In a world of information at your very fingertips, it is a common occurrence to receive ‘bad’ information. Like old fish-tales, stories get distorted and the truth slowly gets wrung out of the facts.
This is very common within the world of event catering. From TV shows to friends who have ‘done this before’ and everywhere in between, sometimes things people know as ‘fact’ are actually far from it.
The team at A Thyme to Cook put our heads together and came up with 10 common statements we hear a lot and feel need some real answers.
BUFFET OR FAMILY STYLE ARE THE MOST AFFORDABLE OPTIONS
For a pre-selected or paired plate, the caterer knows exactly what the portion size is and how many of each portion they will need.
For a buffet or family-style dinner, the caterer needs to prepare a greater quantity of food. Thus the cost and staff time goes up. We never know how many times Uncle Albert will head up for ‘seconds’.
Or thirds or fourths or fifths….
CATERED FOOD IS COOKED DAYS IN ADVANCE AND MICROWAVED OR REHEATED AT THE EVENT
Not true! At least, not for us.
Food should be fresh. Food should be hot.
We create a field kitchen wherever we go. Our chefs travel to the event and the food is being cooked fresh, on site at the time of service.
Straight from our field kitchen to your table!
I’M SURE THESE ARE LOCAL BANANAS
“Local” is a word that is thrown around a lot these days. It’s a buzz word and the media loves it.
There are no set rules on what can and cannot be labeled as ‘local’. However, have you ever seen a banana tree growing in a backyard in Connecticut?
There’s a wonderful campaign called “Eat Your View” and that’s what we focus on. We use ingredients that are growing in our own backyard – or the yards of our local farmers. Local food should be able to be sourced within a quick visit. Local means reducing the carbon footprint. Sure, we can get bananas here in less than a day – however, the miles and fuel used to get it to us – not really local.
SEASONAL IS JUST A GUIDELINE – FOOD GROWS ALL YEAR ‘ROUND
Just like our commitment to local – our commitment to seasonal is just as important.
Our menu design ebbs and flows with the season. We aren’t featuring fresh strawberries in January and we aren’t highlighting fresh pumpkin in July.
A seasonal farm-to-table menu must remain flexible and be able to react to weather, environment, storms, infestations and more.
The winter of 2013/2014 and a very cold Spring in 2014 has pushed local production of many fruits and vegetables back behind their historic harvest times [CT Dept of Agriculture Offers this GREAT Crop Calendar]. Our menus changed along with these roadblocks and still remain as tasty as ever.
RESTAURANT FOOD PERFECTLY TRANSLATES TO CATERING
In any good restaurant, a chef is working in the back and preparing dishes, to order, for each individual diner as the orders come in.
In the world of event catering, we are preparing dishes for close to and over 100 people – all at the exact same time.
Event caterers are dealing with issues of temperature, food safety, transportation, organizing mass service and more.
MINIMAL STAFF IS NEEDED FOR MY EVENT – MAYBE 2 OR 3 SERVERS AT MOST
Think of the waitstaff you see in the room as the tip of the iceberg.
Planners, Admin Support, Drivers, Loaders, Scullery, Designers, Chefs, Bartenders, Runners, Servers and the list goes on and on.
It takes a great team, of many people, to make it look like our wonderful waitstaff is all you need.
MENUS ARE COOKIE-CUTTER, ONE SIZE FITS ALL
This isn’t a quick date at a fast food drive-thru.
A catered event should speak to you. It should be a reflection of you and have people leaving saying “that was SO them”.
Every event we help design is unique. It’s what drives us. Creating something new is what fuels our passion for what we do. Every season is different. Every palate is different. Embrace that.
It’s your event – the entire evening should be a reflection of that.
A VENUE MUST HAVE A BUILT IN KITCHEN TO BE AVAILABLE FOR CATERING
We use the term ‘field kitchen’ to describe how we cook on-site.
We bring the equipment. We bring the crew. We bring the water and the power if we have to. We’re never behind the 8-ball!
We have literally created a kitchen in the middle of a field before.
And a parking garage…
And an airport hangar…
And a dirt basement…
And the dugout at Dodd Stadium…
A RANDOM TASTING MENU IS A GOOD FIRST STEP IN PLANNING
As we stated before, the entire evening should be a reflection of you – and that includes the menu.
Tasting a bunch of foods, many of which you may not want at your celebration, can be a waste of your time and definitely a waste of food – a big no-no for us and our certified Green status.
A good tasting, one designed to really let you experience the first flavors of your big day, should allow you to sample foods you are considering to be on your menu.
Meet with the caterer first and tell them what you’re looking for and help them design your menu. Then schedule time to come back and try those items – it will make a world of difference.
LOCK IN THE MENU EARLY. CHANGES ARE A NUISANCE
We’ve mentioned it before, but menu flexibility is key to a successful catered event.
Seasonality and crop availability are huge parts of menu planning. A good menu design, and a good culinary team, should be able to go with the flow and be able to adjust to whatever Mother Nature has in store.
A menu agreed upon in August can’t possibly foresee what crops will be in great flavor the following June.
Flexibility will assure the best quality culinary experience for your guests.