NEW YORK and PHILADELPHIA—As the flag of the Vatican was raised at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City in the early morning hours of Friday, September 25, 2015, a large team of CulinArt Group managers, chefs, kitchen staff and servers were already hard at work within the multi-building complex on this second day of the UN General Assembly. Prior to His formal address to the largest gathering of presidents and prime ministers ever at the United Nations, Pope Francis took time to publicly thank the vast number of UN employees, calling them “in many ways, the backbone of this organization.” He made specific mention of the “cooks,” which was an early indication of just how much the Pontiff appreciates quality food and first-rate hospitality.
On Saturday, September 26, the Papal delegation departed NYC en route to Philadelphia, where Pope Francis concluded His six-day Apostolic Journey in the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection. Here, CulinArt Group had the remarkable opportunity to not only, once again, meet the Pontiff face-to-face, but the prodigious fortune to prepare and serve Pope Francis and the Papal delegation not one, but four meals at Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania. A CulinArt client since 2010, Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary is a rich resource of priestly formation and theological instruction for religious and lay men and women throughout the United States.
With the New York team still fast at work on the events surrounding the UN General Assembly, CulinArt’s Philadelphia region managers, chefs and staff, under the expert guise and supervision of Harry Williamson and Joseph Salvato, prepared and served lunch and dinner for the delegation on Saturday, September 26 followed by breakfast and lunch on Sunday, September 27.
Weeks of advance preparation, menu planning and meetings with representatives of The World Meeting of Families, including private tastings with members of the Papal delegation, provided CulinArt with the insight needed to create menus befitting the worldwide leader of the Catholic Church. CulinArt’s menus focused on fresh local ingredients and were presented with the perfect balance of familiarity and refinement. “He is a simple man and his diet is simple,” said event producer Fred Stein of the Creative Group, which oversaw much of the Pope’s visit. “When He’s at the Vatican he eats with everyone else at the cafeteria buffet.” Thus, it was important to CulinArt that the Pontiff’s meals were distinguished yet comfortable.
CulinArt Group received many warm accolades following Pope Francis’s stay at Saint Charles. Donna Farrell, executive director for the World Meeting of Families, shared with Williamson, assistant vice president for CulinArt Group, “You and your team did a phenomenal job. It was absolutely incredible.” Stephen P. Dolan Jr., Chief Financial Officer of Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary, who wished he could thank each and every participating CulinArt Group team individually, stated, “We appreciated all you and your staff did for us this weekend. I don’t know how this could have been done any better. The guys and ladies you had here this weekend are a true tribute to CulinArt. They were all so gracious and welcoming and always with a smile. I know everyone worked long hours and they still were smiling yesterday. Please tell each of them how much we appreciated what they did for us.” Perhaps the greatest accolade of all came from Vatican secretary of state Cardinal Pietro Parolin, who told Williamson, “I hope you do the food service in heaven.”
We at CulinArt Group are extremely proud to have shared in Pope Francis’ historic visit to the United States. We are equally proud of our team members in New York and Pennsylvania, who represented themselves and their company so extraordinarily well.