Moving On

Update: Deborah Carver is no longer blogging here, but her posts will remain online as an archive. Watch for stories from the new Catersource editor at in the coming weeks.


Trending in Fall 2013: Our Predictions

This post is sponsored by Creative Coverings, who provide their support for Catersource’s original content.

Catering and events trends come from all across the board; they’re a strange amalgamation of what we see and hear in popular culture and what works for our businesses. Here’s a few ideas that you might want to add to your rosters this fall.

1. Scarlet, samba, oxblood and burgundy: Shades of red are all the rage this fall. The runways and the September issues of all the fashion mags are brimming with passionate hues that evoke the falling leaves, like the below Dolce & Gabbana coat that might look fantastic as a table runner at a holiday party. (We recommend contacting your preferred linen partner for more affordable options than using the designer coat right off the runway. 😉

Red coat from Dolce & Gabbana: Event Inspiration

What a lovely shade of red!

Pantone also has a selection of fall colors that includes a variety of shades, including a number of muted greens and a stunning grey called Turbulence, but the red on the pages of magazines really stands out as something we’ll expect to see at events in the coming months.

2. Branded mixers — whether they’re you’re own brand of batch cocktails or something that you’ve purchased. Technomic reports that nonalcoholic bar mixers are continuing to rise in popularity in on-premise, with consumers going as far as requesting specific brands of mixers. There’s no doubt that your clients will begin requesting specific mixers from you as well, so start exploring new flavors! “Strawberry, lime, exotic fruits and sweet-spicy” are all on the rise, the report from Technomic says.

Pie flight from Thomas Caterers of Distinction

Pie flight from Thomas Caterers of Distinction: one of the ways to approach the thriving pie trend

3. Pie has been on the rise for a few years, but it may currently be at its apex, with urban bakeries embracing homemade flaky crusts — and saying yes to lard, despite its health implications and decidedly non-vegan appeal. Both the USA Today and the New York Times have published stories on these designer bakeries with their homespun flavors, and you can expect clients to start requesting minted lime, lemon chess and Elvis pies in no time at all.

Lemon thyme donut turkey sandwich from Chef Paul Larson

Lemon thyme donut turkey sandwich from Chef Paul Larson

4. Pushing the boundaries of Sweet and Savory is truly taking a new form, with treats like the lemon thyme donut turkey sandwich from Blue Plate in Chicago, IL really making a splash on menus. When we tried this sample at the Art of Catering Food from chef Paul Larson, we knew it would be the Next Big Thing.

disco on the runway for events

Disco on the runway in 2013 from Canadian designer Mark Fast — totally matches current music trends!

Faye Dunaway in Network

5. Look out for the comeback of the disco and a 1970s revival. We know you heard Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” this summer with its decidedly 70s sound, Daft Punk’s disco-inspired “Get Lucky” probably got you dancing on the sidelines of more than one wedding, and new bands like Haim sound a lot like Fleetwood Mac. Want to take the music trends to your events? Add luxurious touches of the 1970s to your soiree — chiffon styled like Faye Dunaway, gypsy-style Stevie Nicks scarves or just a little bit of disco fringe will pique your clients’ interest without being too over the top.

6. Hashtags for everything. Social media-fiend couples have been concocting their own custom hashtags for years, but with the addition of hashtag searches to Facebook, start suggesting them for corporate clients and holiday soirees so that guests can keep track of event photos as they’re happening. Suggest something like #AcmeHoliday13, personalized for your corporate client’s company name, and encourage the event’s organizers to spread the word. Make sure to get a couple of photos of your menu offerings in there– the party’s guests will be glad to have the record of what they ate and your company’s business!

A sample sign for a hashtag from a wedding

A sample sign for a hashtag from a wedding

7. Speaking of which, the other big trend this fall is celebrating Catersource’s tenth anniversary! Look out for the hashtag #10andnow, where caterers will be sharing their biggest and best moments of the past 10 years. Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

Art of Catering Food: Action Stations, Profiteroles and a #10andnow Cocktail Party

With a torrential downpour in Philly this morning and caterers tired from the night before, the last morning of Art of Catering Food got off to a slow start, but our opening panel brought the energy up slowly, discussing how they keep labor and food costs manageable. 

