Feed the People: Event Food Tips
THANKSGIVING IS APPROACHING, AND SO ARE ALL OF YOUR HOLIDAY EVENTS. AS YOU WORK YOUR WAY THROUGH ALL OF THE HALLOWEEN CANDY YOU'VE HIDDEN FROM YOUR KIDS, YOU'RE PROBABLY PLANNING YOUR NEXT EVENT MENU. WHEN YOU'RE FEEDING A LOT OF PEOPLE, THINGS CAN GET TRICKY: BUFFET FOOD CAN START TO LOOK A LITTLE PEAKED SITTING IN THOSE WARMING TRAYS AND MENUS THAT ARE TOO COMPLICATED CAN RESULT IN SIT DOWN MEALS THAT JUST DON'T WORK. NOW THAT PEOPLE ARE POSTING AN INSTAGRAM OF THEIR EVERY MEAL, PRESENTATION IS AS ESSENTIAL AS THE MENU ITSELF, WHILE AT THE SAME TIME, THE FOOD (AND DRINKS!) NEED TO BE ON-TIME AND DELICIOUS TO PLEASE YOUR HUNGRY HOARDS. WE'VE DUG INTO OUR STASH AND FOUND OUR FAVORITE REMINDERS FOR SUCCESSFUL LARGE-SCALE EVENTS--WE HOPE THEY ARE JUST WHAT YOU ARE CRAVING.
It's always fun to see food displayed in unique ways--like this wall of tiny tin buckets hanging above individual candle warmers pictured above. No doubt, caterers and chefs everywhere are constantly trying to innovate to be sure their ideas are as beautiful as they are tasty. It can be an extra special part of your event to have food that stands out for how well-crafted it is, as long as it doesn't go the direction of becoming gimmicky or over-complicated. Keep a good balance so that complexity doesn't become confusion. Often, the best food is made from very high quality ingredients that are cooked well and served with simplicity.
VENDORS THAT COLLABORATE
When creating your menu and food presentation plan, one of the best strategies we've seen is to make sure that your production designer, event producer and your caterer are all working together. This year's Emmys Governor's Ball (which we wrote about in detail here) is a great example of this kind of holistic event approach. Having open communication between these teams mean they can build creatively off of one another and help give each other ideas (or, if need be, rein in or reimagine ideas that might not be feasible). Perhaps the entire production design could be based around one of the food features and highlighted and then enhanced by design elements that not only complete the theme but enrich it.
KEEP TO YOUR THEME
You wouldn't serve barbecue ribs and beer at a Paris-themed party like this one, so be sure that your menu works with the theme you've chosen. Here, even the ice sculpture helps enhance the Gallic feeling of the event. Do your own research and work with your caterer to communicate your thematic focus throughout every course from hors d'oeuvres to entrees and dessert. To have a strong focus helps you clarify your menu and keep it uncomplicated.
CONSIDER THE CONTEXT
Before you make decisions about your menu, carefully think through all of the other aspects of your event: your theme, the venue, your budget, time of day, level of formality--all of the context for your event. If you're having a formal event, you may want to start with passed hors d'oeuvres and a cocktail hour before having several courses of a sit down meal. For less formal events or in more casual venues, you can even consider something a little more unconventional like a family style meal at communal tables.
TIMING IS EVERYTHING
Nothing is worse for guests at an event than a meal where one table gets their dinner an hour (or more) later than another table. Whether it's a sit down dinner with uneven delivery or a clogged line at the buffet, this is probably one of the most challenging aspects of event execution. Unless you have Gordon Ramsay expediting for your catering company to keep it all humming along seamlessly, this is still something at your event that you'll need to keep an eye on. The other important thing to consider is timing between food courses--make sure you leave enough time, but not too much between appetizers, entrees, and dessert so everyone keeps their appetite without getting too hungry again.
DON'T FORGET THE DRINKS
An essential part of your menu (and your budget) are the drink offerings. There are lots of options: a full bar, the cost-saving but still fun option of a signature or custom cocktail or two, or just wine, champagne and/or beer. Everyone will get thirsty and when attending events people often like to let loose a little and celebrate, even if it's just with one drink. Not everyone drinks alcohol, of course, so being sure that you have plenty of options available is critical to keeping guests happy and comfortable.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT CATERER
This may seem like a no-brainer. Choose someone whose food you love, right? Yes. Except you also have to be sure that this cook and their team can execute the meal you want to eat with the finesse you need your event to have. The best caterer should know everything we've outlined here (and probably more), to be sure that your event food goes off without a hitch. A great chef can cook amazing food and even run a restaurant kitchen, but catering is a different beast--one that can sometimes trip up even a Michelin-star worthy cook. The best caterers are chameleons. They understand how to work with all of the complexities of different venues and adjust for them accordingly, all while seamlessly making glorious food.
Again, you can have everything else on this list dialed and down but if your service is lacking, it will tarnish all of the other aspects you've worked so hard to achieve. Paying careful attention to your attendees is what ties it all together at your event. So be sure you have a truly on-point team to make your event impeccable and memorable.
WHATEVER YOUR MENU, WE HOPE OUR TIPS HELP YOU HAVE YOUR BEST, MOST DELICIOUS EVENT YET.