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How to choose the ideal caterer? by Lindsay Poznanski

27 July 2018
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Offering food and drink is a skill. And a major key to the success of an event. From the choice of caterer to the serving of the last dessert, there is only one option - be flawless. Here are some VO Event provisions.

For many guests, successful catering “makes” the event. But the slightest mistake leaves a bad taste! So, it is important to focus beforehand on three things: what to serve, how to serve it and who will prepare it. To help you decide, here is a simple solution: pitch three caterers against each other, selected for the type of service chosen by the client (walking or seated dinner; buffet; live cooking, etc.), the type of cuisine (world; organic; street food, etc.) or the number of guests.

 

Decide who will cook

The 3 candidates are then briefed on the number of people, the type of service and cuisine, the expected clientèle, the champagne or fizz option, and the budget per guest. Then it is down to them to impress in terms of creativity, personal touches, little extras and cost quotation. Just one is retained on the basis of their proposal. But there is one more essential step - tasting based on a selection of 3 items per course (starter, main, dessert). The client then puts together the menu.

 

Plating up

The ultimate test lies on the palate of each guest on the day itself, alongside additional parameters such as the quality of service, the timing and the condition the food is in when it reaches the guests. They won’t let anything get past - warm champagne, sloppy service, suspect dishes or queuing for the buffet. An empty stomach is unforgiving.

 

Current catering trends

After a long time in the culinary dark ages, event catering has fortunately entered an era of inventiveness to delight the taste buds. The arrival of world cuisine has led to a world of cuisines.

Modern food trends, the growing demand for gourmet dining, and the aspiration to eat more healthily have forced chefs to play around with the dishes on offer. Local produce and the return of overlooked vegetables are combined with trends towards organic, vegetarian and vegan food, while quinoa, bulgur and lentils are taking their place besides potatoes. Also on people’s minds are costs, traceable products, the circular economy and fair trade. An ethos is prepared on the plate for which the event and stomachs become props.

After eating, there is continued commitment in the form of avoiding waste. VO Event is a responsible agency that places great store on measuring out portions to avoid any waste: by briefing the supplier on the precise number of participants and sensibilizing the guests on no-shows; by carefully managing the flow from the cold storage room to the hall; by tending to use small plates to prevent the tendency towards “eyes bigger than one’s stomach”. Why not aim one day to reach the ultimate “no waste” scenario, in the style of the "Do Eat" verrine that can be eaten in its entirety? We try to redistribute any surplus to food banks or other charities after the event, but this is a real challenge. It is impossible to predict exactly when and how much will be available. Those involved have to be very flexible and responsive. Neither the event nor the food can wait 24 hours for it to be collected. This makes it a tricky task and only certain events are worth it.

 

New catering

The inventive spirit of the edible verrine was intended to go beyond the food and also inspire the service. This is service where every approach needs to be fully reinvented - the ingredients, the cutlery, the composition of the buffets, the creativity of the combinations, the decoration of the stands, the tables, the buffets, the behaviour of the serving staff,... but above all the spectacle. Award-winning chefs are no longer hidden away in the kitchen. Instead, they show off their skills and flair, rustling up their creations in front of guests’ very eyes. Catering is no longer disconnected from the show. The two are mutually inclusive to give guests the most enjoyable experience possible.

Initially you consume with your eyes. As such, there is also a need to invent on the visual level regarding the food and its ceremonial role at the event. The latter (sometimes tentatively) tends to stick to new habits. Everyone’s schedule is full, not everybody is available at the same time. Some events at trade fairs or product launches therefore offer their VIPs three food and time options - morning, lunchtime and evening, with a variable catering offering to suit the moment. “A la carte” is on the move. Which is normal when it comes to catering...