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August 23, 2018
Grand Event Center Executive Chef Aaron Collins Talks Seasonal Menu, Culinary Trends and More

As an exquisite meetings and events venue in Columbus, The Grand Event Center prides itself on impeccable quality and outstanding service. These leading traits are on full display in our world-class kitchen, led by Executive Chef Aaron Collins.

Our experienced culinary team at The Grand Event Center delight and indulge guests with their flavorful seasonal menus and high level of accommodation and customization. No matter the size of your event–whether it’s a Columbus wedding, gala, holiday party, business meeting or conference–our food remains consistent in its great taste and quality.

We recently sat down with Executive Chef Aaron Collins to learn more about his career, our seasonal menu, culinary trends and more about what makes The Grand’s kitchen a unique Columbus gem.

The Grand Event Center:

Can you tell us a little bit about your career and how long you’ve been at The Grand Event Center?

Chef Aaron Collins:

I began my culinary journey at 16, when I was working in the kitchen at a fast food restaurant and a popular diner-style restaurant chain. Although I had always helped my mom in the kitchen and loved food, my high school Home Economics class sparked a real interest in cooking and becoming a chef.

Eventually, I got a job cooking at Wedgewood Golf and Country Club in Powell when I was 17, and it was there that I would spend the next ten years learning under different chefs and rising to the position of Executive Sous Chef. From there, I moved on to Nationwide Hotel & Conference Center as Sous Chef and Banquet Chef.

When Columbus Hospitality Management announced they were in need of an Executive Chef for the brand-new Event Center in Grandview, I jumped at the chance. We opened on September 10, 2016 and have been steadily growing our business. We’re on a mission to redefine the standards and expectations of “event food”.

GEC:

Why is it important to change up the menu based on season, and what is involved in the menu-building process?

AC:

Quality and availability are the two biggest reasons for our seasonal menus. It also gives us a chance to be more creative, to use more local products that support the greater Columbus community and to give our guests a sense of time and place when they dine with us. We should all have great food memories and associations with the seasons!

As for our menu process–it really begins with seasonal produce. We build dishes around what is in season and try to bring new creative ideas to the table, test them out and ensure each one is delicious before adding to The Grand Event Center menu.

  

GEC:

What is on The Grand’s seasonal menu this summer?

AC:

Here are just a few highlights from our current Grand Event Center summer menus:

  • Vegan Jackfruit Tacos
  • Mini Peppers stuffed with Kimchi Fried Rice
  • Scallop Ceviche Cups
  • Sweet Corn Gazpacho
  • Watermelon and Arugula Salad with Mojito Vinaigrette
  • Jerk Chicken with Jicama-Mango Salsa and Cilantro Cream
  • Grilled Pompano with Citrus Sea Bean Salad
  • Strawberry Lavender Shortcake with Buttermilk Whipped Cream

Try these tasty items and more at your next summer event with The Grand Event Center!

  

GEC:

How is the Food & Beverage team at The Grand different from other Columbus event venues?

AC:

I can’t speak for other Columbus event venues, but our culinary team has several years of collective experience and we are incredibly diverse in age, nationality and cooking style. One member of my team is an incredible Sushi Chef with 30 years of experience, and others are just starting out and interested in learning modern cooking and new techniques.

Our front of house and sales teams are all committed to making every event perfect. We’re a young team with a lot of energy and a lively sense of humor, and we all know how to have fun at work.

We are also committed to bridging the gap between front and back of house with lots of cross training opportunities. We also give our cooks and stewards a portion of our gratuity revenue, which is outside the norm for most events centers.

GEC:

How flexible can Grand Event Center weddings and event parties be in customizing their menu, including gluten-free and dietary restrictions?

AC: 

We can make most anything at The Grand Event Center and can easily accommodate any allergies or dietary restrictions. We encourage our guests to utilize our various menus, but we definitely make alterations and customizations to make each guest’s unique vision come to life. If you can think it, we can probably make it happen.

For example, we recently had a corporate group come in for a healthy home cooking-themed event. To prepare, we worked with a dietician and created an entirely new healthy eating menu. The event featured healthy appetizers and BYO stations–complete with recipes and explanations from myself and the dietician about how the guests could prepare the dishes at home for their families. It went over quite well!

  

GEC:

What are some culinary trends you’re noticing this year?

AC:

Chefs and dining guests are becoming more interested in ingredients that are local or regional and have a story to tell. I think this has to do with having a connection to a place, and it can also help you develop an identity in a world where everything is at your fingertips.

A lot of American chefs have been utilizing more traditionally Asian ingredients and cuisine, and exploring fermentation to unlock new flavors, elevate low-cost ingredients and better preserve food.

At The Grand, we have experienced an increasing need to accommodate vegan and gluten-free individuals, which we are happy to oblige. We always appreciate the challenge, as it helps us grow as chefs.

Addressing food waste is another big culinary trend, as well as fighting hunger. To help address this locally, we currently make regular donations through foodrescue.us to help feed those less fortunate in the Columbus community.

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