and are not afraid to test and serve new flavors.

"We're always sharing ideas and the new chefs bring new style, new perspective and new energy to our team," O'Donnell said. "We started dry-aging our own beef, we pickle with different spices, whatever the current trends are, we try to stay on top of it."

Slow Roasted Tomato & Goat Cheese Mousse with mache, mizuna, frisee, ciabatta crouton and persimmon vinaigrette.

"It's been great seeing all the chefs using their strengths to come together," Centerplate General Manager Bobby Ramirez said. "They flourish as a team and that's what has made us as successful as we have been in food and beverage."

Giving Back to the Community

Though it was a busy month, the chefs still made time to give back to the community.  They recently volunteered their time to cook a dinner at the annual "Chefs, Cork and Craft Gala," to benefit the San Diego Food Bank. The team prepared a multi-course meal to support hunger-relief programs.

In addition to working with the Food Bank, the San Diego Convention Center has partnered with the San Diego Rescue Mission for the last 15 years, donating untouched food from events to hunger relief efforts. In fiscal year 2017, they donated enough food to plate 87,000 meals.

All other remaining food scraps are composted.

"I am so humbled, proud, and delighted to work alongside such talented professionals," Ramirez said. "They consistently go above and beyond the call of duty and do it with a smile. They're not only ambassadors to Centerplate at the Convention Center, they are ambassadors to the City of San Diego."


Posted by Jessica Tran, on May 11, 2018

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