Then we got into the action, moving around the room to get the blood flowing for the Action Station Round Robin. Six high-profile catering companies built elaborate stations that got attendees buzzing. Some highlights:

1. Ceviche variations. Not only did Robin Selden chat about how she sells her ceviche station, she talked about how she creates ceviche stations that make her company unique. Filled with tips for upselling and making stations very profitable in a demanding market, Robin rocked out the round robin with a memorable citrusy sample.


One of our photo contest winners from @rosemarylavon — a gorgeous ceviche station


2. Spice tasting. Since letting an audience of 400 chefs taste 15+ spices on stage would be quite difficult, Keith Lord from H Events brought his presentation to each chef individually, letting them try every spice he presented and answered questions about preparation.

Close in on the spice tasting from Instagram user @onstar_e

Close in on the spice tasting from Instagram user @onstar_e


3. Construction. Purple Onion Catering’s Chef Adam Gooch not only created a delicious short rib station, he detailed how he built the station, featuring everything from PVC pipe to tape.


Action station by Adam Gooch

Chef Adam Gooch. Photo by @steve_sanchez


4. Churros. It was the early morning, so everyone in the audience was ready for a little bit of fried dough. Jeffrey Miller Catering’s staff presented a churros station filled with sugary variations for attendees to add to their menus. 

5. Farm to Table. The Classic Catering People constructed an organic cheese and mushroom station with fresh herb vases and  multiple samples of local cheeses. Attendees crowded around the gorgeous decor and had their fill of culinary samples.

From The Classic Catering People's station

Farm to Table Station by the Classic Catering People. Photo by @malawry


6. And finally… the Philly Cheesesteak! While we had a cheesesteak donut sample yesterday, Feast Your Eyes presented an actual cheesesteak with truffled cheese on a pretzel roll. Positively scrumptious and an amazing sample for all of us! We also had some flavored shave ice with syrup — a take on Italian Ice, or as Philadelphians like to call it, water ice. (I grew up in the Philly area, and I still don’t know how the term “water ice” makes any sense, but it’s sure quirky!)


As the end of the day approached, EMI Yoshi gave the room a burst of energy with a tumbler stacking contest, and we learned that the Don Strange Grill Pardner baby needs a name (hurry! the contest ends August 15). Most importantly, we got ready for the Catersource 10th Anniversary issue! Chef Dan Smith created a cocktail called the #10andnow, featuring 10 ingredients and a whole lot of celebration — look for more on #10andnow in the coming weeks.


catersource.conferencespot.orgThanks for everyone’s hard work on this event, especially Linda West, Ken Barrett, Karen O’Connor and the ICA Culinary Council. They pumped out so many samples and shared so much information. Thanks to all the presenters, all the chefs and all of the attendees. Remember that you can access conference materials at


Art of Catering Food: Cracking the Salt Crust and the Next Big Fusion Trend

It’s like catering chefs have a sixth sense for buffet awareness. The second our lunch buffet was set up on the Grand Ballroom floor, every chef’s ears perked up. The immaculate setup drew contestants in our photography contest almost immediately, and kindly Ken Barrett and Linda West let attendees photograph the buffet setup for 10 minutes before mealtime. Since the buffet was filled with ideas for room-temperature meals, it could withstand the culinary paparazzi.



Before and after chefs photographed, they got a barrage of culinary education. Today we were stuffed full of info, from the ever-popular Plug and Produce Apps session — with 20 easy and amazing hors d’oeuvre ideas– to the session on pies from around the world.


Here were some of today’s highlights:

 1. Sponsor giveaways. Bamboo Studio and SternoCandleLamp drew attendee names for their selection of products– and attendees were psyched! There will be many more giveaways tomorrow, so this was just the first taste.


