Full disclosure: Microsoft is a client so there may be slight bias to this review.
Lunch can make or break a conference. Not enough food and delegates can spiral into a hunger-fuelled state of absent-mindedness. The wrong sort of food, and the conference sessions become a chorus of rumbling bellies and upset stomachs. Getting the culinary concoction correct is key to a constructive conference.
Last week saw approximately 2000 IT pros and developers converge upon Auckland’s SKYCITY Convention Centre for Microsoft’s annual TechEd conference. The Corporate Lunchbox was on the scene sampling some of the city’s best mass-produced cuisine.
Feeding 2000 hungry delegates is no mean feat so buffet stations were set up around the TechEd Marketplace (exhibition space), which cut down queue times.
Beating the Buffet
A pre-lunch reconnaissance pass of each station is essential to get the lay of the land. Knowing which stations will be offering which foods will save unnecessary queuing time and ensures your preferences and tastes are satisfied. Greater awareness of the upcoming dishes on each station also prevents overloading on the front end of the buffet – a classic buffet mistake – and guarantees there’ll be room on your plate for the good stuff at the end.
The selection on offer each day was outstanding with dishes to suit a range of dietary requirements and taste preferences – see menus below. While there were familiar sandwiches and desserts each day for the more unadventurous, each day offered new and exciting lunch possibilities.
Day 1 lunch
I made the call to go with the mixed mesclun salad, roasted Mediterranean vegetables with the salmon fillet. As far as mass-cooked salmon goes, I was pleasantly surprised at the high quality, flavoursome and juicy salmon fillets. Overall rating 7/10
Day 2 lunch
I went with the roast beef medallions, rocket with shaved parmesan, salmon and green bean salad. The medallions exceeded expectation, while they were not five-star restaurant quality, the chef had done a damn good job producing succulent medium cooked (safe for a large crowd) cuts of beef. Overall rating: 6.5/10
Day 3 lunch
Fried foods dominated my plate on the final day. Fish and chips, mini pies and cornish pasties were all I required. I’m not going to over-analyse these – they were deliciously unhealthy. Overall rating 7/10
All in all, New Zealand’s premiere technology conference came to the party with premiere large group catering to suit a range of tastes and diets. It was well catered, there were no shortages on any of the food items. Feedback from most delegates I spoke to confirmed that this conference food hit the spot.
Overall rating: 7/10
Day 1 selection
Delegates were greeted with a selection of wraps and baguettes, as well as a selection of soups.
The salad station included mixed mesclun & mixed herb salad, roasted Mediterranean vegetable salad, potato and golden kumara salad with horseradish mayonnaise.
A Mexican station provided quesadillas, tacos and tortillas filled with chicken, beef or vegetables and beans.
The hot dishes on offer included salmon fillet on bed of creamy leeks and whole grain mustard sauce, crispy pork with a sweet and sour sauce, and vegetable lasagne.
This was followed by french crepes with Nutella, a selection of petit cakes, and fresh seasonal fruit for dessert.
Day 2 selection
The familiar selection of wraps and baguettes were on offer again.
Day two’s salad station featured a classic Greek salad, peppery fresh rocket with shaved parmesan and verjuice, pasta with semidried tomato, olives, anchovy & fried capers, as well as smoked salmon and green bean salad with sesame seed dressing.
The Mexican was out and Thai street food was in with grilled sate and wok fried noodles.
Hot options included roast beef medallions with a beetroot relish, chicken paella, vegetable samosas with Indian vegetable ragout, as well as a mushroom or a seafood risotto.
Delegates were treated to a waffle and gelato bar with three flavours and crushed nuts for dessert, to go with the petit cakes and fruit.
Day 3 selection
Sandwich station – as above.
Salad lovers could select from pasta with semidried tomato, queen olives, anchovy and fried capers; potato and golden kumara salad with horseradish mayonnaise chorizo, bean and roasted red pepper
Indian street food was the flavour of day three, with tandoori kebob, salmon, chicken, paneer and vegetable.
Hot foods: battered gurnard with chunky fries – also known as fish and chips, mini pies, cornish pasties, vegetables with preserved Israeli lemon couscous.
Dessert came in the form a candy bar (lollies and pick and mix) with the petit cakes and fruit.