Deliciously Artful Group Tours
The Cleveland Museum of Art Creates Customized Group Tour Menus Centered Around Popular Artwork
By Lexi Hotchkiss
Without a doubt, the Cleveland Museum of Art stands as one of Cleveland’s most prominent and beloved visitor destinations. On top of receiving free admission to its permanent galleries featuring 45,000 works of art ranging from everything from Dali to Picasso, museumgoers are also treated to high-tech interactive programming, as well as a whole host of traveling exhibitions covering Rembrandt, Van Gogh and more.
So, it’s no surprise that this historic University Circle institution just earned the distinction of being rated the second best museum in the United States by Business Insider Magazine.
It probably goes without saying, but we could wax poetic about the depth, breadth and pricelessness of the art collection curated within the 590,000-square-foot facility.
But, if you’re the mastermind behind planning and operating a group tour, you’re likely interested in some of the museum’s additional amenities — namely the food. Go to any major destination museum and tour operators are met with endless run-of-the-mill food and catering options.
But what if the food inside these institutions was just as beautiful and inviting as the art itself?
That’s the idea at CMA, where Chef Doug Katz leads the culinary team. Yes… we said "culinary team."
Katz is a mainstay of Cleveland’s award-winning food scene. He’s also the owner of the wildly popular fire, food and drink in Shaker Square. His unabashed love of local, seasonal flavors combined with his appreciation of art make him the perfect pairing with CMA.
In 2012, 11 years after opening fire food & drink, Katz teamed up with CMA to overhaul the museum's food options. Provenance restaurant, café and catering follows fire's lead by offering fresh, seasonal and local food.
“Between Bon Appetite Management Company, the Cleveland Museum of Art and myself, we’re all focused on invigorating the guest experience. It’s hard to find museums who put this much effort into trying to make that entire experience feel so special,” Chef Katz said.
Within the museum’s eateries, visitors have the opportunity to try dishes and menus that have been created to mirror the artwork.
“Throughout our restaurant menus, we offer a ‘Taste the Art' pre-fix menu in which we’re always highlighting a new exhibition,” Katz said.
For instance, during a traveling exhibition featuring Monet, Katz developed a special menu that showcased the artist’s love of painting gardens and greenscapes.
“The menu featured edible flowers and herbs that you might find in one of Monet’s garden pieces. We created a lemon lavender cake, which you could imagine experiencing within one of his paintings,” he said.
But, that commitment to artfully prepared food doesn’t stop with just traditional visitors to the museum’s restaurants. Katz and CMA’s group sales team will work directly with tour operators on creating customized food/art experiences.
“Maybe a group wants to really study an impressionist still-life painting. I would look within the painting to see the possibilities. If it’s fruits or a hunting scene, I could focus the food around what tastes might come out of that painting. Or, I might focus on the colors of the painting. If there are bright purples and oranges, I could prepare some beautiful beets and fresh carrots,” Katz said.
Then, the team would connect the group with one of the museum’s many docents who provide in-depth art analysis and lead discussions about featured artwork.
“There’s a painting called The Bee Tree by Frank Wilcox in which a whole village is surrounding a beehive. We could do a docent-led tour of this painting and then serve tea with local honey afterwards. Or, I could do a demo in which I showcase the many ways you can use honey in your cooking.”
“We are really open to creative custom menus and experiences based on what the group it interested in,” Katz said. “We can find the proper expert on the art, too.”
And, CMA’s culinary team is no stranger to hosting groups of all sizes.
According to Katz, “We’ve done 900-person sit-down dinners, banquets for 200-600 people and even private meals for groups of just 24 people.”
So, dear tour operators, say goodbye to rubber chicken dinners and questionable boxed lunch options. And say hello to locally sourced, thoughtfully curated culinary offerings for all tastes and budgets at the Cleveland Museum of Art.
For more information on these delicious group tour offerings, contact Jane Tougouma, group tour sales manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 216.875.6607.