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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From the Mouths of Attendees

The Art of Catering Food is over… and it was so much fun! We’ve heard such great feedback from attendees, though, and I hope to see everyone again next year– plus some new faces– in Philadelphia.

If you weren’t able to make it, you will be able to purchase the audio and presentations from the entire show on by the end of the month. Trust me, they’ll all be well worth it, and will give hundreds of ideas to your kitchen.

Now, let’s hear from you what you thought about the whole experience.

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A Quick Tour of Denver’s Coolest Catering Facilities

Awesomeness room at Footers

Awesomeness room at Footers Catering in Denver

If I could write spontaneous sonnets, I’d write one about the deep fried poached egg we ate at yesterday’s Breakfast & Learn. After a night of Skin & Bones, it was the perfect cap to a cloudy morning, the bright sun in the sky that marked the beginning of a busy day. I have no photos because, let’s be honest, most of the best-tasting food really isn’t that photogenic (especially if you’re only using an iPhone), but I’m pretty sure you can picture a poached egg, covered in a light bit of breading, exploding onto a plate filled with other breakfast goodies.

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