Chef Jeff Leidy is one of those lucky ones who found his calling at an early age. The accomplished hospitality culinary professional began his four-decade career at age 16, starting as a waiter at a steak and seafood house, where he quickly moved into the kitchen and fell in love with the arts culinary.
“I’ve been cooking professionally ever since,” Leidy said. “I like to tell people that you don’t choose to be a chef, you choose. I was captivated by all aspects of being a chef – having the chance to be creative and serve guests who give you immediate feedback and the ability to work with a collaborative team.
Leidy never looked back, graduating with honors from the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco and launching a long-running career that has included work in major and minor league sports, convention centers, museums, zoos and other cultural destinations. The award-winning cook has created menus for political dignitaries ranging from former Vice President Al Gore to former President of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev.
Additionally, his commitment to eco-friendly culinary practices has earned him a distinct reputation for changing the way people think about cooking in modern convention centers.
Prior to assuming his current role at Site Host Partner Sodexo live!, where he is responsible for overseeing all culinary operations for the western United States and Canada, Leidy acted as regional manager for the organization, overseeing culinary operations at the San Diego Convention Center and surrounding venues .
TSNN had the opportunity to get Leidy’s thoughts on current food and beverage trends shaping up in 2022, including what it was like to oversee culinary operations at CES this year.
What are the biggest changes in food and beverage you are seeing right now?
We continue to see a desire for fresh foods that are prepared in front of the customer. There is a strong desire for participants not only to know what is in their food, but also to understand how it is made. With the ongoing challenges of COVID, however, people are still craving more prepackaged items, so we’re doing live action where we can, always keeping food safety front and center.
Which pre-COVID F&B trends are out of style and why?
I think the trends are very similar to what they were before the pandemic. In the wake of COVID, however, people saved more time at home, so they started cooking more, and that created a new interest in food, ranging from more sourdough bread to more comfort foods. healthy.
People have become more aware of how their food is prepared and where it comes from. Before COVID, food tended to be more complex and heavier, had more steps, so if anything, we simplified things and became more minimalist.
Before COVID, diet menus were a big and growing trend. Is this still true and if so, do you expect it to accelerate in the future? Why or why not?
We continue to emphasize healthy menu items prepared with fresh ingredients. People want to know where their food comes from, and they are very demanding. This is a good thing! It’s good to see customers engaged in the food ecosystem.
Yes, gluten-free menu choices are still very popular with customers, but I think we are moving away from keto and paleo diets and towards more plant-based foods, which would include more menu offerings vegans and vegetarians.
What were the challenges and logistics of managing food and beverage for CES 2022, and did the Las Vegas Convention Center team do anything different this year than in previous years?
CES is one of our biggest shows of the year that requires considerable planning and logistics. We begin planning this show months in advance, with the full cooperation of Sodexo Live!, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and the Consumer Technology Association. Unfortunately this year, with the recent push from Omicron, there has been a drop in attendance from what we had previously anticipated. It just forced us to adjust our food amounts, but our basic plan remained the same. The upside of last day’s cancellation is that we were able to make a donation approximately 1,000 packed lunches and other non-perishable items to a few local food banks, to support the local Las Vegas community.
Many event planners will be working with even tighter budgets when events fully resume. What are your top tips for overcoming this hurdle while providing delicious meals to attendees?
When working with clients, I prefer to work on curating personalized menus. This allows the event planner and host property to stay on budget and create on-trend, structured menus according to the specific needs and tastes of the guest. My advice to planners is to speak early, articulate the vision you have and the menu items you are looking for. This gives the culinary team time to plan and follow the courses, so the event can be a great success.