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Marriott International reveals next stage of Project Canvas

The hotel company announces the next phase of the entrepreneurial F&B initiative that nurtures local talent and inspires home-grown concept.

Earlier this summer, Marriott International announced the launch of its international campaign, Project Canvas in the Middle East, with the purpose of nurturing local entrepreneurship as well as supporting the creation of home-grown concepts.

The initiative, which builds on Marriott International’s entrepreneurial heritage, first launched in Bethesda earlier in the year, and has made the dreams of food and beverage entrepreneurs a reality using Marriott International as a lab in their quest to create.

Following a competitive selection amongst aspiring candidates across the region, two creative and passionate entrepreneurs were chosen and given $50,000 each in order to execute their business plan. The first talent to spearhead a project was Tomas Vindasius, best known for his contributions to the nightlife and event scene in Dubai prior to establishing his own consultancy agency earlier this year. The second successful candidate to partake in Project Canvas in Dubai was Darren Velvick, a previous protégé of Gordon Ramsey’s and most recently, Patron Chef at Table 9. What united the two winning entrepreneurs was their vision to create and launch new and exciting concepts that focus on a distinctive food and beverage experience in order to attract Gen Y travelers and guests – a key audience for Marriott International world-wide.

The first venue to be part of Project Canvas opened within Nawwara Lifestyle Choices, a home-grown concept for wholesome living in the JW Marriott Marquis Dubai, earlier in June. The nightclub, which is aptly titled ‘Square’, was the first of three new concepts to reside within the premises under the direction of Tomas Vindasius. Square Nightclub showcases the best of both the local and international scene and its underground musical direction, which draws inspiration from the legendary Berlin club culture, echoes its creative director’s passion for the late-night industry.

The second concept to open within Nawwara Lifestyle Choices is ‘Garden’, a Peruvian restaurant which has very recently had its soft opening earlier this month. The culinary direction of Garden is headed by Peruvian Chef de Cuisine Edgar Hurtado, and the venue has been thoughtfully decorated throughout with Peruvian artifacts and Inca inspired design elements. A grand opening to reveal both concepts to the general public is scheduled to take place beginning of October. The third element of Nawwara Lifestyle Choices is Park Outdoor Lounge, which is due to open later in the year.

Meanwhile, the second location undergoing a transformation sits within the Dubai Marriott Harbour Hotel & Suites. The venue, which has been named ‘The Croft’, is inspired by Darren Velvick’s own childhood upbringing in the rural country English village called Hampstead Norreys. This particular project has been a very personal journey for Darren as it reflects the wholesome food culture for living from the land, as he grew up. For example he would go foraging for blackberries, mushrooms, nettles all from the woodlands in the surrounding area, and then return home and create wonderful dishes with his mother. The venue will be serving up many traditional British food in a casual dining environment, and Darren has chosen to work with many local suppliers and home-grown brands when choosing the ingredients for his menu. The Croft will be completed and ready for its soft opening in mid-August, and is scheduled for its official grand opening in September.

“We are incredibly pleased with the results that we have seen so far along the journey of Project Canvas,” said Markus Roeder, Senior Director Operations, Marriott International Middle East and Africa. “The creative contribution and the project management abilities that we have seen from both Tomas and Darren show just how much talent and inspiration there is in our region. We truly hope that Project Canvas will encourage other businesses and individuals to explore their own ability to bring exciting new home-grown concepts to the market.”

By initiating Project Canvas, Marriott International has allowed talented entrepreneurs and local influences to take center stage, while also reaffirming its own position as a pioneering and inspiring leader in the hotel industry. The project focuses primarily on the next generation of travelers who are seeking a local and unique experience on their journey. According to Forbes, Millennials will comprise half of business travel spending by 2020, and via its many campaigns and Marriott International brands such as Courtyard by Marriott, the company is capturing the rapidly growing millennial purchasing power.