MeetOverEats: Well-travelled, creative chef and teamwork bring extraordinary results to Ritz-Carlton dining venues

Article by MME Staff Writer

As Executive Chef, Melissa Lee oversees anything to do with food and drink at the Ritz-Carlton St. Louis. That includes banquets and catering, room service, the members-only cigar lounge, and the hotel’s four dining options. Her results cause clients to say “Wow.” Lee, the only woman executive chef among more than 100 Ritz-Carlton properties, is well-traveled and known for her talents with a wide range of international fare. The menus change seasonally and range from martinis, sushi and afternoon tea in the Lobby Lounge;  salads, infused oils, and pan-seared halibut at The Grill; breakfast, lunch and Fitness Cuisine at The Restaurant; and customized menus served in the Wine Room’s 40-person private dine-in wine cellar.

The Ritz recently hosted a group of planners from Exclusive Business Travel who asked for an “outdoor” theme. “We re-created the 1904 World’s Fair and Forest Park in our ballroom,” Lee said. “The world planners have seen it all so we wanted to create a unique and memorable experience.”

Clouds hung from the ceiling, hot air balloons floated throughout the ballroom, and there was a large fountain surrounded by park benches. The History Museum, Art Museum, the Muny and the Zoo were projected on a large screen while guides from each institution took the guests on virtual tour. Guests said “Wow.”

Dinner started with hors d’oeuvres dubbed “the Arch: Gateway to the Senses,” followed by salads, a variety of meats and seafood, and culminating with Champagne-and-strawberry panna cotta.

The hotel hosts just about any size and type of group, including breakfast, lunch and dinner meetings, networking events, and large conferences and fundraisers. Clients include arts and nonprofit organizations, law firms and medical groups. The St. Louis Symphony’s 2017 fundraising gala, an American Bar Association Continuing Legal Education Conference, and Lift For Life Academy’s annual fashion show featuring student creations from its Fashion Design class have all been held at the Ritz.

Prices in the Lobby Lounge average $10 to $20 with $14 martinis. In The Grill, prices start at $9 for corn bisque or chocolate cake up to $42 for a filet. The Restaurant offers breakfast and lunch averaging about $16. Conferences and catered events range from $30 to more than $100.

Lee credits fostering a team environment in her kitchen and allowing staff to contribute their creativity for her extraordinary culinary results. Said Lee: “The guest experience is my priority.”

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