AHC+Hospitality Executive Chef Josef Huber Shares His Group Dining Trends

March 11, 2019

Austria is renown as a great producer of top chefs, such as Wolfgang Puck. Add Josef Huber, who has worked with Puck in the chaotic kitchen at the Oscars Governors Ball in 2016, to the list.

Salzburg, Austria, native Huber oversees all F&B operations as corporate executive chef for AHC+Hospitality’s six owned and managed hotels:

  • Michigan’s Amway Grand Plaza.
  • JW Marriott Grand Rapids.
  • Courtyard Grand Rapids Downtown.
  • Hotel St. Regis, Detroit; The Waterfront Inn, in Florida’s The Villages.
  • Peter Island Resort & Spa in the British Virgin Islands.

Other resume accolades for the 20-year F&B veteran include stints at The 1913 Room, Michigan’s only AAA Five Diamond-rated restaurant at the time, and positions at Mandarin Oriental and Palm Beach, Florida’s The Breakers.

He’s also worked in South Africa, Thailand, Hawaii and California.

[Featured Recipe: Shrimp Toast by Chef Josef Huber]

Huber’s responsibilities extend to 10 dining outlets, 82,000 square feet of event space and a staff of more than 300. Like most all executive-level chefs he finds his expertise dedicated more to purchasing, management, forecasting and long-term planning than julienning vegetables.

“I used to be the sharpest knife in the drawer, and I’m a pencil at this point,” Huber joked, adding that he still closely monitors the banquet operations at all of the properties.

“I was the executive chef of the Amway Grand for years, but I don’t operate the day-to-day operation anymore,” he added. “Once in a while they let me back in the kitchen.”

Huber’s job responsibilities do, however, result in him being an expert when analyzing and executing the latest food and beverage trends.

9 Culinary Trends From AHC+Hospitality Meetings

Among the top food trends Huber currently sees are the following:

  • Restaurant-quality food for banquets.
  • Fresh, closed sourcing for food from nearby farms, when feasible.
  • Bowls, such as ramen and pho.
  • Wraps, such as roti and other Indian cuisine.
  • Playful cocktails and garnishes on the bars.
  • Food stations, especially for groups who want to save budget money, including action stations serving pasta dishes and featuring live carving in a reception style rather than a more-formal sit-down setting.
  • Sponsored cash bars.
  • Donut walls and similar serving options that stack food on walls for diners to serve themselves.
  • Ballrooms that are set up in a more relaxed fashion for dining, such as with soft couches, bars and flower arrangements throughout.

Even More F&B Takeaways From Chef Josef Huber

To better ensure a memorable, and cost-effective, group dining experience, Huber stresses that meeting planners should take a hands-on approach with the culinary team.

“Ask for a tour of the kitchen—it tells you everything you need to know,” Huber said. “We’re operating two large main kitchens at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel, with one close to 10,000 square feet. We have a butcher, a saucier, and we still do scratch baking.

"We have almost 20 people in the bake shop," he added.

[Related Content: 3 Mouthwatering Recipes From Wolfgang Puck]

Perhaps the biggest group dining trend is the necessity for banquet operations to focus on the food preferences and allergies of guests by preparing special meals.

“If the meeting planner can give as much information to the catering manager or the chef, it’s beneficial on both sides, rather than the day of the event,” Huber said. “It can’t be over-communicated."

“Twenty years ago there was only one or two [special meal requests] per 100 events,” he added. “Today we have at least a minimum of 10 to 15 percent special meal requests.”

Click here to view Meetings Today's full roster of Top Chefs.

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Tyler Davidson | Editor, Vice President & Chief Content Director

Tyler Davidson has covered the travel trade for nearly 30 years. In his current role with Meetings Today, Tyler leads the editorial team on its mission to provide the best meetings content in the industry.