From Mexico and Hawaii to Arizona and California, executive chef Michael Goodman has seen a lot in his 24-year career with Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts. His passion for cooking is evident in the dishes he creates—simple meals bursting with flavor. His creations reflect his ideology: “Flavors should work together, but maintain their individual flavors.” A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Goodman currently oversees an array of food and beverage operations at Four Seasons Hotel Las Vegas, including a kosher kitchen and an off-site catering program. He talked to Collaborate about challenging requests, overused venues and a $12 million memory.
How did you decide you wanted to become a chef?
I was truly blessed. I wanted to do this since I can remember. I come from a family with restaurants, and it was always embedded in me. I think knowing what you want to do [for your career] as a child is a blessing. I went to culinary school and worked very hard at my craft and continue to.
Have you always worked in hotels?
I did work in one restaurant, but the majority of my career was in hotels. I’ve stayed in hotels because of the opportunities I was given when I started with Four Seasons. The hotel was very young, and the opportunities were fantastic then for me. I’ve stayed with the company because I truly love it, and as the company expanded, so did I.
What was one of your most difficult requests from a planner for F&B, and how did you accommodate it?
Some of the difficulty of events is planning parties in another location. That takes a lot of planning and executing the thought process in the right manner. We did one a couple months ago in an airplane hangar. We set up all the food inside and around the airplane, which was a larger aircraft. It was an international group, and we used the types of containers you’d find on an airplane. It was pretty cool.
People are eating healthier now more than ever. A planner a couple months ago wanted everything organic and gluten free for 200 people. That challenges your creativity process, and you have to do your research behind each item.
What is the most memorable event you’ve catered?
We did an off-site party a year ago. [It was] probably the most incredible thing I’ve seen and been a part of my entire life. The event cost $12 million. The food was everything from food trucks to sushi at an Asian station. There were international stations throughout the event, which had 1,000 attendees. It’s something I’ll never forget, from the decor to the food we created to the people that attended. The whole thing came together quite nicely and was totally over-the-top.
What are some of the trends you see in group F&B?
Gluten free is very big right now. I think it’s here to stay. Organic—people are eating much healthier and fresher. There’s been a big increase in vegan and vegetarian; younger people are growing up more conscious of their health.
More comfort food is being requested, but not over-processed. People want to taste what they eat and don’t want something over-complicated. When we do a buffet, we put little bites on small plates. It gives [attendees] a variety and they don’t feel so full, like they’re eating 10 pounds of food. People love options and like to pick and choose what they are going to eat.
What do you think will change for F&B in the future?
People do not want to be stuck in a room anymore. They like to be out of a typical banquet room that’s dark with few windows. I think the future of banquet rooms will be more windows with views. People want green and trees; they want to see flowers and not feel like they’re stuck in a basement.
What are your top dos and don’ts for group F&B?
Do understand the group’s needs. What are their expectations in regards to their wants and dietary needs? How many people are gluten free, vegetarian, etc.? Don’t customize your menu to what you like. Just because you are a vegetarian doesn’t mean your group of 400 is, too. Know your group and where they are coming from. Demographics plays a large part in F&B. Are they doctors or in construction? Don’t settle for mediocrity. Push the envelope and try to wow your client as much as possible. [And personally, I] don’t [prepare] anything I would not feed my mother.