Ever wondered who’s responsible for all that delicious food that magically appears in between sessions. And what makes them tick? In the first of a new series, James Lancaster meets…
Executive Chef Mark J. Massicotte at Vancouver Convention Centre
What do you have for breakfast?
I rarely eat breakfast. But if there is an occasion that I do, I would have steak and eggs or French Canadian-style crepes with Aunt Jemima syrup (this has been a go-to of mine since I was a little kid.)
What are the main challenges of working for a convention centre?
Space and storage are always a challenge for facilities at this scale, especially given that conventions centres are typically built for delegate meeting space first and back-of-the-house second. Fridge space, equipment storage, and servicing areas all take up premium real estate. Here our kitchen space was a priority in the initial design so for the most part we are able to avoid this issue.
What’s the biggest conference you’ve had to cater for?
In 2013, I went to Washington, D.C. to support their convention centre’s culinary team on a plated meal for 16,000 guests.
How did you land your current job?
My wife and I moved to Vancouver in 2005, and I worked as a waiter until I could find the perfect job. At the time, my wife knew the VP of Sales and Marketing at the Vancouver Convention Centre who mentioned that they were looking for a sous chef. I applied and got the job, and a few years later I was promoted to the Executive Sous Chef position. After some time in that role, I was promoted again to Chef de Cuisine. Finally, in January of 2017 I was promoted to Executive Chef.
What’s your USP?
How calm I am in the kitchen. It’s important to me to avoid getting stressed so I can be a better leader for my team. No one wants to follow someone they can’t rely on – I know I wouldn’t!
What was your first job?
Making pizza dough at a large pizza restaurant when I was 15.
What has been the most unusual request in your career?
A customer who insisted on having their braised lamb shank rare, which I would say is impossible!
What’s your favourite restaurant in the world?
Right now, Lokanda Devetak 1870 in in Italy and Yat Lok, a roast goose restaurant in Hong Kong.
What annoys you most about the catering industry?
When a client asks us to create a menu that can pair up with abstract themes such as ‘Space’ or ‘Air’. It’s not impossible, but it’s tough to come up with enough food ideas to make it interesting.
My favourite is butter. It’s something I can’t do without. Worst? I’ve eaten cold pig’s lungs before, which many would find unappetizing (including me) - but I would have them before kidneys!
AMI editor James
Lancaster is a familiar face in the meetings industry and international
association community. Since joining AMI in 2010, he has gained a reputation
for asking difficult questions and getting lost in convention centres. Proofer, podcaster, and panellist - in his spare time, James likes to walk,
read, listen to music, and drink beer.