Sugar is known to be more addictive than cocaine. It’s also safer, which is why it’s legal and freely accessible, but safety in this context is relative. Sugar certainly isn’t healthy, and we would all be well-advised to consume less – especially in the United States, which is the world’s biggest consumer, and in India, which leads the way in Asia.
The amount of sugar used by hotel kitchens may vary, but while many hotels have jumped on the wellness bandwagon and extended their menus to focus on healthier options, sugar consumption definitely isn’t in decline. One problem of course is that hotels represent luxury, and so does sugar, so it’s not difficult to imagine that guests like to treat themselves when they’re away from home. Moreover, it surely can’t be argued that the duty of a hotelier is to remind guests of the need to exercise restraint.
Kevin Thomson, Executive Chef at the JW Marriott Bangkok, claimed that a degree of self-control on the part of diners when faced with temptation is not entirely out of the question. “We’ve seen our guests still enjoying our array of desserts, but choosing just a little taste of each kind, so in turn reducing the overall amount of sugar intake,” he said.
Meanwhile, AVANI+ Samui recently took a proactive approach to healthier dining by introducing a new plant-based vegan menu. However, according to chef Kien Wagner, analysis has shown that only 4% of guests were actually ordering anything from this menu, and there was no evidence whatsoever to suggest that guests were actually focusing on consuming less sugar.
Nadine Rouget, Director of Marketing and Communications at Mövenpick BDMS Wellness Resort Bangkok, confirmed that healthy eating takes a back seat whenever the dessert trolley makes an appearance. “We found that despite the current trends of awareness, the desserts are still a highlight,” she said. “Guests do prefer desserts. For this reason, we try and incorporate more stevia, honey, agave and brown sugar. Thai sweets generally are not consumed as much.”
Mövenpick BDMS Wellness Resort Bangkok explicitly focuses on health and wellness, and chef Gabi Kurz has been behind the creation of a special menu which lives up to the vision of the hotel. “I don’t over-sweeten my desserts,” she explained. “But the real secret is to use a honey that isn’t dark or deep in flavor, more like blossom honey, acacia for example. The taste is rather neutral and blends into any dessert without dominating with its own flavor. Of course, the way the desserts are made is a little bit different. For example, to make a cake I whip the honey with the eggs carefully to create a very fluffy texture before baking.”
While hotels which specialize in delivering a healthy product have found ways to satisfy those guests who crave something sweet while keeping sugar levels to a minimum, this hasn’t been seen in more mainstream hotels. The general trend has shown that sugar consumption isn’t going down, but hotels are offering more choice, putting the onus firmly on guests to make the right choices if they value their health.
Anchalika Kijkanakorn of Akaryn Hotel Group explained her philosophy. “To me, clean eating isn’t the same as consuming less sugar. Clean eating is eating organic, knowing where your food comes from, and using no processed and refined food. All of our food is clean as we make it fresh on our premises. This is especially the case at Aleenta Hua Hin-Pranburi, where we have our own chicken coup so our eggs are free range and antibiotic free, and the vegetables are grown and picked under our own supervision in our organic farm. Our menu has dietary denotations for gluten free; the menu design is health conscious, and at the same time has ‘comfort’ food.”
“It is also worth noting to that our traditional bread baking technique, which originates from France, requires no sugar,” Anchalika added.
“Even healthier sweets contain sugar,” elaborated Gabi. “However, there are healthier desserts or sweets you can definitely try, like the ones we create at Mövenpick BDMS Wellness Resort Bangkok. For example, the raw truffles made from dried fruits and nuts, the cashew cheesecake, wholesome pancakes, or millet Swiss roll,” she suggested.
Sugar might well be the cause of diabetes, obesity, and a host of other problems, but hotels aren’t about to tell their guests what they should and shouldn’t consume. What they are increasingly doing, however, is providing a wider range of healthy options, and making people aware of the benefits of choosing wisely.