Every cocktail party, get-together or staged event centers around two things, people and food. The invitation is meant to bring people together and the food should be the one that beautifully bridges the reason they are there if the event is to be a success. You certainly would not want to be known as the Hostess who could not pick a caterer.
So exactly what should you look for in catering a special event? First make a list of attributes that your party should address or have. Is it a fashion launch? Do you want flowers music, live bodies walking around showing the fashion? Is it a modern party? Is it a formal black tie event? Is it pool side casual? What do you hope to get across to the people who will attend?
Second, what is the theme you are hoping to convey? Are you throwing a party for a newly engaged couple? for a runway project or the launch of a new designer? To show your jewelry collection or is it for the sheer delight of eating!
Third, where are you going to stage the food? Is it a sit down dinner? Or is it a standing and walking around party? Do you want the food to be available in one room or all rooms or have it passed or served? Will the party be outside and how are you going to keep the food cold?
Fourth, now is the time to do your research. Ask friends who they have used, look online. Call the people that have used the caterer. The food never lies and neither does the presentation or the photos. You can only primp up food so much so it is better to taste it.
Usually a good caterer is widely known, has a following and is easy to find with terrific references.
Finally, what is your budget? That probably should be first to consider but I have found as myself that caterers will work with you and tailor a menu for your budget. If they won't, don't use them!!
When we catered the party for the christening of the yacht, we interviewed at least 10 caterers. We wanted menus, photos as proof. Who else had they catered for? Proof is in the Pudding. Eventually we decided to go with a caterer who had a excellent reputation, who had the staff to carry off the details and the actual food matched the event. The price, well, not cheap but nothing worth having is.
So next time you decide to cater an event, do your homework, interview, get proof of the pudding, talk to people that they have catered for if you want free samples, ask for them. Pictures can lie but proof is in the actual taste.
Chef Mary Beth is a professional chef who has made her career as a private personal chef in the luxury field for over 25 years. Chef Johnson is the recipient of numerous culinary and visionary awards in her field and is often in the media for her expertise as well as appearing on television and she writes for major media outlets.