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Industry Innovators 2024: Andrew Swanson

For the vice president of culinary at Wolfgang Puck Catering, collaboration is key to innovation.

Industry Innovators 2024: Andrew Swanson
One of chef Andrew Swanson's annual highlights? The Compass Group USA Envision Summit in Miami. "We bring WPC chefs from across the U.S. to collaborate and showcase a 'small plates' chef action station inspired by community, local culture, and honestly whatever strikes our eye at the farmers market," he explains.
Photo: Courtesy of Wolfgang Puck Catering

Industry Innovators 2024: Andrew SwansonChef Andrew SwansonPhoto: Courtesy of Wolfgang Puck CateringChef Andrew Swanson is the vice president of culinary for Wolfgang Puck Catering. He’s based in Dallas.

What sets his company apart: "Our people are our best product, hands down. With chef Wolfgang himself setting the standard four decades ago, Wolfgang Puck Catering emphasizes bringing leaders into our company who have an industrious approach to creativity—and, more importantly, a selfless approach to hospitality. Curating custom experiences is our reward, and happens to be our secret to deep-rooted relationships across our diverse clientele. Since day one, this has been an exciting environment to be a part of!"

What innovation means to him: "My marketing teams asks me this weekly! Anticipating and staying ahead of new industry demands, or guests’ trends, are by far our largest tasks. I feel this is best done by committee. Earmarking a 'creative or innovation council' keeps ideas free-flowing. Make sure to schedule the meeting in a unique space—outside the normal office is key—and involve a contrasting mix of departments and tenors. You might have to teach the Gen Zs how to push a broom these days, but they certainly know how to reach the current crowd, for sure! Strike up conversation with no boundaries or biases."

Memorable moments: "Yearly, our team participates in the Compass Group USA Envision Summit in Miami. The event brings worldwide leadership together to meet with industry innovation leaders in technology, F&B services, and design—truly a great crowd to rub shoulders with. We bring WPC chefs from across the U.S. to collaborate and showcase a 'small plates' chef action station inspired by community, local culture, and honestly whatever strikes our eye at the farmers market.

Industry Innovators 2024: Andrew Swanson"Work family + cooking for fun = special!" says Swanson.Photo: Courtesy of Wolfgang Puck CateringThis year, we served a spin on a classic WPC recipe of Rendang beef (Indonesia braised beef), which was inspired by local spices acquired from the Vizcaya Gardens Farmers Market. For dessert, corporate executive chef Garry Larduinat served a liquid nitrogen 'smoking' chocolate cigar with edible ash inspired by the Miami culture and fresh cacao fruit found locally. Of course, to round out the offer [was] a cocktail of Japanese whisky, Cointreau, lemon, and ginger to pair with the Snake River Farms beef. All of this was showcased on a station garnished with local produce, aromatics, and textiles."

His all-time favorite food: "Properly paired meals with occasions. A hot dog at the ballpark, Mom’s meatloaf and mashed potatoes with the family, fresh fish off the line and reel—all winners!"

His biggest hope for the F&B industry: "It pains me to say: a rebirth in customer service. With the recent shift in workforce, genuine hospitality has slipped a few notches. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of amazing folks holding it down out there, but my hopes are the true art and passion of hospitality is embraced by the up-and-coming generation. There’s a special roundness to our business when you marry an inviting space, fulfilling food, and the human touch of hospitality. It makes for an exceptional place to visit; an atmosphere that can’t be seen by eye; and, more notably, an environment worth putting your life's work into."

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