Taste Trends: Purvill Chaney, Executive Chef, Duke Energy Convention Center 

April 25, 2022

Some people are fortunate enough to be born into their life’s calling. Chef Purvill Chaney is such a lucky individual. A consummate culinary professional who discovered his passion for cooking while working as a chef in his parents’ restaurants in his hometown of Flint, Mich., the budding chef wasted no time in embarking upon a professional career path in hospitality after college, cutting his teeth as a sous chef at a local Hyatt Regency. Since then, Chaney’s long and storied career has included more than 27 years with Hyatt at a dozen different locations in multiple cities followed by a 15-year tenure at the Duke Energy Convention Center in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he now oversees a more than 100-person kitchen staff as executive chef.

Never one to shy away from challenges, Chaney has cooked for a who’s-who of celebrities and dignitaries over the course of his extensive career and takes great pleasure in cooking up customized, ahead-of-trend menus to surprise and delight guests at the DECC. He also happens to be an award-winning ice sculptor!

“Every day is new, and with each day, a new challenge,” Chaney said of his job. “Whether my team is creating menus and overseeing mass production to serve more than 120,000 meals for the World Choir Games or adapting menus to accommodate the many dietary needs of guests, I’m proud of our ability to customize and deliver one-of-a-kind experiences during trade shows, conventions, meetings and events of all types. I never work a day in my life because I love what I do each and every day!”

Passionate about training the next generation of culinary professionals, Chaney makes a point of giving back to the Cincinnati community, focusing on local sustainability efforts and promoting the events industry to a diverse population of young people. Through his annual work with Frederick Douglass Elementary School and its garden club, Chaney and his team enjoy hosting 30-40 students from the Cincinnati Public Schools at DECC’s state-of-the-art kitchen, where they receive hands-on training to learn how to prepare and cook vegetables from their garden to create a nutritious meal. 

TSNN enjoyed sitting down with Chaney to learn about the latest cutting-edge trends in food and beverage, how event planners can work around tight budgets, rising costs and supply chain issues without sacrificing taste and quality, and who has inspired him most in his career.

What are the biggest and most exciting event culinary trends you’re seeing right now?

Clients are focused on comfort foods but even more so focused on amplifying the experience for their attendees. The art of the presentation is almost more important than the food itself. I love putting an artistic display together to amplify their event and meet their goals. 

Charcuterie is now being expanded into the “sweet treat” category with dessert charcuterie displaysin the same vein as an expansive meat, cheese and nut presentation. Small petit fours, cookies, cake pops and other delights are paired with individually portioned mousses, custards and fruit compotes to create a beautiful presentation with options for every taste and desire.

Prior to COVID-19, dietary-conscious menus (such as gluten-free, keto, vegan and vegetarian) were a growing trend. Is this still true, and if so, do you foresee this accelerating in the future? 

Very true! Carbs and gluten, meat or no meat? Allergies and additives? It used to be that vegetarian options were the focus, but now special diets are being demanded. Flourless cakes, no bread on the table and options for entrees that are more sensitive for today’s palates are all under scrutiny and gaining popularity. Some clients even proactively choose to go gluten-free for their menu, as this is the highest dietary request. It keeps it simple yet still pleases. 

Pro tip: Communicate with your guests in advance to determine how many and what type of special meals you will need to offer. Having the ability to plan ahead with these requests will not only help your budget but also guarantee that your guests feel “heard” and accommodated.

Many event planners are working with tighter budgets now. What are your top tips for overcoming this obstacle while still providing delicious fare for attendees? 

In Cincinnati, 75-80% of our menus are customized. We’ve always been able to work within budgets, but now we have more to consider due to rising costs, supply chain issues, etc. Recently, we’ve seen more vegetable-forward meals, focusing less on proteins due to their rising costs. So, for a duet, instead of fish and chicken, we’ll do fish and cauliflower steak. Or my favorites is short rib and cauliflower steak. 

Some suggestions:

  • Go for the bites! Plan your catered events in non-traditional hours. Instead of a sit-down meal try hosting elegant cocktails and appetizers from 4-6 p.m., so guests can make it dinner if they choose.
  • Limit the traditional cocktail hour to 30 minutes prior to your event, then offer beer and wine with dinner. There’s always a place for a cash bar as a backstop.
  • Watch your guarantees. With the changing demographic and attendance levels softening, keep your counts realistic knowing that a paid RSVP does not always equate to an attendee, especially for fundraisers.
  • Work with a venue focused on sustainability. Make sure your supplier has a partner in providing leftover meals to the community to limit waste.
  • When menu planning, look for exotic dishes that go a long way. For example, paella is exciting and visually appealing, and pasta with a variety of toppings and limited proteins, starches and salads can go a long way.

Are you seeing any improvements in diversity in executive chef roles in convention centers? 

I believe so. I have a passion for training up-and-coming talent, but also working in the community to introduce the culinary field to a diverse population. The Duke Energy Convention Center and OVG Hospitality make community a priority, and I take an active role in promoting the culinary field, working with local elementary school garden clubs and participating in career days and through our involvement with the Institute of Hospitality Leadership, which is an initiative created here in Cincinnati to increase skilled and diverse talent in the hospitality sector. 

Who or what has most inspired you throughout your career?

