You may have never while shopping or catching a movie at Mall St Matthews considered popping into the Hilton Garden Inn across the road at 400 Sherburn Ln for a local-centric drink or dinner – but maybe you should.
In the midst of “Christmas is coming” chaos, something pretty cool happened in December. Celebrity Chef Dan Churchill was in Louisville at a private event hosted by the hotel to announce and kick off their new menu. The hotel has taken a localized approach to their international chain, giving chefs at each location more power to buy their ingredients locally and to feature local flavors and dishes.
Global Head of Hilton Garden Inn John Greenleaf said, “We are in 41 countries right now. We refreshed the brand two years ago and focused on four key areas.This Louisville location was one of the first new prototype hotels for six different regions with a light and airy approach with a focus on food and beverage flexibility. We offer the flexibility to our kitchen team, beverage team and chefs to do what they like and do best and taylor to local tastes. We’re doing that around the world. I wouldn’t pretend to know what people like in Louisville, but the people who work here sure do…the hotels really seem to enjoy the ability to choose how to best display and serve their locations.”
He went on to say that the Louisville Hilton Garden Inn has poured Rabbit Hole since they opened plus served local food, beers and sodas in both the restaurant and bar and at their in-hotel shop, which also really better serve people at the hotel for meetings. Instead of having to pick meal menus ahead of time, meeting attendees can visit the shop during breaks for fresh foods and drinks that are billed to the client.
Chef Churchill — known for his Food Network appearances, his books like Dude Food: A Guy’s Guide to Cooking Kick-Ass Food and The Healthy Cook, his Australian series Surfing the Menu and even for demonstrating his cooking skills shirtless for online videos — moved into the US market from his home in Australia and has found a tremendous amount of success at a young age. Forbes just named him in their 30 under 30 list for 2019. He worked to build his brand with Food Network and was introduced to Hilton Garden Inn through that experience. One collaboration was a Facebook campaign where people were encouraged to vote for new menu items. ”It’s been really exciting to work with Hilton [Garden Inn] the past 6 to 12 months to work on ways to relate to new audiences while still harnessing existing ones. They’ve got [more than] 500 food and beverage locations [Garden Grille & Bars] around the country. So, that’s massive. You need some help to look at things from a promotional standpoint, which is just one way I come in.”
At the event, Churchill charmed attendees with his winning smile, mischevious jokes and a demonstration, making the Apple-Cheddar Salad, which features cheddar cheese from Kenny’s Farmhouse Cheeses, apple, maple-walnut crunch, baby arugula, and apple cider vinaigrette. He also pointed out that the citrus salmon bowl is one of his favorite menu items, which supports his healthy viewpoint.
Churchill is a fan of healthy foods and said, “I think the idea between health and flavor is that it comes down to education. Technically and scientifically, the more nutrients there are in something, the more your taste receptors have to react to. So,therefore, technically, the more nutrients, the more flavors there are in something. People do like sugar, but what we do is keep flavor first and educate people on a healthy lifestyle with either their family or alone on a business trip.”
Some of the other food items from the Hilton menu available for tasting at the event included Sticky Finger Ribs, Deviled Egg Toast, Artisan Charcuterie, Mushroom Kale Flatbread and a chipotle BLT flatbread. Those were followed by tomato & Basil Bisque, and cabernet braised short ribs. Desserts include a mason jar chocolate fudge cake.
Rabbit Hole beverage director Brian Heese was also there along with owner Kaveh Zamanian. Heese demonstrated how to make a “Snowfall in Kentucky” cocktail with Rabbit Hole’s signature Sherry Cask and Lustau Amontillado Sherry, topped with fresh grated nutmeg. Also served, Cherry Blossoms are tangy cocktails with Hornitos Reposado tequila lime juice, grapefruit juice, and grenadine. While the “Snowfall in Kentucky” was a special cocktail for the event, Cherry Blossoms are available at the Garden Grille & Bar as are all of the above-mentioned menu items.
(Photos by Brian Bohannon)