Park Hyatt’s new TasteMasters campaign officially launches today, based on a series of events at the hotels pairing cultural leaders in different fields with a New York Times correspondent for a Q&A discussion examining the creative process.

In an initial run at Park Hyatt New York last week, NYT dining reporter Julia Moskin facilitated a discussion between Klaus Biesenbach, director of MoMA’s PS1 campus in Queens, and London celebrity chef Yottam Ottelenghi.

More conversations are scheduled in Paris and Tokyo this year, with others under consideration for development from Buenos Aires to Shanghai.

At the New York event, a lot of the conversation focused on travel and dining consumers’ obsession with authentic experiences.

“Everyone wants to have the most authentic experience with food but I don’t think it exists, and I don’t think anyone really benefits anymore from real encounters with food,” said Ottelenghi, suggesting that the focus on authenticity inhibits inventive ingredient pairings and cooking techniques.

“You can’t turn back time,” he explained. “There is almost a certain fetishism that I find too much about food. I think the problem is we’re relating to food too much as an idea or a concept, or something we own or possess, rather than something we just do.”

Moskin added that for a lot of upscale diners, it’s not so much about the cuisine. It’s more about the acquisition of trophy restaurant visits in pursuit of collecting as many names as possible on San Pellegrino’s annual list of World’s 50 Best Restaurants.

“A lot of these people don’t cook, they don’t eat with their families,” agreed Ottelenghi. “They just go to fancy restaurants.”

Biesenbach offered his views about authentic travel, suggesting that the more we are connected to our social networks back home, the more that makes the travel experience less authentic.

He said, for example, that people today often seem more interested in taking photos of artwork in museums to show their friends that they were there, versus actually spending quality time with the artwork to appreciate the artists’ message.

“I think being in the here and now is something very, very important that we’re missing,” suggested Biesenbach.

Elevating The Conversation

In terms of hotel programming, TasteMasters is ambitious. For years at Skift, we’ve advocated for hotels to evolve as gateways into their local communities by providing content platforms and programming that delivers more nuanced destination context.

Among the legacy hotel brands, Hyatt Hotels has been at the forefront of this. The farm-to-table restaurant trend in hospitality began with Park Hyatt in Carmel in the 1980s, which continues to this day with the brand’s Masters of Food & Wine program.

Likewise, Hyatt’s Andaz Hotels developed something of a precursor to TasteMasters with its Andaz Salon series of events, where locals and guests gather at Andaz properties to meet local cultural influencers.

Today, there’s a shift overall in luxury hotel programming and promotion toward somewhat of a more learned approach. TasteMasters evolved out of Park Hyatt’s consumer research last year that showed a growing demand for more cerebral content with an educational component.

“That consumer insight around the idea that knowledge is currency is what led us down this path to develop not just an ad campaign, but really a program that offers unique insight and experiences only available at Park Hyatt,” says Sandra Micek, senior VP of global brands at Hyatt. “The whole notion of travel as a way to grow as a person is what we’re tapping into, based on what we’ve uncovered that’s most meaningful to our customers.”

Initiatives like TasteMasters and Andaz Salon not only developed a new standard for hotel programming as a platform for public discourse, they also led to new standards of hotel content marketing. The Andaz Hotels’ blog was the first blog of any value developed by a major hotel group.

Moving that forward, the new TasteMasters website was developed by The New York Times’ branded content division, T Brand Studio, and the visual delivery is intriguing.

The Park Hyatt presentation on a news site—even if it’s a branded content platform—creates a new user experience and interface that moves the consumer beyond the realm of the traditional consumer/hotel website relationship.

This is common among other consumer sectors but not so much in hospitality. For readers of The New York Times, the Park Hyatt content feels like a Times story for all intents and purposes from their perspective. The content doesn’t quite deliver the level of sophisticated insight that we hoped, because the copy reads a little too obvious and advertorial, even for branded storytelling.

Notwithstanding that, the overall impact signals a direction toward a more erudite conversation in luxury hospitality, and it shows the potential of partnerships with media companies aligned with a travel brand’s individual voice.

Just like Andaz was a catalyst for corporate hotel blogs, Park Hyatt’s TasteMasters series could spark similar collaborations across the hospitality spectrum for audiences seeking more cultivated and transformative travel opportunities.

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Photo Credit: The TasteMasters website is hosted on The New York Times' T Brand Studio content marketing platform. Park Hyatt