It all started with a carrot cake. One of Chef Greg Engelhardt's debut culinary creations was in fact a carrot cake made from scratch when he was just 5 years old. His work efforts began as a dishwasher in Atlanta at Ernie’s Steakhouse when he started falling for “life in a restaurant kitchen”. Engelhardt said, “This is where I got my first tattoo inked on a prep table one night after service.” From 94’ - 98’ he took on line-cook positions at various kitchens. Then, in 1998 he attended The Culinary Institute of America. Which inevitably ignited his career.
Along came Crystal Cruises. Engelhardt was the first American in their 6-star kitchens. He said, “Andre Rochet landed me the sponsorship, and there I traveled the world cooking under the most strict of Austrian chefs and the most rigorous sanitation requirements in the world.” His most memorable achievement was working 157 days straight, twice! Woah.
What was next for Engelhardt? He landed in fabulous Las Vegas. He worked 1 year as a sous chef under the amazing Chef Carlos Guia at Commander’s Palace. Guia is currently Executive Chef of the Aria Resort. Then, onto executive sous chef positions held at both Micheal Mina SeaBlue and FiAMMA Trattoria at MGM Grand Hotel & Casino. After that, he was an assistant chef at Wynn and then sous chef at Andre’s French Restaurant. He went on to complete a classic apprenticeship under Chef Andre Rochats tutelage. Engelhardt spent a decade of on and off work with Andre as Sous Chef, then Executive Chef at both of Andre’s Las Vegas properties. While there, earning Michelin Stars in '07 and '08 , what he calls his “career highlight” and a “dream come true”. I’ll say. Engelhardt was and still is on fire. He clearly loves working under pressure and non-stop.
Then, in 2010 he ventured off to the Caribbean Islands to rebrand and remodel a 300 year old stone farmhouse conveniently named The Old Stone Farmhouse, then on to opening up 3 successful restaurant locations called OffTheGrid Caribbean BBQ. Unfortunately, they got wiped out within a few hours of hurricane Irma. What a wild ride so far!
Ending up back in Las Vegas at The Aria’s Convention Center, Engelhardt found himself leading a team of chefs of almost 100. He said, “To work with the most amazing kitchen on campus , Aria Banquets, is the most dynamic role of my career.” And this is where we met Engelhardt, in the busy high energy kitchen where we would show him the latest and greatest from Pick On Us. We would bring product samples, talk about what guests are craving, how to get their attention, and how to get them to remember you long after they have left. Engelhardt has always been a big fan of our eco-friendly Wood Boats, Bamboo Cups, Cones, Palm Leaf Plates, and Sustainable Cutlery. He said, “They take our dishes to the next level”.
Over the years we have developed a great relationship with Engelhardt. We think the world of him, so much so that we invited him and his family out to our neck of the woods (San Diego) to enjoy fun in the sun and build some great memories. And we did just that. While he was here, we took a little trip to Legoland and also spent a day in the studio working on a video shoot. We truly had a blast while he was here and learned that he is just as exceptional of a guy outside the kitchen as he is inside the kitchen hustling and striving for the ultimate guest experience.
Engelhardt and his family are off on their next adventure in Australia. He is taking on a different role as Slim’s Quality Burger’s Director of Food Operations. He is thrilled and is going all in. There is no stopping him. And we are beyond excited for him and look forward to seeing him thrive.
Oh before you go, as promised, here are some banquet/catering ideas for you!
21 Stunning Eco-Friendly Banquet/Catering Presentations Ideas that Guests Love
Chefs love to provide unique flavors and epic presentations. And as we know, guests eat with their eyes first. Creative chefs want to make their cuisine look as appealing as possible before their guests set eyes on it. Whether it is being served via a server and placed before the guest or displayed prior to guest arrival, guests love to be wowed. So we put together a list of noteworthy banquet presentation ideas to help chefs and caterers create extraordinary displays that will surprise and delight any guest. And bonus, all these tips help with portion control and the spread of germs. Individually packaged and small bites are still trending as preferred in food safety.
1.Create a chef-manned food station to customize a dish. Like Chef Greg Engelhardt's absolute favorite “Mashed Potato Bar”. Let guests choose their ingredients for a unique lively experience. (additional examples: stir fry, craft sandwiches, buddha bowls, pizza, sushi rolls, etc.)
