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SPOTLIGHT ON David Varley, Vice President – Food & Beverage, Canyon Ranch

By Sharon Hirschowitz, Global Head of Media & Communications for The International Luxury Hotel Association
25 July 2019
4 min read
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How can you not get excited listening to David talk about his passion for plant-facing cuisine and inspiring guests to take their recipes home? A trendsetter in the luxury hospitality food & beverage realm, he is dedicated to leading the way to wellness through the art of healthy eating.

What culinary trends are on your radar at the moment?
I’m really tuned into food design as a way to decentralize proteins and allow plants to do the heavy lifting. An easy example of this would slow be cooking heirloom carrots in rich beef or vegan mushroom broth and featuring them proudly as the hero of a plate with a few slices of really special grilled bison strip steak. I would incorporate a bright clean carrot top salsa verde mixed up in a mortar and pestle with some raw garlic, preserved lemon, tahini, and anchovy. At that point, all you would need is a textural element like crunchy potato peels and another familiar component like wilted swiss chard and you’ve got a dish that would be familiar and wholly satisfying to anyone that frequents traditional restaurants where a huge hunk of protein is at the center of the plate. This design approach represents the future of great cooking from my perspective and everyone knows the best part of a stock is the tender carrots that usually end up in the compost!

How is Canyon Ranch integrating new cuisine trends into their wellness programs?
The core of Canyon Ranch’s food philosophy integrates perfectly with the plant forward approach. Our cuisine is built on a foundation of guidelines driven and audited by our nutrition experts that provides a framework to ensure that carbohydrates, fats, proteins, fiber, and macronutrients are optimized, balanced and maintained within certain thresholds. What we have found through cooking and analyzing the results is that the approach of plants first is really the only way to craft satisfying and delicious meals that fuel optimal performance and health for our guests. By decentralizing traditional proteins and filling the plates with delicious vegetables and grains we meet all of the nutritional criteria and satisfy our guests without an excess of unhealthy fats, calories from simple sugars or the overuse of sodium.

You just opened CR CREAT in Las Vegas, which was certainly a first for you as a stand-alone culinary concept. How has the response been?
CR CREAT is exciting new territory for Canyon Ranch and we are very proud of the product and the team behind it. CR CREAT has allowed us to play in the quick service/grab & go world where we see so much opportunity to democratize the Canyon Ranch food experience by providing easy, fast and economical access to clean, healthy, inspired offerings that are true to our mission and culinary philosophy. The response has been strong thus far and has inspired us to further explore and innovate in this new realm.

What are your guests looking for when they choose a Canyon Ranch experience?
Our guests are well traveled, incredibly savvy and expect the highest level of experience at Canyon Ranch in all areas. We know we are doing our job when they rave about something and ask for the recipe because they can’t believe something so delicious could be so good for them. They are looking to be surprised and they come to Canyon Ranch with the intention of improving their lives so we are really blessed with the opportunity to inspire and help them realize those intentions.

Have you developed any new programs that help guests connect with these new trends?
I’ve largely been focused on working with our team to sharpen the pencil and double down on parts of our program that guests love while teeing up the next round of growth & innovation that will continue to keep Canyon Ranch on the cutting edge. We are looking forward to a very exciting year of growth and development that will yield some exciting new reasons for guests to choose Canyon Ranch.