Sands Confidential

Las Vegas Sands Chefs Focus on Global Sustainable Food Initiatives

As a leader in sustainability through its award-winning global sustainability program, Sands ECO360, Las Vegas Sands’ properties around the world have adopted sustainable food practices in all of their kitchens.  Emphasizing the use of locally sourced foods, chefs throughout the company aim to create seasonal menus, catering to guests, Team Members and conference attendees.

“Healthy menus actually happened naturally, with requests from guests, attendees, and Team Members who have become much more health-conscious and aware of their choices than in the past,” Chef Emmanuel Zoppas, Sands Expo and Convention Center executive chef, said.  “It became a trend for chefs to also be more conscious when developing the menus.  We have done that by searching for better, but yet still cost effective ingredients.  We use seasonal vegetables and fruits, wild caught fish versus farm raised or fish species that are being over-fished in the ocean.  We also use dairy products made with milk coming from farms that practice responsible farming.”

Along with healthy menus, Chef Zoppas was integral in the introduction of Chefs to End Hunger, a nonprofit program organized by vendors, where they supply a case kit that gets filled with chilled left over food.  The food is then picked up daily and delivered to the Las Vegas Rescue Mission.  Another initiative is the water wise menu, developed using ingredients that are produced with water conservation in mind. For example using chicken, where 16 gallons of water are used to produce one ounce, versus beef, where 106 gallons of water produce one ounce. 

“That doesn’t mean that we are not using beef on our menu, we are just reducing the beef serving size and increasing the serving size of water wise vegetables to also help in our effort to preserve water,” Zoppas said.  “Living in the desert for the past 16 years, and knowing that it takes 1,000 gallons of water a day per person to produce the food and drinks in the average US diet and keeping up with the industry trends, this idea also kind of came naturally.”

Sands Expo also participated in the Blended Burger Project, an annual contest organized by The James Beard Foundation, to make burgers better by blending ground meat with chopped mushrooms, in an effort to conserve water, combined with the effort in producing and promoting healthier and more sustainable food in a convention center environment. Sands Expo finished first in Nevada and 10th overall in the nation.  Developing menus and programs that are environmentally friendly and healthy has taken over the kitchens in Las Vegas, with these efforts reducing food waste by 25% in 2017, and currently on track to reduce it by 30% in 2018.  Chef Olivier Dubreuil, executive chef of Culinary Operations and Banquets at The Venetian, The Palazzo and Sands Expo says they are not being revolutionary or trendy. 

“It’s becoming a new lifestyle for people as we are more aware what we put in our bodies to nourish them,” he said.  “Working with various clients and sharing trends with them helps us to educate the guests and grow their palate.  Ninety percent of our banquet menus are custom designed and it is partly our job to guide the guests towards their choices.  With the honest food program, we try to find the best quality product at the best price, while understanding that the product needs to be sustainable and as   free trade as possible to reduce our footprint.  Sometimes it is better to pay a little more for a high-quality product that can stand alone so that in the end we conserve and save money.”

With the reduction of frozen goods and canned good usage by 80 percent, the properties in Las Vegas have developed healthier menus by producing more food in-house and working with local vendors to develop customized products that are made fresh daily to specifications and recipes.   Using smaller, family owned businesses allows the chefs to create a clear path from farm to table that is appealing to guests and the company’s bottom line.  At Sands Expo, the team is working on ‘a la minute’ preparation, which is finished when the guest arrives, guaranteeing a fresher product and limited waste, and also working on eating patterns and developing reports for each group to track consumption to help determine behavior and allows for better production management to control waste for repeat business. At Marina Bay Sands in Singapore, Chef William Tan at RISE, says waste is one of the key goals for the property and its guests. 

“We are trying our best to let our guests understand the importance of sustainability,” he said.  “I also want to lead Food and Beverage in their use of sustainable seafood to help improve the environment for the next generation.  There isn’t much of a savings and we actually pay more to encourage and support more farmers to go into a sustainable program.  Some of the foods we receive may be different than what we normally cook, but for us, we find the best way to cook it and present the product, which is the most important thing as a chef.”

Tan believes creating a better environment for the next generation is as important as maintaining ocean resources, since it is under tremendous strain, leaving few seafood species available and causing extinction.  Sustainable sourcing is equally important to Chef Alen Chow, executive chef for Convention Catering at The Venetian Macao.  He says pricing and sourcing are his biggest challenges, but says green options are growing in popularity and regionally support helps in the mission as well. 

“Supporting the property to achieve green operations is important to all of us,” Chow said.  “We are providing green menus for our convention clients, which has been recognized by our MICE clients and also awarded us a Green Supplier Award and Macao Green Hotel Award.  We also focus on all aspects beside food items, such as disposable tableware, reducing the use of water bottles, low-sugar desserts, light oil cooking, enhancing sous vide cooking, and linen less catering.”

Training and daily discussions are a constant reminder for support and Team Member engagement. For all of the properties worldwide, the implementation of green events and initiatives is an obligation for protecting the environment. 

“The best definition of sustainability comes from the UN World Commission on Environment and Development, which states ‘development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’,” Zoppas said.  “I think that explains perfectly why it is important to practice sustainability, not only in our kitchens but in our daily routines. It is very important to practice sustainability in our kitchen due to the volumes of food that we prepare on a daily basis.  We also have the opportunity to reach out to a lot of Team Members and guests, who might be motivated to pursue these same goals.”