The people. I truly enjoy interacting with our clients and guests, both internal and external. In addition to having a great team, I’ve had the privilege of cooking and being in the presence of many celebrities and dignitaries, such as Oprah Winfrey, Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, the Dali Lama and the NFL Commissioner during the Super Bowl, to name a few.

Check out Chef Chaney in action here.

Did you enjoy this article? Listen to TSNN's Podcast: Industry Importance of F&B (and Allergies!) With Tracy Stuckrath

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Partner Voices
Less than six months ago, Lisa Messina joined the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) as the first-ever chief sales officer after leading the sales team at Caesars Entertainment. A 12-year Las Vegas resident, Messina is a graduate of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration and serves on MPI International’s board of directors. TSNN had a chance to catch up with this dynamic leader and talk to her about her vision for the new role, current shifts in the trade show industry, creating more diversity and equity within the organization, and advice to future female leaders. Lisa Messina, Chief Sales Officer, LVCVA With Las Vegas becoming The Greatest Arena on EarthTM, what are some of the things you’re most excited about in your role? Our team was at The Big Game’s handoff ceremony earlier this month, and I couldn’t help but think, “We’re going to crush it next year!”  These high-profile events and venues not only drive excitement, but also provide unmatched opportunities for event planners. Allegiant Stadium hosts events from 10 to 65,000 people and offers on-field experiences. Formula 1 Grand Prix will take place in Las Vegas in November, after the year-one F1 race, the four-story paddock building will be available for buyouts and will also offer daily ride-along experiences that will be available for groups. And, of course, the MSG Sphere officially announced that it will open in September, ahead of schedule, with a U2 residency. It’s going to be the most technologically advanced venue as far as lighting, sound, feel, and even scent, and it will be available for buyouts and next-level sponsorships inside and outside. There’s no ceiling to what you can do when you’re doing events in Las Vegas.  Allegiant Stadium As the trade show and convention business returns to the pre-pandemic levels, what shifts are you noticing and how do you think they will impact the industry going forward? Our trade show organizers are very focused on driving customer experience. Most of our organizers are reporting stronger exhibitor numbers and increased numbers of new exhibitors, with trade shows proving to be almost or above 2019 levels. Now our organizers are really doubling down on driving attendance and focusing on the data to provide that individualized, customized experience to help attendees meet their goals and get the best value. Some companies continue to be cautiously optimistic with their organizational spend when it comes to sending attendees, but I think it will continue to improve. As the U.S. Travel Association makes more progress on the U.S. visa situation, we also expect a growing influx of international attendees. What are some innovative ways the LVCVA helps trade show and convention organizers deliver the most value for their events? We focus on customer experience in the same way that trade show organizers are thinking about it. We got rave reviews with the West Hall Expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC), so over the next two years, we will be renovating the North and the Central halls, which will include not just the same look and feel, but also the digital experiences that can be leveraged for branding and sponsorship opportunities.  Vegas Loop, the underground transportation system designed by The Boring Company, is also a way we have enhanced the customer experience. Vegas Loop at the LVCC has transported more than 900,000 convention attendees across the campus since its 2021 launch. Last summer, Resorts World and The Boring Company opened the first resort stop at the Resorts World Las Vegas , with plans to expand throughout the resort corridor, including downtown Las Vegas, Allegiant Stadium and Harry Reid International Airport. The LVCVA also purchased the Las Vegas Monorail in 2020, the 3.9-mile-long elevated transportation system that connects eight resorts directly to the convention center campus. This is the only rail system in the world that integrates fares directly into show badges and registration. For trade show organizers, these transportation options mean saving time, money and effort when it comes to moving groups from the hotels to LVCC and around the city. Also, the more we can focus on building the infrastructure around the convention center, the more it supports the customer experience and ultimately supports our trade show organizers. Scheduled to debut in Q4, Fontainebleau Las Vegas will offer 3,700 hotel rooms and 550,000 square feet of meeting and convention space next to LVCC.  What are some of the plans for advancing DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) within your organization? We’re currently partnering with instead of working with a leading consulting firm, to lay the foundation and create a solid DEI plan and be the leader when it comes to DEI initiatives. The heart of that journey with the consulting firm is also talking to our customers about their strategic approaches to DEI and driving innovation in this space.  What are your favorite ways to recharge? My husband and I have an RV and we’re outdoorsy people. So, while we have over 150,000 world-class hotel rooms and renowned restaurants right outside our doorstep, one of my favorite things to do is get out to Red Rock Canyon, the Valley of Fire, and Lake Mead. Five of the top national parks are within a three-hour drive from Las Vegas, so there’s a lot you can do. We love balancing the energy of Las Vegas with nature, and we’re noticing that a lot of attendees add activities off the Strip when they come here.  Valley of Fire What advice would you give to women following leadership paths in destination marketing? I think it’s about being laser-focused on what you want to accomplish; building a team around you that lifts you and helps you achieve your goals; and being humble and realizing that you do it as a group. No one gets this done alone. Thankfully, there are a lot of women in leadership in this organization, in our customers’ organizations, and in this city that we can be really proud of. We’re a formidable force that is making things happen.   This interview has been edited and condensed. This article is exclusively sponsored by the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority. For more information, visit HERE.