Q&A: Seafood, resort-style

The Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center in Kissimmee, Fla., is undergoing major renovations throughout the property, including the addition of a 400-seat sports bar that will be located near a South Beach-style pool, complete with cabanas. Executive Chef Peter Daledda, who oversees the operation of five fine-dining and casual restaurants on the sprawling property, will oversee the menu of the new sports bar, slated to open in this spring. The menu will likely be Key West themed.

SeafoodSource recently talked to Daledda about the restaurants’ new seafood options, and what he looks for in a seafood supplier.

Blank: Tell us about the new sports bar and casual restaurant that Gaylord will be adding.

Daledda: We needed a more casual all-day dining concept. All other Gaylord properties have a sports bar, and we are the only one that has not had one. Our clients are demanding it, and we would like to create more transient business to the hotel than presently exists. It will be a two-level sports bar with the largest TV screens available, a skybox V.I.P. area and a main floor. I am not sure what the fish component will be yet.

What is new at your other onsite restaurants, including Sunset Sam’s Key West Grill, Old Hickory Steakhouse and Sora Sushi Bar?

Our chef at Sora is putting together a vegetarian sushi menu, and we have explored a children’s menu, especially with DreamWorks’ Shrek The Halls being part of our “ICE!” program this year. In our Steakhouse, we tried whole Dover sole cooked on the bone. We sold so much in one night that we didn’t buy enough for the next night. I might go ahead and do a whole fish again, but it is difficult with the layout of the Steakhouse kitchen.

What qualities in a supplier are important to you, when purchasing seafood for the restaurants?

The first thing we look for is to make sure the supplier can supply the product we need in a fresh form, and not frozen. Seasonality is also very important. The crux of what I look for when putting a menu together is utilizing seafood at the right time. During spawning season, you don’t really buy [wild] salmon and cod. Sustainability is also important. We want to look at the alerts and the fisheries and make sure we are in a situation where we steer clear of fish that is overfished. We subscribe to the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s website — they have good cue cards and choices. 

What challenges do you have with seafood suppliers and distributors?

The challenge is getting suppliers to understand what your needs are and what your quality levels are. If I order grouper, and grouper is not something you would send to me [because it is not looking good that day], put in something to replace it. I’m asking them to make the call for me. Even though I can’t retype the menu on a daily basis, we can communicate the change through our wait staff.

What is popular at your seafood restaurant, Sunset Sam’s Key West Grill?

We serve a great fish and chips and move so much of it. It is very popular at lunch. We are also well known for our fried calamari. We put a few things on the menu to lighten things up, such as a Hot Smoked Salmon Salad with Tomato Basil Vinaigrette. We take a fresh side of salmon, expose it to a certain amount of smoke and finish baking it in the oven. It is a nice, light lunch and flies out the door.


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