A few years ago, we decided to change up our annual all-staff "orientation" meeting - we realized that we needed to add some FUN to our otherwise informative-but-not-exciting Season kick-off meeting. After all...our favorite of our three core values is MAKE HUGE FUN! So we added themes and activities to our annual meetings, and it was the best thing we could have done.
The first go-round, we changed the entire meeting format to be that of a late-night talk show. We got a lot of laughs, and sure enough, we noticed a lot less glazing-over in people's eyes as we shared tons of information with them. Lesson #1 learned - be funny and don't take ourselves too seriously. Then we added prizes, and sure enough, everyone now was excited to stay until the end of the meeting. Lesson #2 learned - everyone loves to win cool prizes. Next up we added an internal department "trade show", and handed out lots of company-branded SWAG (Stuff We All Get). We even gave them more chances to win the big prizes if they visited ALL of the "booths". Lesson #3 learned - keep them engaged and keep it personal.
The 2017 All-Hands Meeting also marked our company's 20th anniversary. Hard to believe, but our first venture, the restaurant Michael's at the Citadel, opened at the end of September 1997. Back then, none of us even dreamed of the company that M Culinary Concepts is today, with three off-premise catering brands, dozens of exclusive and preferred venues, a business dining division, two wildland firefighting catering mobile kitchens, and a consulting business. We didn't know that we'd be the primary caterer for the Waste Management Phoenix Open, the most highly attended tournament on the PGA Tour - and a spectator event like no other! Or the caterer for Barrett-Jackson. Or TrackTown, the U.S. Olympic Track & Field Trials in Oregon. Or several years' Fiesta Bowl events, and CFP Championship events here in Arizona and across the U.S. - crazy!!!
We could not be prouder of the team that makes up M Culinary Concepts. We work hard; we play hard; we drive hard. Every day we do our best to live up to our missions to deliver Customized Experiences That Surpass Expectations. And we are guided by our three core values, committed to Inspire Passion in everyone around us, to live and work with Integrity Always, and to always Make Huge Fun!
Ladies and Gentlemen......The Class of 2017. And this is only a few of us - we've got a few hundred more that couldn't be in the photo.
The lovely ladies who greeted everyone arriving at our "reunion" (aka the Annual All-Hands Celebration). We couldn't do it without (back row, L-R) Elaine, Sarah, Kristine, Heather, and (front row, L-R) Alexis, Carol, and Beth - thank you, Ladies!!!
Our co-founder, Brandon, who today is M Culinary Concepts' CEO & President. He had a LOT of exciting info to share with our team - so much is happening!
So many great teams and great rewards programs here at M Culinary Concepts!!!
Some members of our FOH Service Team checking out Chef Peter's "PLINKO" game - adapted to M Culinary of course!
Who doesn’t love a fun holiday party? Well…one sure-fire way to have a REALLY FUN holiday party is to pick a theme that has FUN built right in. And that is exactly what our client did for their big celebration held at WestWorld, returning to our exclusive venue for the second year in a row.
Always a group that loves a good time, the Holiday Party Committee chose “Mardi Gras” as their 2016 holiday party theme. Their requirements from the get-go: great music, authentic cuisine, and lots for guests to do. Seven months of planning resulted in a spectacular event that met all those requirements, and guests were treated to night they won’t soon forget!
Entering the party via 40’ long pathways lined with 20’ tall custom-painted New Orleans backdrops, guests were welcomed by a five-piece jazz band and party performers tossing beads from the “roof” of a 14’ tall building façade. Servers passed hors d’oeuvre including Corn & Okra Gumbo “Cappuccino” with lemon foam served in demitasse mugs and Shrimp Boil “Lollipops” with spicy remoulade dip. Bartenders poured premium cocktails, great wines, and Louisiana-brewed Abita® beers. Guests entertained themselves with pub games including shuffleboard (regulation 22’ long of course!), air hockey, foosball, and giant Jenga®. They visited four photo booths – one traditional enclosed booth and one green-screen set-up with masks, props and signs, and two social media-connected digital booths that let them add fun graphics and digital props to their photos on-the-spot.
