Just shy of a decade in the business, executive sous chef Mallory Myers has the enormous task of managing Orchids at Palm Court’s banquet dining operations—that is, meals for huge events such as conferences and weddings. To maintain the restaurant’s high standards in large volumes, she sticks with the tried-and-true classic cooking techniques while always searching for creative opportunities to push the envelope. We caught up with Myers to talk about how she stays inspired, what she likes to cook at home, and what her bright future in the industry holds ahead.
Years in the industry:
What does your job entail?
“Being in a hotel, it’s a totally different beast. I’ve been in restaurants, but in a hotel it never really stops. My main focus right now is running the [Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza] banquets department—everything from weddings to galas to conferences and business meetings—while also having a hand in Orchids and making sure everything runs as a whole.”
“I wouldn’t say I necessarily have a signature dish, but I’ve always found that making pasta is my happy place. We surprisingly have homemade tortellini on our wedding menu, so there are times when I’m making 400 pieces of tortellini just for one wedding.”
“Working in banquets, we don’t necessarily use a lot of the newer techniques because it’s a lot of big-batch cooking, but anything that uses sous vide or braising, like short ribs, it’s my favorite. We do an 18-hour slow-cooked coppa on our wedding menu right now, which is phenomenal, and that’s a great thing to sous vide.”
Most underrated tool in the kitchen:
Tourné knife. “I use it the most, on everything from—I have a couple, so I use one for opening up boxes and bags, and [the other for] working on little things and actually tournéing and fine-tuning. It’s something I don’t see a lot of other people using as much as I do.” [laughs]
Most underrated skill in the kitchen:
Knife skills. “[In] our industry, there are so many places open that people are jumping in and moving up so quickly without necessarily learning a lot of basics. Just being able to efficiently dice an onion or concassé a tomato. People overlook it nowadays.”
How do you challenge yourself?
“I’m always trying to come up with new items for our wedding menus and trying to push the envelope. Instead of the standard steak and chicken, actually working with our catering and sales department and talking about what’s new, what people are looking for, and what can we do to really impress the couples that come to us.”
Where do you find inspiration?
“All around me. I surprisingly do a lot of cooking at home. My boyfriend [Jack Hemmer] is a chef, as well. We are constantly inspiring each other. I’ll make dinner one night, and he’s like, That’s a great idea. That might go on the next menu. And I’ll try something that he’s done, and it gets me thinking and seeing things in different techniques.”
Why do you love what you do?
“Being a part of people’s weddings and family [traditions] that they come back to every year is really amazing.”
What are your ultimate ambitions?
“My personal ambitions would be to in some way open my own place and be my own boss, whether that’s a catering company or a restaurant. It’s something [Jack] and I have talked about a lot, but who knows the timing on that.”