Studio: Culture at the Irvine Marriott

On Thursday night my fellow foodie friend, Chrissy and I was invited back to attend the second event at the Irvine Marriott.  The theme this time was Studio: Culture.

Unlike the first event, Studio Taste Lab,   this one has a much more relaxed feeling. First of all, it was set outside in the back-lot area of the hotel.  The check in was also in the back, and as you checked in the welcoming smell of barbecue permeated the air. With the nice Spring evening,  you could easily forget that  you were in the parking lot of a hotel, but more like in the backyard of someone’s home.

The back area had little pop ups featuring food, drink and art.  Fitting this outdoor experience was Camera Camper providing a photo booth set in a vintage trailer.  Unlike many photo-booths where you’re crammed in a little booth or just a make shift area with a screen in the back, this was literally inside a small trailer camper.  The back area had a bench with fluffy pillows, and plenty of props to make your photos interesting. This was a nice way to give patrons a souvenir of the event.

Opposite the Camera Camper  was popular Orange County food truck Rolling Sushi Van (@rollingsushivan)  and in the center of the area, grilling a gigantic Red Grouper and homemade green tortillas was was the head chef of Irvine Marriott’s hotel, making the guests smoky fish tacos.

In the back of the food area, in a make shift shed was a staff member promoting their house made “Baked Apple Bourbon” cocktail. Listening to the bartender describe the drink was more like listening to her describe a dessert. She described how she infused the apples and charred cinnamon in a jar, and let it set until it’s ready to serve.

Chrissy and I found 2 seats by the fire to enjoy our fish tacos and drinks, and was listening to an electric guitar player strum cover versions from 80’s bands like Tears for Fears. At the foot of the musician was a large 3-D chalk drawing of Bob’s Big Boy by artist Jarrad Mendoza from We Talk Chalk. The photo does make Big Boy look like it is standing up, when in reality its a chalk drawing on the floor!

The event promoter stopped by to tell us to check the activities around the corner for more pop-up events. Our first encounter was with artist Derek McDonald, who had some amazing welding work. All of this welding was done on the inside, so it gave all the artwork a clean crisp look. His art and sculptures are made of recycled material ,wood, and, Derek said “anything else he could find”.

While I was admiring Derek’s artwork, Chrissy was watching Street Beat Event, who was trying to coax people at the event to participate with them.

The self guided tour continued toward the lobby, up to the stop of the staircase where artist Drew Trophy was displaying his sketches drawn on surfboards and canvas. All of the artist’s work had a very southern California, ocean feel, which fits the new look of Irvine Marriott beautifully. During the event, he was working on a surfboard with an ocean – dolphin design.

We were heading toward the hotel lobby when a room with 2, very large 4K monitors caught my eye.  The room was decorated in a Spanish motif, and the screens were flashing images of Barcelona.  This was the YNK room that Chrissy described as “sight” in her last visit at Studio Taste Lab.  The room was very inviting, and a place to relax with a nice cocktail as you’re transported to Spain, if only for a short time.


Mixologiest Ravin Buzzell was inside creating another masterpiece drink for 2 guests. They were thumbing through his handwritten recipe book, and finally decided on a mojito.

We made our way to the lobby, which also served as a restaurant and bar.  Groups were sharing food, enjoying drinks, and listening to live music.


We found ourselves at M Club, the lounge made for Loyalty Club holders.  The lounge has tables and meeting areas, along with snacks and beverages. You can join by membership or pay an entrance fee to gain access to this lounge.

As we were peeking inside M Club, a Marriott representative was just starting a tour of the hotel, showing us some of the hotel’s new transformation, including their new ballroom/ conference room.  They said they intentionally left the walls white, giving clients a chance to fully brand their event, with all the lighting options you wanted and to “Bring Your Event to Life”. They took out the chandeliers, for a better sight line of the room and purposely made the carpet non uniform, so clients didn’t have to stick to a certain pattern.


After the tour we went back outside and down by the pool area. Tucked way in the corner was a Marriott chef, grilling up lamb sliders. Lucky for me, Chrissy had a good eye and found these delicious morsels.  Even though Club M overlooks the pool area, the area feels detached and secluded from the hotel.  At night, there’s a balance of light and dark, so guests can enjoy reading or socializing, or retreat in the candle lit pool area, enjoying some solitude.

The evening was winding down, and the artists were breaking down their area.  Chrissy commented that even though we were local to the area, this would be a fantastic “Staycation” place.  This hidden oasis is not far from John Wayne Airport, and a great place for visitors to stay, and get a good idea of what “California” living feels like. We can’t wait to see part 3 of the “Studio” series, which hopefully will reveal more of the Irvine Marriott’s transformation.

Stay tuned!