Then came time for the CEO and the headliner band to take the stage. Every year the committee likes to have a “big reveal” for the CEO, typically moving the group from the reception space to the separate main event space. This year, though, the entire event was in one space. Our challenge: create a “reveal” that works while everyone is already in the room. The solution was both creative and spectacular! The jazz band turned into a marching band and led guests in a procession across the dance floor to the stage. Stilt-walkers, Mardi Gras dancers and street performers helped corral and direct guests, then danced in front of the stage as the band finished playing When The Saints Go Marching In.
The main stage was hidden behind drape, and after the jazz band moved off the dance floor, a digital countdown was projected onto the drape. As the countdown ended, the headliner band kicked in with Van Halen’s Jump from behind the drape, now lit up with crazy moving lights and patterns. As the song reached the first crescendo, the CEO and band were revealed on the stage with a “Kabuki Drop” – the three sides of drape fell simultaneously and machines “vacuumed” the drape out of sight. The crowd went WILD with screams and applause!
After the CEO concluded his remarks (which included giving away thousands of dollars in prizes), he invited everyone to have a great time, celebrate all night, and meet him back at the stage at 10pm for another round of prize giveaways. With that, the intricately planned lighting kicked into high gear, and the rest of the event space opened with food stations lighted by moon balloons featuring custom decals. In two corners of the room, video arcades featuring arcade classics and pinball lit up, while two more pub game areas came online for guests’ amusement. Bead tossers resumed calling out to guests as they passed by the “building”, and the street performers entertained guests and even helped get them on the dance floor.
In another corner of the room, the “Voodoo Lounge” finally opened. Curious guests made their way into the 1200ft2 space enclosed by dark burgundy velvet drape. Sexy black and gold tufted furnishings, skull & snake candelabra, red glow accent tables, and three crystal chandeliers created an environment and mood completely different from the rest of the party. Two silent witch doctors and a roving palm reader enticed and entertained guests as they escaped the sensory overload of the main party for a relaxing break in the lounge. A bartender and cocktail server dressed in black ensured that every visitor to the lounge had the drinks of their choice in hand at all times.
Chefs at two 16’ triangle stations offered New Orleans-inspired delicacies including Cornmeal-Crusted Chicken, Picante Pork Tenderloin with Mushroom Dirty Rice, and of course Jambalaya. Buffet stations featured Creole Caesar Salad, Beef Tenderloin Sliders, and Vegan Rice-Stuffed Bell Peppers. But dessert really hit all the French Quarter buttons! Two round stations featured Sugar-Dusted Beignets, little tins of Bread Pudding with Chicory-Chocolate Sauce, and the requisite petite King’s Cakes decorated with purple & green sugar and teeny-tiny baby doll garnish. Servers passed Bananas Foster Trifle Shooters and Chocolate & Vanilla Mini Ice Cream Cones. Finally around 9:45pm, out came the mini Pizza Bites, a favorite (and requirement) of the CEO’s at their big company parties.
The band played two hours NON-STOP, then welcomed the CEO and his wife (the head of their company’s generous foundation) back to the stage for the last round of prize giveaways – the really high-dollar stuff! The crowd went wild with the announcement of each name, and when all was said and done, the CEO thanked everyone for all of their hard work in 2016 and told them to look forward to their “best year yet in 2017!” The band closed out their set and then switched to piped music blasting throughout the venue. The party ended at 11pm, and guests made their way out to their cars or the Uber® line to take advantage of the promo code sponsored by the company for a complimentary ride home.
Never a group to dwell on the past, the Committee and our team already are talking about possible themes for next year’s celebration at WestWorld. One thing is for sure……it’s going to be FUN!!!
