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Art, food and goodwill

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives have become a mainstay in the hotel industry, so it’s not surprising to see F&B departments specifically taking part in this trend — often in unique ways.

The Rittenhouse in Philadelphia caught my attention with its participation in a relatively new local program, Palates to Palettes. The effort was created by Philadelphia-based nonprofit organization Fresh Artists and the city’s Southwest Leadership Academy Charter School with an aim to expose students from disadvantaged neighborhoods to fine art, fine cuisine and career paths in the creative economy.

Last fall, Palates to Palettes students visited The Rittenhouse, touring the hotel’s Lacroix restaurant and kitchen and meeting with Executive Chef Jon Cichon. Cichon prepared a signature dish — caviar with traditional accouterments such as eggs, shallots, brioche and crème fraiche — which the students sketched.

“I liked the chance to get kids in the restaurant and the way the program links art and the restaurant culture together,” Cichon says. “I had never seen anything like this before.”

The Rittenhouse Executive Chef Jon Cichon chats with kids in the Palates to Palettes program at the hotel last fall. (photo by Neal Santos)
The Rittenhouse Executive Chef Jon Cichon chats with kids in the Palates to Palettes program at the hotel last fall. (photo by Neal Santos)

Another potential upside was opening kids’ eyes to the possibility of working in the culinary and hospitality fields. “Cooking wasn’t necessarily my first choice — when I was that age, I never considered it,” Cichon recalls. “Being exposed to that as a career path is really nice at that age because it’s not something you’re easily exposed to in a public school.”

Palates to Palettes is just one way The Rittenhouse gives back to the local community, but Cichon says there are already plans to continue the partnership next year. “It’s such a unique program with such passionate people running it,” he adds. “I think we’re going to continue to be involved as long as we can and help in whatever way we can.”

Has your property found unique ways to make CSR a priority, particularly in the F&B realm? Please share your stories.

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