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Where's The Beef From?

Increasing Number Of Hotel Restaurants Look To Source Locally

Wednesday, June 12, 2019
Steve Pike
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There has been a lot of talk and activity the past few years among chefs and food and beverage executives regarding buying “local" and sustainability in food products. To many chefs and executives, as well as dining guests, “local" and sustainable primarily refers to fruits and vegetables. That’s easy to see why, as fruit and vegetable vendors – depending on the season - basically can be found on any corner in states such as Florida, Georgia, Texas and California.

But to borrow an old phrase, “Where’s the Beef?" Steakhouses remain the most popular eateries at hotels and resorts around the country, so it goes to reason that sourcing quality beef is every bit as important – perhaps more so – than sourcing local fruits and veggies.

Selecting a beef vendor, said George Bargisen, food and beverage director at the Gaylord Rockies Resort & Convention Center in Aurora, CO, is no different than selecting produce and vegetable vendors. The recently-opened resort is home to the Old Hickory Steakhouse.

“You’re looking for something local – and a story or connection we can have for the wait staff to portray to the customer," said Bargisen. “We want to provide some things that other places don’t have – not just in beef, but in pork and lamb and other pieces.

“Everyone has a ‘benchmark’ steakhouse at home. We have to keep that in mind. So we have to have something that’s a competitive edge, but also something that feels like our guests’ expectations."

For Jose Delgado, executive chef at Richard Sandoval’s Toro Toro Pan-Latin steakhouse at the InterContinental Miami, selecting a good beef vendor is important because you want to know where the product is coming from and how well it is treated.

“It is also important to go meet the vendors and take a look at the farms," Delgado said. “I always speak to my vendors and see what the farms do and how they do it to ensure they can provide the quality I want for my restaurant.

“It is very important to make sure that we are getting the proper, best grade that we can. We like to select the best meat that have the best qualities in tenderness, juiciness and flavor. We offer a variety of steaks from Tomahawk and Porterhouse to dry-age meats. Picking the right cuts is important in order to create a good menu.

“At Toro Toro, we have around nine different cuts of steak, including pork chops. Overall, I think it is the chef's job to bring innovative ideas in on how to cook the steaks with more flavors instead of doing the same thing every restaurant is doing. Our focus is to bring the best grade and the best charcoal to cook the best steaks around," he said.

Delgado and chefs at other high-end Florida steakhouses have the luxury of meeting beef vendors in person because the Sunshine State – much to the surprise of many inside and outside the food industry – is one of the country’s leading producers of beef cattle. Two Florida-based cattle ranches – Fort McCoy near Ocala and Jackman Cane and Cattle Company near Clewiston – are among the more sought-after beef providers in the country.

“I work with Florida ranches only, as I like to stay local," Delgado said. “It is very important to make sure that we are getting the proper, best grade that we can. We like to select the best meats that have the best qualities in tenderness, juiciness and flavor."

Fort McCoy basically owns the entire procedure - from birthing to processing to delivery.

“Most ranches will ship out the cattle to be finished on grain," said Matthew Gale, executive sous chef at Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa in Manalapan, FL. “McCoy doesn’t do that. They still use cowboys and horses. They take the animal right from pasture and herd them into the processing plant, so no stress on the animal. The more stress you put on an animal, the more it effects the texture of the meat.

“We are lucky to serve their beef because I can afford it and I’m not turning over 300 or 500 covers a day," said Gale

Gabriel Fenton, executive sous chef at Michael Mina’s Bourbon Steak at the JW Marriott Turnberry Miami, uses a Georgia cattle ranch for a lot of his beef, as well as Jackman for his Wagyu beef, particularly with his short ribs.

“Quality wise, we have stuck with the same brand of beef, the same packer, and the same butcher for years," said Fenton. “We buy our whole cuts from the same people, so I can tell it hasn’t been messed with. It’s easy to cut a steak and tell you it’s one thing, when it's not. That’s why we cut them here."

Likewise, Frederic Delaire, executive chef at Loews Miami Beach Hotel, has two butchers he calls “firewalls" for quality control on beef coming into the hotel. The butchers check everything from labeling to the sizes of the meats to the marbling of the meats.

“It’s another layer of protection and control," Delaire said.

Delaire uses Fort McCoy has primary beef vendor, but also uses a national supplier to provide most of the meat for large banquets because it’s easier to receive the volume required in a timely manner.
Regardless of the vendor, Delaire said, it’s important to know how the cattle are raised, how they are fed and even how they are killed.

“We’re looking for grass-fed cattle," he said. “You have to know the farm and its sustainability."
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Steve Pike
Hotel Interactive® Editorial Division

Bio: Steve Pike is an award-winning golf writer and author who helped define golf business reporting in the early 1990s as the first Golf Business Editor for Golfweek magazine and later at Golf World and Golf Shop Operations magazines for Golf Digest. Pike further pioneered this genre at the PGA of America and Time Warner as the golf business writer and editor for PGA.com. He started in newspapers more than ...
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