NACE ONE Award for Best Catered Off-Premise Event of the Year - Budget Less Than $50,000
At the NACE Experience Conference in Houston, the National Association of Catering and Events presented the NACE ONE Award to M Culinary Concepts' luxury division, M Catering by Michael's, for our Moroccan-inspired event for the Leading Caterers of America (LCA)! A national group of 56 elite catering companies, the LCA hosted its annual three-day Executive Summit in Scottsdale, Arizona, in mid-November. Over 120 conference attendees from every major market around the country enjoyed three days in the desert - for many a wonderful relief from the cold November weather in their respective home markets.
Greeting Our Guests
Smiling servers offering red & white wines and still & sparkling waters greeted guests as they entered Los Cedros through majestic hand-carved wooden doors
A 30' long by 20' wide canopy with turf housed our kitchen with chefs preparing hors d'oeuvre a la minute.
Goat Cheese-Stuffed Date
Locally grown Sphinx Date Ranch medjool dates split and stuffed with locally farmed Crow's Dairy goat cheese and dotted with chopped chives
Petite Gyro Cone
Beef gyro meat in petite savory cone filled with hummus, chopped black olive, onion and tomato, dusted with crumbled feta
Skilled rider dressed in historically accurate, intricately crafted desert robes and headwear, astride stunning Arabian horse in period adornments
Music Filled the Air
Professional musicians performing traditional music played on instruments found throughout the Middle East
Horses Love a Great Party, Too!
A "resident" of Los Cedros welcomes a guest to the citadel
The LCA team selected Los Cedros USA as the venue for the second of three off-prem event nights. Modeled after an actual Moroccan citadel, Los Cedros USA is one of two impeccably designed and maintained training facility and stables for the Arabian horses, one of the most stunning breeds in an exclusive community comprised of horse breeders, wealthy owners and Middle Eastern royalty. (The other Los Cedros citadel is in Chile.)
FIRE, WALK WITH ME......
Fire dancer and musicians lead guests from the reception in the citadel to the brand-new ballroom in the grand arena
Decadence Under Art
The new ballroom - completed just days before the event - featured a stunning hand-carved, hand-painted ceiling of interlocking panels
Soft Hues and Jewel Tone Accents
Patterned tablecloths from La Tavola Linen complemented by textured solid napkins
Whether you call them "feasting", "king's" or "empire", long wide tables fit the evening's theme perfectly
Perfect Place Setting
Simple yet elegant, the mix of materials, textures and patterns welcomed guests to their seats
Intricately designed and cut "golden gate" menu card tied with gold tassel
Behind the Gates
Opening the gate-fold handmade menu cover revealed the evening's five-course dinner menu
The brand new ballroom (ours was the first event!) featured polished concrete floors, luxurious hand-crafted bespoke furniture and custom window coverings. Guests looked up, though, to view the real stars of the room. Overhead, stunning crystal chandeliers hung from a show stopping hand-carved, hand-painted, and hand-assembled ceiling comprised of interlocking panels that needed not one single nail.
As is the case with many construction projects, we found an unusual and most unexpected issue: the dimmer switches on the three banks of crystal chandeliers did not work. The ballroom would be way too bright for a dinner event. So we did the only thing we could with two hours to go before guest arrival - we got on ladders and unscrewed every little light build in all but the large central chandelier! Our little trick worked, and the room was bathed in a warm glow.
After guests shared pre-set first course nosh of Bacon-Wrapped Figs, Braised Ostrich Croquettes, Baba Ghanouj, Fried Chickpeas, Jalapeno Hummus and Flatbreads, servers delivered Braised Carrot + Cumin Soup poured from Champagne bottles
Looking for a way to identify your food stations? This bat mitzvah that we recently did with partner Angelic Grove at The Croft Downtown takes the cake for creativity. Projecting our menu items onto the wall is our new favorite way to display our menu AND identify our various food stations. Delectable food + an awesome venue + stunning decor + exciting entertainment is the perfect recipe for an awesome event.