Hire a chef or caterer that excels at the type of food you’re looking for rather than pushing them to do something out of their comfort zone. Sure a sushi chef can likely make a decent pasta, but do you really want “decent” pasta on your wedding day? Probably not. Instead find the chef that’s heart and soul lies in creating the perfect pasta. Or, if you don’t have a specific vision, allow the chef to guide you in the selections that he excels in ultimately ensuring the guests will have the best possible experience. For more tips on finding the perfect caterer, check out some tips from one of our all time fav caterers, Room Forty, here and here.
I try not to be overly high maintenance, but I do love a fancy pants cocktails on occasion. Room Forty put together some amazing cocktails for me awhile back and I just had to share the recipes so ya’ll can make these at home. My absolute favorite is the Collins Rouge . Here’s a picture of each courtesy of Steve Steinhardt. Enjoy!
ASK ABOUT THE CATERER’S FOOD PRODUCT
Get the caterer talking about their products. The latest catch phrases have caught. Everyone says things like “organic, sustainable, and local”. If you’re hearing “local”, ask them specifically what farms they work with. You want to know if their meats are “prime”, natural meats, or if they’re “select” and pumped with growth hormone. You want to know if their fish is fresh and wild, or frozen and farmed. You want a caterer that is as passionate about their salt (maldon please) as they are about their steak—so get them talking. No one is going to tell you “our proteins are pumped with hormones and our fish is right out of the freezer!” So just ask a nebulous, “tell me about your products.” If nothing is offered in terms of their product, odds are it’s not a “selling point” for them, which will tell you a lot about the quality of product.
ASK HOW THE CATERER APPROACHES PREPARATION
In terms of preparation there is a wide spectrum. On one extreme there will be caterers that make literally everything “in house” down to the pickles on your slider. On the other extreme, (sadly) there will be caterers that order pre-made hors d’oeuvres from catering wholesalers and re-heat on site. Get them talking to you about their chef. Find out about the chef’s background. As goes the chef, so goes the kitchen, so you want to know as much as possible about the chef. His T.V. credits matters much less than his training and experience in cooking—so be wary if the first thing you hear was: “our chef was just on the show_____”.
ASK WHICH WINES WILL BE SERVED
If you’re ordering wines with the caterer, ask which wines will be served and how they decide on selections. Wine and food go together, period. A great meal becomes a complete meal when paired with good wine. Often times wine pairing isn’t even considered when wines are selected. Remember, flavors either really work together, or really don’t . Don’t do the “how much wine can I get for five hundred bucks?” Ask them to suggest what varietals will work well the menu you’ve selected. If you’ve got a brunch format featuring eggs Florentine, and they’re proposing Cabernet, you might want to move on.
This week and next, we have a very exciting guest post from our friends over at Room Forty on what to look for when hiring a caterer…carry on to get all of the nitty gritty:
Over the years we’ve continuously received the same feedback from prospective clients after navigating the “sales call” conversation with them. The feedback? “That was so informative!”
One of the safe assumptions we make when people inquire about our services is that we are one of several companies they’ve contacted. But more times than not, it’s the first time people have hired a caterer—so there’s the lay of land: “Lots of options, first time I’ve done this.”
We realize that hiring a caterer is usually a big decision, with big dollars, big expectations, and big unknowns (unless you crash someone’s wedding, how do you really know how a caterer will approach their services on event day?).
Branding matters, and says a lot in distinguishing the different options—but when you’re looking at 5 different catering proposals and 20 different menus, (to borrow Seth Godin’s phrase) everything can begin to “taste like chicken”. So… if all the catering proposals “taste like chicken” how can you distinguish between Jidori and Zacky farms?
Here’s some help:
If your caterer isn’t inspired or excited from a culinary or hospitality standpoint—odds are your event cuisine and service, are going to be equally blah. Part of the reason catering can be notoriously underwhelming is that often times catering companies think first of logistics, then try to spice-up whatever menu will work with the event logistics. You want to work with a company that flips that equation on its head—and cracks logistical codes to accomplish its culinary vision, as opposed to coming up with a culinary vision that will fit within the logistics. Logistics matter, but they should always follow inspiration.
I don’t even know where to begin. I met Room Forty about 9 months ago now and seriously, they are taking it to a whole other level. I mentioned the other day that they created what can only be described as the most magical dinner experience ever for my birthday and I now am literally obsessed with everything they touch. They are uber creative in a way that just sort of unfolds into surprise after surprise, but it’s done in the most non pretentious way. Their presentation is incomparable, something I am personally relentless about. They just get it. They understand that they are a part of a once in a lifetime memory and know how important the role of food plays in creating this experience. I always say, that while no one loves a beautiful room more than I, if the food is average or the guests are bored, people will forget the aesthetic in minutes, no matter how well designed it is. Truth be told, after working with Room Forty, I’m a little insecure that the spaces we design won’t be able to hold a candle to the culinary experience they create. But, I’ll risk it, because seriously, ya’ll, they are the real deal. Can’t gush enough about this team! Take a closer peek at the gorgeous menu they created for my celebration. Also, please, please visit their blog, because they are definitely not a one trick pony. It’s full of foodie inspiration for events of all levels!
Guests arrived to Fromager service with beautiful Spanish & French cheeses, poached fruits, honeycomb and artisan breads.
Once seated, Room Forty, surprised me with an Amuse Bouche of arctic char crudo. grilled cedar. red beet caviar and pistachio soil. Super fanc!
The First Course was a beautiful smoked tomato bisque with langoustines, brioche ribbon and ritz powder poured table side. Gorgeous!
The Mid Course included a crimson raviolo with house made ricotta, bread salad and buerre fondue. If I wasn’t a grown woman, I might have licked my plate. Plus there were too many witnesses…But seriously, I want to eat this pasta every single day of my life.
The Main Course was Black Cod with eucalyptus, old bay caviar and served with wheat berry birdseed and market vegetables. Many don’t know, but I’m actually a Pescatarian and was super nervous about serving a group of carnivores such a delicate little fish dish, but this was so special, no one would have dared complained. It was absolute perfection!
Dessert was a Room Forty specialty with their take on S’mores. It was a S’more parfait with graham soil, chocolate coffee ganache and bruleed homemade marshmallow. But the specialty comes in the nose of the dish. When each guest opened the jar (as Steve Steinhardt is demonstrating below), there was literally a waft of “campfire”. I have no idea how they did it, but it was over the top special.