Food & Beverage: The Zen of Menu Planning

Feng shui, the ancient Chinese art of creating harmony and balance in an environment through the careful arrangement of objects, has been quietly making its way into the meeting room. First, it entered the boardroom, as companies such as Dow Jones, Virgin Airways, and Microsoft began to incorporate the doctrine into the design of their offices. Next, hotels began to offer feng shui consultants to assist in the layout of meeting room furniture. And now, the Westin New York at Times Square is offering a feng shui-inspired menu for groups who hold meetings there.

"Part of the Westin brand, and what we're all about as a company, is inspiration and rejuvenation, and those things that keep you well balanced," says Executive Chef Frank Tujague, who joined the property last year. "I was looking to create a menu to embody all of those things, and one of the ways that's done is through feng shui." So Tujague applied the guiding principle of feng shui—balance—to the composition of the menu. "Creating a culinary work of art is all about balance between the sweet and the savory, the spicy and the salty, and between the different textures. That is in addition to elements that encourage the appetite: having food that is vibrant, abundant, and that gives the body what it needs."

Accordingly, Tujague's feng shui-inspired menu creates well-balanced meals out of foods and drinks of different colors, textures, and flavors. The meeting menu comprises buffets for one breakfast and two breaks. He starts with a bowl of colorful, whole, ripe fruit and moves on to a variety of sliced fruits along with "super food"-inspired smoothies in shot glasses, for additional color and texture. The menu continues with sustainable foods, including organic nuts and yogurts, flaxseed muffins, and other healthy and natural offerings. The buffets are then carefully arranged on a multi-level display. (The feng shui experience can be further enhanced by feng shui candles and scents, if desired.)

Tujague admits that this specialized menu offering may not be right for all groups. "A lot of groups already know exactly how they want the meeting to go, and they don't want any distractions or unusual scents [or foods]," he says. "For this, it's about finding the right group to fit the menu, rather than the other way around."

If the recent attention paid to feng shui by Corporate America is any indication, finding that right fit will only get easier.

FENG SHUI MENU

Cost: starts at $150 per person (includes cost of meeting room)

Maximum group size: 300

Originally published June 01, 2008

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