Pursuitist presents our Q&A with Andrea Azara (Executive Assistant Manager, Food and Beverage at The Peninsula Chicago). Named one of the top luxury hotels in Chicago, renown luxury travel expert Christopher Parr interviews Mr. Azara as the celebrated Peninsula property celebrates 20 years of luxurious travel and dining experiences on Michigan Avenue.
Mr. Andrea Azara oversees the entire food & beverage operation at the five-star hotel, including kitchen operations, banquets, The Lobby and Shanghai Terrace restaurants, Z Bar as well as In- Room Dining. This interview was conducted in July of 2021; services, culinary offers and amenities may’ve changed since we’ve talked. Please visit The Peninsula Chicago website for the latest up-to-date offerings from the property.
Christopher Parr, Q. As The Peninsula Chicago turns 20, how is the culinary team celebrating?
Andrea Azara, A. Reaching this milestone is meaningful on multiple levels for our team. Not only has most of our food and beverage team worked for The Peninsula Chicago for a number of years, but they have also developed relationships with our guests during their tenure and continue to find unique ways to surprise and delight our visitors. Many of our guests return regularly due to the connection and relationships they have built with our staff.
Taking Care of our Communities: Commencing July 2020 through June 2021, The Peninsula Hotels has provided a meal for a meal donation for a person in need for every meal purchased at each hotel. This was arranged to benefit each hotel community’s primary food bank. In the US, the beneficiary is the local food bank affiliated with the national organization, Feeding America. At The Peninsula Chicago, this donation represents more than 26,000 meals provided to people in need in the last year.
In honor of the hotel’s 20th Anniversary, for every purchase of a ‘culinary classic’ menu item, anniversary dim sum appetizer and ThePen20 cocktail, the hotel is donating to provide a meal for a person in need July through December 2021. This donation is expected to provide an additional 20,000 meals from the extended donation.
Q. How has the culinary and dining experiences defined luxury in Chicago?
A. One example of how The Peninsula Chicago has defined luxury in a culinary experience in Chicago is surrounding how we celebrate various holidays with our elaborate brunches. Our team creates a different theme for each brunch and then brings that vision to life through décor and cuisine. We have families that come for every holiday–it has become their family tradition. The next generation looks forward to their annual holiday celebrations at The Peninsula Chicago.
Multiple chef stations include seafood, Chinese cuisine, cheeses and charcuterie, salads, and desserts. There are lavish touches including lobster, caviar, and truffles that take it over the top. The décor is elaborate and live entertainment is provided.
Q. As you look back at 20 years, why was it important for The Peninsula Chicago to create the program that supports the The Greater Chicago Food Depository?
A. The Peninsula Chicago has been giving back to the local community for 20 years. We have a variety of charities we support that benefit children, the under privileged, the elderly, build awareness for cancer and more.
Being in the hospitality industry, we are familiar with the challenges of people in need. Providing food is a part of Peninsula’s DNA; it is natural for us to take care of people with food. Due to the pandemic, it became evident this was even more important. The national chapter, Feeding America is based here in Chicago. Our local chapter, Greater Chicago Food Depository is part of this national organization.
Q. What’s your favorite item on the menu within Peninsula Chicago?
A. Shanghai Terrace’s Happy Red Rice with pistachio, ginger, garden vegetables and eggs. I love this menu item because the vegetables are cut in very small pieces, the crunch from the nuts gives it great texture and the ginger flavor mixed in with the red rice provides an earthy flavor to the dish. It’s very comforting. It reminds me of my time working at The Peninsula Shanghai.
Thank you, Mr. Andrea Azara, for talking with Pursuitist as the celebrated luxury hotel Peninsula Chicago turns 20. Congratulations to your entire culinary team and staff for exceptional service for over 20 years. (Also read: The Peninsula Chicago Review)