Right now, nearly 400 catering chefs are sitting in an otherwise empty stadium, with a Rocky Mountain skyline in the distance, absorbing all kinds of incredible information just about their day-to-day work. Some of it is totally outrageous and will take some in-depth culinary brainstorming sessions to even think about using on a day-to-day basis. Most of the info at today’s conference attendees can take home and start using the second they get back into their kitchens. All of it is totally designed just for caterers — and extraordinarily delicious to boot.
As you probably know if you’ve been following Catersource, we’re at the Art of Catering Food Conference in Denver, and the energy is fantastic. I’ve been meeting a lot of the country’s stand-out caterers, all of whom are here to step up their culinary game. As someone said this morning — it’s not about the tabletops, and it’s not about the marketing. It’s about the food. I’m pretty sure that in each 45-minute session are at least 50 different ideas.
This morning I was happy to introduce Arjan de Boer to the Art of Catering Food attendees, and he wowed us with some of the really creative food presentation trends happening in Europe and elsewhere. Four-foot bags of giant chips? Totally memorable. And the description of a baby-powder-scented room that gave a totally new definition to “mother’s milk”? Something that I can’t even begin to recreate. (We will, however, have the whole conference audio and video for sale on the Catersource website soon — stay tuned!)
His presentation wasn’t all budget-busting sensory overloads, though. He brought up some other fantastic trends, like casualization. When he went to Noma, the world’s No. 1 restaurant, the waiter crouched down at the table and said, “Guys, are you hungry?” It’s that kind of attitude, where servers are equal with the diners, that caterers can adapt to their food style immediately. Foodservice shouldn’t be stuffy; it should be meeting the diner where he or she is at, even if it’s haute cuisine.
It’s ideas like that that are pervading this conference. We’re learning how to make easy, delicious desserts — as our presenter Jocelyn Ball put it, her swirled meringues and delectable lime curd are easy squeezy. Our Lunch + Learn showcased two hot-line plate up methods and one delicious entree, so attendees were snapping pictures of how our chefs were directing their staff members before sitting down to their midday meal. And the Much Ado about Chicken session (sponsored by Red Bird Farms — yum!), Kathleen Hoffman from Checkers Catering spouted off recipe after recipe for different uses of chicken — chicken Wellington with confetti polenta and pink cherry sauce caught my eye.
Now we’re getting ready to finish up the day of classes and then head over to City Hall for our Skin & Bones party. Bone Luges and the butchering of a whole pig in an urban Denver club — oh boy! We’re definitely bringing casual cuisine to the chefs’ level. Super fun, super meaty, and super delicious.