Sear executive chef Renato Gerena is a Johnson and Wales grad who has spent over 22 years with Marriott Hotels. In Atlanta, he’s incorporating ingredients from local Georgia and nearby Southeastern farms in a “fire-inspired” menu that includes a 22-ounce Joyce Farms cowboy rib-eye, and a hefty, Sear-branded Thompson Farms pork chop.
But in addition to the meat, you’ll find the likes of pan-seared diver scallops with celeriac puree, Swiss chard, popped sorghum, and shichimi-togarashi, and harissa-roasted winter veggies with lime labneh, crushed hazelnuts, and pea shoots salad.
Last week, Gerena sat down with Reggie Jack, the director of restaurants for the Atlanta Marriott Marquis, to talk about the new direction of Sear.
“We’re taking a little different approach with using local farms for our steaks from Georgia, and Alabama and North Carolina, as well,” Gerena said. “And we’re using a lot of local purveyors for our produce. As we get into the spring and summer, you’ll see more of that.
“We also have an Urban Cultivator at our expo area, where we’re actually growing our own greens, and we use it to garnish our appetizers and entrees fresh from the line. So that’s something pretty unique that we have here.”
Speaking of unique, Gerena is particularly proud of the least expensive item on the dinner menu, the Chef’s House Butter Bread, which is served with Marquis Honey Butter, produced from honey harvested from hives in the hotel’s rooftop garden.
“We have about 50,000 working bees on the roof,” he said. “We take the honey and incorporate it into local Banner Butter. We serve that with our soft, house-made, pull-apart bread, and house-made seasonal jam, or like right now, apple butter.”
Still, along with that fresh and local approach, Gerena said it’s always a daily challenge to meet the demands of a hotel restaurant, overseeing a kitchen that must serve breakfast, lunch and dinner daily and provide room service.
“It is challenging,” he said. “Through the menu, we kind of touch all different areas, with proteins and seafood, and salads and vegetarian dishes. We actually have a great cauliflower steak that we serve to cater to vegetarians who are coming to a steakhouse but don’t want to eat steak. We have fun with that. And there’s a little of everything for everyone, with oysters, fish, chicken and more.”
“We just really, truly want to bring the level of service here to a point that isn’t fussy, but is still great,” Jack said. “Hopefully, the combination of the great food and the service will keep people coming back.
“Also, our cocktail program is evolving right now. We’re bringing on a lot of high-end cocktails, and we want to be known for our classic cocktails. We want people to come to Atlanta and say, you have to go to Sear Bar to have the Old Fashioned.”
“In Atlanta, over the past five years or so that I’ve worked here, the culinary scene has really improved,” Gerena said. “So we need to keep up with that. A lot more people are a lot more educated about what they eat, and really want to know where it’s coming from.
“As chefs, we’re going to touch the tables, and talk to the guests, and see what they’re looking for, and elaborate a little bit more on their experience. I really enjoy that.”
265 Peachtree Center Ave. NE, Atlanta. 404-586-6134, marriott.com/hotel-restaurants/atlmq-atlanta-marriott-marquis/sear/125773/home-page.mi.
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