2.The struggle is real with finding unique ways to brand your burgers, sliders, and sandwiches. Keep it all together with Custom Logo’d Picks!
3.Bamboo Cups hold bite sized portions that your guests can toss when done without harming the earth. Also available in wood.
4.Embellish your creations with a touch of elegance with Beaded Picks. Your guests and your cuisine deserve the best visual experience.
5.Serve your on-the-go meals for guests in luxurious Take Out Boxes for a convenient yet elegant dining adventure. Have them customized for the ultimate branded experience.
6.Stick it like you mean it with Bamboo Skewers. For a super easy and germ-free way to dine. Perfect for tray-passed apps and easy to grab veggies or meat kabobs.
7.Create a Coffee Bar that percolates guests hearts. Add exotic coffees from a place connected to your theme or guests. Go next-level by having a barista create latte art designs.
8.Scoop up some love with Bamboo Serving Utensils. These premium spoons add a special touch that brings the environment and guests such happiness. They are strong, smooth, and send a message that your team cares about people and the planet.
9.Spin me Right Round baby. Lazy susans are great to use in smaller spaces. Use for sundae station toppings to exotic spices for dinner service.
10.Stir things up with Custom Drink Stirrers! Curated cocktails & mocktails are a must for premier events.
11.Cones are not only fun but they are perfect for an easy to hold guest snack. Tray-passed cones bring an element of surprise and delight that isn't seen everyday. Available in bamboo and wood.
12.Who doesn't love being a kid again? Serve up cool Popsicle cocktails for a surprise summer treat. Customize the stick for an added branded bonus.
13.Mini things are savage! These Mini Palm Leaf Plates and Bowls are a must-have for small tastings. Tray-pass them for gorgeous appetizer presentations. There are many size options to choose from.
14.Level up! Literally, level up. Create height for eye pleasing design and easy grab for guests. Some riser ideas: Pillars, vintage suitcases, glass bricks, boxes or cover boxes with drapery. Keep the colors and styles of the table/tablecloths and props cohesive for a pleasing visual flow. You can find most of these items at Hobby Lobby or Michael’s. For more authentic risers shop antique stores and yard sales.
15.Stock up on Wrapped Bamboo or Wooden Utensil Kits. Oh, and fun fact, they can be customized! From the wrapper to the utensils themselves. Adding your logo or art brings great value to your brand and guests are undoubtedly impressed.
16.Swipe right for Custom Napkins! Some of the best business and personal connections, ideas and deals have been penned on napkins. Don’t let one of the best branding opportunities slip through your fingers. These dinner and cocktail napkins will catch the eye of patrons long after they have gone.
17.Have you heard? The Reed Straw is the hot new straw. Bring elegance and class to any glass. Reed Straws are smooth, eco-friendly, and more affordable than most straws. Toss a Reed Straw in all your beverages because they are very instagramable.
18.Never go low-key on Charcuterie Boards. Try creating a whole charcuterie table. Add in some various sized blocks and props for height. (see idea #14) Do it up! Add it all.. nuts, meats, dried fruit, olives, breads, oils, sweets, etc. Or theme it up! Try Graze Around the World with fine cuisine from across the globe. Shop ingredients from international grocery stores. Or do a vintage theme. For example, small bites from the R.M.S. Titanic first-class menu or Lincoln's inauguration dinner menu. The creative ideas are google-able and endless.
19.Sail into the sunset with your guests using Bamboo or Wood Boats. These exotic looking boats are nice for holding smaller portions. Use them for a nice side salad or a carefully crafted delectable dessert. Or create charcuterie boats loaded with meats, cheese, nuts, crackers and olives for a quick grab and go appetizer.
20.In season and looking pleasing are seasonal meals served on compostable Bamboo and Palm Leaf Plates! For easy clean up fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables present best served on natural vessels. It gives your dishes and appetizers a high quality authentic look and feel that other disposable serveware (plastic and foam) do not. And bonus, all without wasting water or time cleaning up.
21.When it comes to events, Customization is King (or Queen). Guests remember the details of you going above and beyond with presentation and service. If you are serving a wedding party, add something personal (name, hashtag, date, etc.) to a custom drink stirrer or appetizer pick. If you are serving a business event, add their company logo or tagline to a sandwich or cocktail garnish pick. Oh and the turnaround time is quick for event picks. Get them in 7-10 business days!