Who likes hibachi?
Think it could be done for 300+ people at once?
As I was racking my brain for a fresh creative idea for an annual Leadership Conference dinner, I started to think about places I like to eat. Since childhood, one of my favorite places to go has been Hibachi restaurants. The entire experience of watching a chef make a choo-choo train out of stacked onions, flip a shrimp tail in his pocket, and plate my entire meal table-side amidst intermittent flame, made a lasting impression.
Wouldn’t that be something if I could recreate that table-side experience in a hotel banquet hall for 325 people at once? Hmm, why couldn’t I? Excited with my light bulb inspiration, I rushed to call my hotel contact to hash out the details.
Thank my lucky planning stars, I was partnered with Bill Fassbender, Associate Director of Meetings & Special Events at the Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island. AKA captain. AKA miracle worker. AKA meeting planners best friend. He was just as excited about it as I was. Possibly even more! But we had a few hurdles.
- We would need a lot of chefs
- We would need a lot of rental equipment
- & possibly the biggest obstacle, we would need buy-in from the Executive Chef
The Executive Chef was none other than Sean Woods, an acclaimed culinary artist celebrated for his creative cuisine and food artistry. He would never agree to anything that was anything less than perfection.
Fassbender assured me, he’d take care of it!
In no time, our collaboration morphed into a LIVE stadium kitchen. A dining experience where the hustle and bustle of the kitchen were right smack dab in the middle of a banquet room, allowing attendees to interact and experience a culinary masterpiece as it was prepared.
The kitchen comprised of 14 black draped 6X30 tables set in a square and centered in the 11,076 sq ft ballroom. In the center of the square was a raised platform where 1 chef was perched making the chocolate molds for the dessert course right before anxiously awaiting eyes and drooling mouths. The smell was intoxicating!
The room was fairly dark with lights burning a hole in the kitchen giving it the spotlight it deserved. Uplights were set around the room providing a sophisticated amber glow.
Attendees entered to upbeat music while screens staged around the perimeter greeted them with a logo designed for the dinner by the same creative mastermind, Jackie Miller, who created my business logo.
As the event commenced the screens projected different shots from the live kitchen via staged GoPro’s and a mobile camera crew run by the Event Production powerhouse, Decibel Management.
Candle lit round tables to seat 10 were pre-set with a menu at each setting and an array of appetizers ready for them to immediately devour.
Meanwhile, about 15 to 20 chefs prepared the rest of the meal as attendees freely engaged with the chefs, took pictures, and watched in amazement as they cut fresh lettuce from the hydroponic garden, freshly grated truffles for the risotto, and artfully plated the dessert course by an assembly line. As each course was completed, an army of servers proudly presented the plates to the tables.
It was event planning GOLD! A success I owe to the collaboration, expertise, and energy of the unbelievable village in my corner and the Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island for their unwavering commitment to service. I will NEVER forget this event, yet, my wheels are already turning on how I plan to top it. Ideas welcome!
Photo Credit: Photography Concierge & the iPhone photog skills of Eventfully Angela 😉
Eventfully Angela is a premier independent event management partner specializing in Corporate Events. Based in Charlotte, NC, Eventfully Angela fills the resource gaps of businesses both large and small, with premium and customized services. Specialties include full-service planning, sourcing and venue selection, on-site day of support, consulting and contract audits, event marketing, experiential event design, and fully customized event registration websites. 704-754-2627 firstname.lastname@example.org