My Best Meeting Moment by Mirela Bejan, Director of Event Management, JW Marriott Bucharest Grand Hotel

British Invasion

The JW Marriott Bucharest events staff's Shakespeare-inspired fete

GOAL: Put together a Shakespeare-style garden party fit for the queen 

With less than one month’s notice, we received a request from the British Embassy to put together a proposal for Queen Elizabeth’s birthday party—a summer evening garden party for 1,000 guests. The theme was very specific—commemorating the life and work of Shakespeare, as 2016 marked the 400th anniversary of the famous playwright’s death. The menu specifically called for food items inspired by Shakespeare’s plays with a strong touch of that century’s flavors, yet suitable for the consumption of a vast majority of guests, and therefore mixed with international dishes. Easy enough, right? 

I joined forces with the hotel’s executive chef, Nicolae Lica, to research and immerse ourselves in 16th- and 17th-century culinary records, looking at which style of food was prepared during Shakespeare’s time, and what favorites from back then had evolved into today’s classics. We decided to create a British-style menu, with a Shakespearean touch, by naming the live stations after his plays or characters. For example, the welcome canapés were titled “As You Like It” and featured items such as Stilton mousse on rye bread, while our live beef, steak and kidney station was called “To Beef or Not to Beef,” and the cheese station was labeled “The Merry Wives of Windsor.” For dessert, a table marked “All’s Well That Ends Well,” served chocolate cake with raspberry baked in front of the guests. We also made sure to include favorites such as bubble and squeak cakes, fish and chips, shepherd’s pie and bread and butter pudding.

We decided to create a British-style menu, with a Shakespearean touch, by naming the live stations after his plays or characters.

When we invited the client in for a menu tasting, we decided to extend the theme into the décor—we incorporated Union Jack flags into the buffet labels and added small frames featuring Shakespeare quotes. We even crafted Pimm’s lemonade— the beverage the embassy wanted to showcase at the event itself—as a welcome drink. Our presentation took the client by surprise, and we knew they were happy from the moment they stepped into the tasting room. 

The event itself was held at an exclusive location in Bucharest belonging to the National Bank, which featured an ample yard with beautiful lawns and trees lit up for the evening. We decorated the buffet stations with the Union Jack flags, and our florist used seasonal flowers arranged in tea pottery reminiscent of classic British 5 o’clock teatime. Oversize printed quotes from Shakespeare’s plays added an authentic touch to the buffet decoration, educating guests about the playwright, his characters and his works. 

The event had its challenges: It happened on a very hot day, and there was no professional cooling room at the event location, so our timing had to be perfect in terms of when to unload the food and when to start our setup. And because this was an event for the queen, security checks were intense and frequent. Luckily, we had great banquet captains, and we had volunteers from different hotel departments who joined in and helped. In the end, it was almost like a team-building activity—full of fun, positive energy!