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2011 Innovators: Frank Widmer, Executive Chef, Park Hyatt Zurich, Switzerland

Healthy eating has been a global hot button in recent years. Anyone who has attended hotel-hosted conferences and corporate meetings has experienced food choices that are often high in calories and low in nutritional value.

Frank Widmer, the executive chef at the Park Hyatt in Zurich, Switzerland, decided to make a positive change with a new, innovative healthy menu, called “Brain Food,” developed especially for business meetings and events.

Working closely with a nutritionist, Widmer created the Brain Food menu that is focused on health and chock-full of fruits, vegetables, and whole gain breads that contain vitamins, like C and beta-carotene, to support concentration. With an emphasis on flavors and taste, the foods were also chosen to increase cerebral oxygen flow, while preventing a spike in blood sugar, ensuring that diners feel fit and full of energy throughout the day—and experience fewer unhealthy cravings.

The main lunch favorites are: terrine of fresh grilled vegetables with a tangy pesto and balsamic syrup; a crispy sprout salad; veal steak roasted in olive oil; and wheat germ gnocchi with sautéed leaf spinach. For dessert, a light vanilla panna cotta with berry compote may be served and the afternoon break could include fresh seasonal juices, and rice pudding with fruit and nuts.

Widmer feels strongly about the Brain Food menu and believes it can benefit everyone.

“It’s not just a concept,” Widmer says. “It’s a way of life, and I’m convinced it’s the wave of the future.”

Meeting planners who have selected the Brain Food menu have responded favorably, and reported that attendees have felt more energized and focused in the afternoon, as opposed to battling the dreaded “after-lunch slump” or sleepiness that is sometimes exacerbated by heavy meals.

“Whoever has tried it has called us back and said it works. People in those meetings were much more awake, alert, and ready to participate,” Widmer says. “We are offering this menu because it is truly a healthy way to eat.”

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