2. Chefhacks from Chef Adam Gooch, who taught cave cooking and techniques for organizing shipping processes. Colored totes, cave-style cooking on site with SternoCandleLamp, mashed potatoes in pastry bags and more to answer the demand “I Need That Now!” 

3. Pies! Chef Ken Barrett, who has been pumping up the jams in the kitchen, presented an excellent session on sweet and savory filled pastries.

4. Cracking the salt crusts. Cracking isn’t necessarily the best sound at an event, unless Andrew Spurgin and his acolytes are there. Spurgin presented an awe-inspiring class on salt-crust cooking, evoking soft applause from the audience as a salt-crusted fish was CRACKED open on stage. It was a fantastic presentation that applied just as well to a pineapple.

Salt crusted beet from @andrewspurgin

Salt crusted beet from @andrewspurgin


5. Chocolate, chocolate, chocolate — hooray! Robin Selden taught us the difference between Tuile and Hippenmasse, shaping chocolate desserts beautifully.

Chocolate desserts from Marcia Selden Catering

Chocolate desserts from Marcia Selden Catering


6. The next big fusion trend from chef Elgin Woodman alerted us that the next big fusion trend is probably coming from the Southern Hemisphere. THe pulled pork arepas were delicious, but when chef Angie from Catering by Design mentioned Siberian Nachos featuring wontons and caviar– I was intrigued. Also alluring: a plantain dumpling in cilantroconsommé, which is the Latin version of Matzoh ball soup apparently. 


Pulled pork arepas on EMI Yoshi plates

Pulled pork arepas on EMI Yoshi plates


And now we’re off for the biggest surprise of the day… the Culinary Concert party. Excited to see what the Feastivities and the JDK Group have put together in Catersource’s biggest-ever party on the East Coast. Follow along on social media tonight at #aocf13 or #CulinaryConcert or wait for next week’s Get Fresh E-newsletter for the full story.


Art of Catering Food: Fabulous Facility Tours, Crostini Debates and the Best Kind of Marketing

Q. What do you get when you put 400 catering chefs in one room?

A. Deliciously sweet and salty donut sandwiches that seem almost healthy… and a whole lot of other fantastic ideas.

lemon thyme done and turkey sandwich with herb aioli

Lemon Thyme Donut sandwich — photo by our own Jolene Ihle


In Catersource’s second year hosting Art of Catering Food, we’ve headed to Philadelphia to bestow the East Coast with our culinary and events knowledge. We’re in the city, we’re seeing the sights and we’ve brought hors d’oeuvre.

This morning’s sessions were incredibly informative, with Cade Nagy giving us an in-depth photography seminar and Keith Lord going over the many exotic spices of the 33rd Parallel. Highlights of the morning included apple pie with smoked whipped cream — courtesy of Chef Rubber’s Smoking Gun and the team from Aaron’s Catering in Miami — as well as incredible tips on HAACP regulations in a session sponsored by sous vide superstars Fusionchef. Lon and Stewart Lane gave an in-depth tour of their prop room organization system, going over every shelf and form that they use for each event. And yes, we debated whether the crostini was dead and acknowledged that the cronut is very much alive with the spectacular folks at Blue Plate, who were the purveyors of the donut sandwich and 24 other canapes that packed big flavor. Blue Plate’s Corporate Chef Paul Larson plated each one up on stage, and attendees tried samples from the events. 


behind the scenes in the #aocf13 kitchen

behind the scenes in the #aocf13 kitchen



For lunch, we all invaded Reading Terminal Market, a farmer’s market that hosts fresh meats and fish along with lots of amazing restaurants. Caterers waited in line for cheesesteaks and cookies, sampling the wares of Amish producers, who were artisan hundreds of years before it was cool.

