Food Trends That Captivate Meetings Attendees

The U.S. is a hotbed for innovative cuisine. That’s great news for hungry conferencegoers.

Gone are the days when after meetings broke, attendees would seek out their favorite chain restaurants from back home or the closest non-convention center meal they could find. Now when traveling, even for a work trip, meetings attendees are like many Americans. They want meals not only on the cutting edge of culinary trends but that also reflect their destination.

Part of what’s driving quests for different cuisine is that chefs across the country are being more adventurous, giving diners options. While the cuisine often gets classified as New American, it’s really a blending of flavors from all over the world in different ways.

“There’s a lot of mixing and mashing of cultures,” said Alan Sternberg, the executive chef at Indianapolis’ Cerulean, which focuses on contemporary, locally sourced, Midwest cuisine “designed to bring people together.” It’s a tagline that should stand out for meeting planners. As National Geographic put it, “‘To break bread together,’ a phrase as old as the Bible, captures the power of a meal to forge relationships, bury anger, provoke laughter.”


Smaller Cities, Big Flavors

While it used to be that innovative cooking was the domain of the bigger cities on the coasts, that’s no longer the case.

“It’s pretty much everywhere,” said Sternberg, one of four Indianapolis chefs who were semifinalists for James Beard Awards in 2016. “Everybody’s kind of coming up to the same level. You can have a great meal in a lot of different cities. You don’t have to go to New York or San Francisco.”

Supporting Sternberg’s statement: In May 2016, Condé Nast Traveler called Indianapolis “the most underrated food city in the U.S.” The city is home to almost 300 restaurants, many of which are downtown near major conference sites.

Leaning on Local Ingredients

As for what ingredients chefs are experimenting with these days, the emphasis—as any food fan knows—is on local. Sternberg speculates that grains and legumes are coming back into vogue with chefs throughout the country.

In Indianapolis, that means the focus is on the bounty of Indiana’s farms.

“We have amazing produce in this state,” Sternberg said, who has staged in kitchens in other cities but has lived his entire life within an hour of Indianapolis. “It’s a great agricultural state. There’s good farm connection in terms of proteins. We don’t have to go somewhere else.”

And, these days, that’s just what diners—and meetings attendees—want to hear.

(handout photo)