Behind the Scenes with LEVY Convention Centers Executive Chef Dominique Metcalfe

Dominique Metcalfe, Executive Chef of Levy Convention Centers, the exclusive caterer of the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, shares the unique food and beverage initiatives and offerings available Only in Pittsburgh.

Chef Dominique “Dom” Metcalfe has always had a knack for cooking, admittedly a lifelong family affair. Her fondest memories include standing on a chair next to her mom while cooking in her childhood kitchen. And, to this day, recipes from Chef Dom’s mom still play a part in her cooking creations! 

Since graduating from the Academy of Culinary Arts at Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP), Chef Dom has gained a world of experience riding her own incredible food journey, as her career has taken her across the globe, including Zurich, Dubai, Sydney and Tuscany. She welcomes each guest she serves to dine in “her house,” preparing every meal as if she is serving it in her home kitchen. 

Read on as Chef Dom pulls back the curtain to the kitchen that fuels Pittsburgh’s visitors and ensures that every event attendee leaves with a happy, full stomach.

Congratulations to Executive Chef Dominique Metcalfe for being awarded Best Convention Center Chef in America by LEVY Convention Center and Compass Catering. 

What makes Levy in Pittsburgh unique? 

Levy at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center (DLCC) features a variety of Only in Pittsburgh offerings. From a newly renovated rooftop garden to relationships within the community and Pittsburgh-based cuisine, attendees will be able to enjoy a unique and delicious experience. 

Rooftop Hops 

Craft breweries are thriving in Pittsburgh, and we wanted to be part of the craft beer fun! Our team joined forces with local brewery, North Country Brewing, to use the convention center’s rooftop garden to grow our own hops. In 2017, 10 hop roots were planted and later in the year, the plants grew and produced hops that were harvested to create 30 half kegs of "Rooftop Hops," an American IPA.

"Rooftop Hops" headlined the 2018 Pittsburgh Home and Garden Show, receiving local and regional media attention. The demand grew for the brew to be canned and offered in more locations. Today, we are proudly serving "Rooftop Hops" on draft in our Café and Restaurant Services areas and in 12 oz. cans on every banquet bar for all public and private shows. You also can find "Rooftop Hops" in a few neighboring bars of the DLCC as well as the North Country Brewery locations. 

Relationships with the Community 

We’re proud of our strong relationships and involvement with the Pittsburgh community. Levy at the DLCC has "adopted" the Jubilee Soup Kitchen, a local nonprofit providing services to those whose lives are challenged by poverty, joblessness or homelessness, and we’ve donated tons of food, volunteered, prepped and served food right in their kitchen. Levy also has teamed up with 412 Food Rescue, a start-up, non-profit organization that delivers surplus food to insecure communities instead of landfills. We’ve also partnered with 412 Food Rescue on food donations as well as providing space and extra helping hands at the convention center during COVID-19. 

In 2019, Levy donated 17,129 pounds of food to the Jubilee Soup Kitchen and 412 Food Rescue, all on behalf of the Sports & Exhibition Authority of Pittsburgh. 

Sustainability & Composting 

We follow the motto “Plant to Plate” at Levy. It’s an incredible opportunity for our chefs to plant and harvest vegetables in the rooftop garden and then use those ingredients in the kitchen while creating a fresh, local dish for our guests to enjoy.  

Along with our Platinum LEED® Certification, we’re very fortunate we can compost our food and plant-based service ware. From kitchen prep to breakdown stations, all food waste is gathered and taken to an onsite composting dumpster. We also buy back compost each year from AgRecycle to replenish and fill our garden boxes in advance of growing season. 

Supporting Local Business & Farms 

The David L Lawrence Convention Center is committed to supporting local Pittsburgh based minority and women owned businesses. We strive to utilize as many local vendors when purchasing items from linens to paper goods to produce. We are always looking for new vendors to increase our year over year spending which in turn supports our community. 

Tasteburgh Cuisine 

We’re proud to incorporate Pittsburgh flare into our meals. Beyond the favorite, and traditional, meat and potatoes, we’ve created signature dishes like the Pittsburgh Paella including pierogis, kielbasa and haluski, Pittsburgh Pastrami Sandwich, Strawberry Pittsburgh Pretzel Salad and the Rooftop Garden Tomato Jam. We love to share these dishes, featuring homemade dressings and family recipes, with our out-of-town guests and give them a real Pittsburgh treat when they come to visit. Our ultimate goal is to make people happy when they’re in our home. And, of course, we strive for all guests to say they can “taste the love in our food!” 

Pittsburgh Paella

What are some new food and beverage trends that have transpired?

Safety and sanitation have always been our top focuses, even prior to the pandemic.  We are continuing with a high level of sanitizing and cleaning as we have always done. One major adjustment we incorporated was individually wrapping food and meals. We found this was more appealing to our guests and worked well for large groups. We’ll continue to offer this option moving forward. 

We’ve also focused on plant-based and healthy menus. Being a “green building” has always attracted certain groups and clients to our venue, and we want to keep that same theme throughout our food offerings. Our team at Levy enjoys creating menus that appeal to each group, whether it is a vegan crowd of 2000 or a construction group with meat and potatoes! 

Tell us how your approach to catering for large groups of people has changed due to COVID-19? 

The planning and preparing process is extremely important. We look to start food and beverage conversations months in advance to discuss any potential roadblocks as well as talk through menu options and setups. We want to work hand in hand with the planners identifying F&B goals, the number of attendees, service times and anything else that comes to mind. My involvement in these conversations has been extremely valuable in finding new ways of presenting and serving food that works best with the event and schedule. 

Even with repeat groups, it’s not as easy as “what we did last year.” Our team has had new conversations about repeat services and how we execute them in today’s world. We are more flexible and nimbler with clients to execute their vision and food and beverage.

Tell us about the Best Buddies TasteBuds Program

Levy at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center participates in the TasteBuds Program with Best Buddies. The annual TasteBuds fundraiser event features talented chefs from around the Pittsburgh area serving signature plates with their matched buddy. The goal of TasteBuds is to create a special relationship with a chef and a person with intellectual or physical disabilities and to teach them a new life skill, such as cooking or baking. It’s my favorite event and has opened my eyes to what is really important in our world today. Spending time with my buddy, Julia, has helped our kitchen staff appreciate and respect one another more and just simply, be happy! 

Outside of 2020, Levy and the DLCC have been apart of this event since 2016 and look forward to our next in person event in 2022! 

Published August 31, 2021