Cheese at the Reading Market from Instagram user bobm4

Cheese at the Reading Market from Instagram user bobm4


The facility tours — always a highlight for me — brought us to three wildly different venues. My tour started in Kensington with Feast Your Eyes’ lovely venue Front & Palmer. Originally designed as a bar mitzvah venue and a Kosher catering division, Lynn Buono and co. realized that the building really appealed to the DIY chic warehouse-with-a-luxury-sheen couple. The incredible wedding venue was decked out with late summer flowers that complemented the exposed beams. Sous Chef Mick Ortiz explained how he worked his way up from a dishwasher in his 19-year career at Feast Your Eyes, and the team took us through the most well-lit catering kitchen I’ve ever seen. (I realize that the kitchen is not where you want to put your lighting budget when renovating your venue, but I was impressed!)


We then headed down to Feastivities in trendy Manayunk, where Catersource style director Meryl Snow and her team took us on a groovy tour of their complex. “Food, please” echoed over the house speakers, and we made our way through her impeccable warehouse, which was organized alphabetically and filled with the most amazing selection of vessels. We also saw the sales staff’s motivation board and rocked out in the floral design division, Offshoots!

Finally, we made our way to the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, a phenomenally gorgeous Philly venue that hosts Jose Garces’ catering team. We explored the glass-embellished facility, which was completely decked out with wood floors and stunning views.

We can’t wait to see what tomorrow holds! At Feastivities I snuck away to see what kinds of preparations I could shake up. But, like a little kid searching for Christmas presents I couldn’t find much. 

See you tomorrow!

Art of Catering Food Photo Contest: Practice Your Photography and Win!


My photo of our first sample — lebni naan with zakat at spice from chef Keith Lord. Should I enter it in the contest? #aocf13 

Welcome to the Art of Catering Food in Philadelphia! Our 2013 show is just getting started, and we’ve just announced our photo contest from Chef Cade Nagy, caterer extraordinaire and expert catering photographer.

Post your photos from the next three days to Instagram, Twitter or Facebook. Tag your photo with #aocf13 and post by Tuesday at 1:00 pm to be entered. (You must be a conference attendee to win.)

Here are some of Chef Cade’s tips for taking a great photo:

1. Use natural light wherever possible, even if it means going out to the loading dock.
2. Reflect natural light using a purchased reflector… Or a sheet pan covered in tinfoil also works well.
3. The investment in a camera is worth it — but your phone can work well too. When shooting digitally, shoot on “extra fine” mode to get the most versatility out of your photos.
4. Shoot in various ways — focus in close, pull back, shoot vertically and shoot horizontally.
5. Pay attention to how the food looks and how you want it to look — not how your camera wants it to look! Your camera’s autofocus settings will make your photos look greyer than they need to.
6. Cade’s favorite camera mode is A mode to adjust the aperture — this controls depth.

We can’t wait to see what you come up with — shoot your samples, at the party, at out lunch events– whatever looks best at #aocf13.

6 Late Summer Menu Ideas and Presentations

Last year’s Art of Catering Food conference in Denver was almost a full year ago — it’s hard to believe. And, as the editor of Catersource, I’m still finding a wealth of information from last year’s conference that we haven’t been able to cover in the pages of the magazine or even in our social media content. There were just so many ideas that I’m still digging through and finding great ones. I wanted to highlight and revisit these six showstoppers that really made our tastebuds tingle and our eye pop with admiration in 2012.

Torched meat station from Culinary Crafts

Torched meat station from Culinary Crafts

1. What better to add to the heat of a summer barbecue than a little bit of fire? The Culinary Crafts team broke out the butane torches and set to a phenomenal presentation that had attendees gasping with delight. Although the torched meats were finished before the event, the finishing “torches,” if you’ll pardon the pun, gave ordinary barbecue a nice crisp exterior and created a huge draw for event guests. This photo from their presentation was accompanied live at the show by a demonstration and step-by-step instructions on how they put this station together. What chef doesn’t love to play with fire in front of an audience? It’s a chef station that doesn’t require too much convincing to sell.

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