Editorial Board   Guest Author

Mr. LaCasce

Russell LaCasce

Executive Chef, Hotel Valley Ho

With a career that spans 20 years, Russell LaCasce is known for his vast culinary knowledge and true love of the craft. As the executive chef of Hotel Valley Ho, he oversees all culinary operations for the hotel, including the OH Pool and OHasis Pool, in-room dining, banquets, catering and the hotel's signature restaurant, ZuZu, which was recently revamped in fall 2019, including a new layout and decor, private dining room, chef station, wine room, and more.

Chef Russell began his culinary career in Charleston, South Carolina as a dishwasher, and quickly found a passion for food and a love for the kitchen. He then spent time learning the service side of restaurants in Park City, Utah, before moving to Scottsdale in 2006. His professional training includes a Culinary Arts Degree from the Arizona Culinary Institute and 10 years working under some of the best chefs in Arizona.

At T. Cook's at the Royal Palms Resort and Spa in Phoenix, Chef Russell worked with Chef Lee Hillson, eventually rising to the position of p.m. sous chef. He joined the renowned Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort and Spa in 2010 as a.m. sous chef and was named executive sous chef in 2011. He worked closely with Beau MacMillan, the resort's executive chef and star of Food Network, before taking the position of executive chef at Hotel Valley Ho in 2017.

Chef Russell is skilled at preparing American, Asian, French and Mediterranean cuisines, and was awarded the Taste of Elegance 2013. His creative eye for menu design and sincere passion for cooking are reflected in the beautiful, seasonal food served at ZuZu.

Please visit http://www.hotelvalleyho.com for more information.

Mr. LaCasce can be contacted at +1 480-248-2007 or rlacasce@hotelvalleyho.com

Coming up in September 2020...

Hotel Group Meetings: Demand vs. Supply

It is a great time for hotel group meetings. It is expected that once again this sector will grow by 5-10% in 2020, partly due to the increasing value of in-person group meetings. Because people now spend so much time in front of their screens, face-to-face interactions have become a more treasured commodity in our modern world. Plus, the use of social media reinforces the value of engagement, discussion, conversation, and networking - all areas where group meetings shine. Despite this rosy outlook, there is a concern that demand for meetings far exceeds the supply of suitable venues and hotels. There are very few "big box" properties with 500-plus rooms and extensive conference facilities being built, and this shortage of inventory could pose a serious challenge for meeting planners. In addition to location concerns, the role of the meeting planner has also evolved significantly. Planners are no longer just meeting coordinators - they are de facto travel agents. Cultural interactions, local dining, experiential travel, and team-building activities are all now a part of their meeting mix. Plus, they have to cater to evolving tastes. Millennials are insisting on healthier venues and activities, and to meet their demands, hotels are making yoga breaks, fresh-pressed juices, plant-based diets, state-of-the-art gyms, and locally-sourced menus available. Millennials are also insisting that meeting venues practice Corporate Social Responsibility, which means upholding sustainable and ethical values; investment in the local community; health and well-being of employees; and general business practices that reflect being good citizens of the planet. Finally, there is a growing trend to merge meetings with other local events, such as music festivals, sporting events, and cultural attractions. The December Hotel Business Review will report on issues relevant to group meetings and will document what some hotels are doing to support this part of their operations.