CANVAS Food and Lab Concept Rolls Out Worldwide Beginning at the Irvine Marriott

Manhattan Cocktail Marriott Irvine. Photo by Ed Simon for the Los Angeles Beat.A refreshing new concept is on the way to making one local restauranteur very happy, as JW Marriott rolls out their CANVAS Food and Lab concept internationally, starting with the Irvine Marriott and the Shenzen (China) Marriott. Locally, Marriott held a meet and greet last week to present two of the candidates, owners of the popular food truck Chomp Chomp Nation Robert Zuetell and Gina Galvan, along with Walter El Nagar, owner of the pop-up restaurant Barbershop Ristorante.

The concept is simple; Marriott is interviewing would-be restauranteurs for the locations. Over 30 applicants alone are on the books for the Irvine location, whose finalists will be announced this week. After going through the selection process and a cooking audition, the winning team will be provided with $50,000 of investment money and a location on the ground floor of the Irvine Marriott. There, they will be mentored by Marriott’s food and beverage experts and create the restaurant of their dreams. Meanwhile, Marriott’s designers will design the space to fit the selected restaurant’s concept. After that, they will open it to the public. In six months, the concept will be evaluated by experts for popularity and return on investment. Ultimately, Marriott hopes to roll out the CANVAS concept throughout the entire chain.

Gina Galvan, of the Chomp Chomp Nation, said “I’m just honored to be considered in this amazing incubator for Marriott. Marriott, to me, is a world-class brand that really means excellence. I think it was a surprise to me to find out that the roots of Marriott started with very simple things, good hospitality and good customer service and knowing what that can do. And knowing that in a very short amount of time, the Marriott has become what it is today, which is the leader in food and beverage hospitality. They are considered the top; the elite. So I am honored to be here and I know that along every step of the way they will be patient and it will be a great way to grow our brand organically. With Marriott, this will be a wonderful opportunity”.

Robert Zuetell and Gina Galvan. Photo by Ed Simon for The Los Angeles Beat. Chomp Chomp Nation is looking towards a variation of their truck’s cuisine, combining elements of Singaporean, Filipino and other Southeast Asian cuisines to come up with dishes that will titillate the taste buds. Meanwhile, Walter El Nagar is looking forward to bringing fresh Italian items to his concept. Items that are unknown in the U.S. But traditional in Walter’s featured Milanese cooking, such as a sea urchin sauce, a specialty of coastal Italy. Walter plans to use fresh ingredients and local specialties to create delicious yet affordable Italian cuisine.

Marriott’s concept is more than just helping start some new restaurants. Their idea is to start from the bottom up, creating locally relevant, distinctive food and beverage experiences. They hope that the CANVAS model will deliver concepts much more quickly than the current hotel industry model. “We believe the key ingredient of CANVAS is to marry the best ideas of local entrepreneurs with Marriott’s resources, space and capital that will transform ambition into action right inside our hotels,” said Wolfgang Lindlbauer, global leader, Food & Beverage. “Just like travel, food and drink experiences today are about indulgence and discovery for modern travelers and local clientele alike, to savor, enjoy and share.”

Marriott also used the event as an opportunity to show that while embracing the new, they have not forgotten the old traditions that they started with. They featured an excellent Manhattan, made the traditional way, with their expert bartender demonstrating the skills needed as he mixed the Manhattan and also a delicious Old Fashioned.

Another idea Marriott has incorporated into this concept is using mass media to document it. Documentary-style webisodes will follow the winner’s journey, from selection to dream to the challenges of creating their restaurant to the joy of opening night and their interaction with their first guests. This will also appeal to a new generation of customers that Marriott wants to appeal to, those who believe in local cuisine and culture and consider it a pivotal role in both their business and social traveling.

Ultimately, this will be a win-win for everyone. Marriott will bet some great new restaurant concepts that can ultimately be used at other locations, some up and coming restauranteurs will get the chance of a lifetime to make their dream a reality and both local residents and visiting guests will get a chance to try some truly unique new restaurants. And who doesn’t like that?

Ed Simon

About Ed Simon

Ed is a native of Los Angeles who loves food and food cultures. Whether he's looking for the best ceviche in Colombia, the best poke in Hawaii, the best tequila in Jalisco, the best Bun bo Hue in Vietnam or the best Taiwanese Beef Roll in Los Angeles, it's all good food! He also loves a good drink. He's had Mai Tais in Hawaii, Bourbon in Kentucky, Tequila in Mexico and Rum in Jamaica. His wine escapades have taken him to Napa, Sonoma, the Willamette Valley and the Santa Ynez Valley. And he's had beer all over the world! Music is another of Ed's passion, writing and interviewing many classic rock, rock and blues musicians. Getting the great stories of road experiences from them is a particular delight. Traveling also fits in with Ed's writing, exploring all over to find the most interesting places to visit, even in out of the way areas.
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