Women Deliver 2013

Executing numerous quality dining events on time is a challenge for Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre, but the venue rises to the occasion, discovers S Puvaneswary

Women Deliver 2013, hailed as the decade’s largest meeting focused on women’s health and empowerment, boasted a gathering of more than 3,500 attendees when it took place at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre in Malaysia.

The event utilised the entire Centre, featuring more than 100 sessions led by some of the world’s leading voices on girls’ and women’s issues such as Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Chelsea Clinton, board member of the Clinton Foundation; Babatunde Osotimehin, executive director of the United Nations Population Foundation; and Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Malaysian prime minister, Mohd Najib Abdul Razak, led the opening ceremony.

Due to the high-profile attendees, security was tight and only delegates were allowed entry into the venue.

Besides the security issue, the biggest challenge the Centre faced during the conference was the need to cater for numerous dining events on time.
Describing the complexity of operations, executive chef Richmond Lim, said:  “On the first day, we had to cater breakfast for the partner’s programme. It involved five different menus at five locations over two floors. In the evening, we had to cater 15 cocktails, all happening at the same time over two floors.”

As the same meeting venues were being used for back-to-back cocktail functions, the Centre’s staff had less than 30 minutes to transform layouts.

Lim said: “On the second day, we had to cater 16 breakfasts and come evening, we did seven cocktails and a street fair for dinner. We offered a variety of local dishes, including satay, for 3,500 delegates. It was a challenge to serve up 18,400 sticks of grilled satay and keep them hot while retaining moisture during the course of the dinner.

“Our kitchens were kept busy preparing 1,700 lunch boxes of different menus daily, each comprising a main course, salad and dessert as well as muesli bars and apples on the go. These were for delegates who attended lunch seminars. At the same time, in two exhibition halls, we had to deliver standing buffets for 1,800 delegates every day,” said Lim.

To cope with the F&B requirements, 51 full-time chefs worked almost round the clock and a pool of casual labour was utilised to help out in the kitchens, move food items to various venues and set up venues for meetings and breaks.

According to Lim, months of planning went into F&B logistics. He said: “We had to ensure that the food was always delivered on time and at the right temperature. We also had to be sensitive to the dietary requirements of delegates from 149 countries. Understanding that everyone has their own preference, we opted for a combination approach, offering a variety of local and international fare as well as vegetarian and gluten-free options.”

Deputy general manager Alan Pryor added that the Centre took an innovative approach to lunch service.

A standing lunch was provided for 1,800 delegates across four exhibition halls, allowing delegates the opportunity to network and continue browsing the exhibition booths.

Jill Sheffield, president of Women Deliver, commented: “It was the perfect venue for our meeting (and we achieved) wonderful outcomes.”

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