I don’t even want to talk about my trip to Atlanta last weekend. It was definitely one of the worst travel experiences I’ve had recently.
My colleagues and I were running a conference for students from several Southern states, and we had a difficult time finding a hotel that could accommodate our needs that was near downtown Atlanta. Unfortunately, the Hotel Capitol Park was not the right choice. I’ve had some amazing vegan and gluten-free meals in Atlanta, and I have learned not to make assumptions about any region of the country.
Hotels are a different story. I have had so many miserable meals in hotels – I don’t know where these chefs are trained, but it seems like they are universally confounded by the concept of non-animal protein. Also, seasoning a vegetable seems to be entirely beyond their ability.
Case in point: when we talked with the staff of the Capitol Park about our need for some vegan and vegetarian meals, we were told that they could offer these meals, but couldn’t give us any information about what the meals might be, because that is at the “discretion of the chef,” so.
Not having control of my food options for an entire weekend is a recipe for disaster. Being responsible for about 20 other people’s food as well adds an extra level of stress. And the hotel managed to screw up nearly every meal, but most especially the vegan ones.
The photo at left is the lunch they served on Friday afternoon, and the photo at right is the dinner. Notable similarities are the lack of any carbohydrate or protein. And that they’re basically the meal. Awesome. Thanks, guys. I mean…do we not have access to a food pyramid? Or the internet? Or a dictionary? Vegetarians don’t just eat vegetables! And if you’re going to charge $25 per person for these meals, maybe you could do a little research?
I also made some food suggestions during the planning process, and specifically said I wanted to make sure that the vegetarians got more to eat than vegetables.
But I guess…at least they were cooked? (I’ve been served raw tofu at more than one hotel.) The story the banquet department gave us is that they never heard about our needs or requests and were totally unprepared to feed vegetarians or vegans on the first day. For day 2, the chef personally went out to purchase tofu and made us a stir fry with onions and peppers. It was a really nice gesture, even though the quality of the food wasn’t good.
It is really hard to stay focused and get work done when you’re not being adequately fed. And it was so frustrating to watch the vegetarians and vegans feel like they weren’t being taken care of throughout the weekend. I always travel with oatmeal packets, bagels and a couple boxes of granola bars, and this weekend, I actually finished off my entire stash of food, because this was so terrible.
There were other screw ups over the course of the weekend – and even though the staff moved quickly to try to make up for them, all of them could have been prevented.
I was also sick the entire weekend; I’m pretty sure at least some of the vegetables were cooked in butter…and I wasn’t always able to get upstairs to grab a bagel to make sure I had soluble fiber with each meal. And I shouldn’t have had to. Seriously, you guys. I organize a lot of conferences – like three or four every year. And this was the worst hotel I’ve worked with. I guess I’m just venting…but I really can’t understand why my dietary needs are so confusing for someone who ostensibly has culinary training. Especially when I manage to feed myself three times a day, 365 days a year for waaaaaaay less than $25 per meal.
Anyway, if you’re headed to Atlanta in the near future, stay anywhere but the Capitol Park. And if you have any tips for working with hotels to accommodate dietary restrictions, I would love to hear them.