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!


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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National Restaurant Show Brief: Trends

CSNRA9 It’s a behemoth, that’s for sure. For those of us who have made our way to McCormick Center in Chicago, we’ve found ourselves both enthralled and overwhelmed. When we talk to our friends in foodservice, we probably call it NRA, but for the laymen out there, we’ve learned to say “the restaurant show” or something of the sort to avoid being confused with another national organization, one that’s more highly divisive. It’s the National Restaurant Association, and I made my second annual trek this year.

I’ll admit– although I love the size and focus of the Catersource Tradeshow, the NRA show in contrast is a little bit bewildering for me. I’ve asked myself on the McCormick show floor many times, “Where am I and what am I looking for?” (To be fair, sometimes I ask myself these questions when I’m at the mall or even Googling things, so feeling a little lost in all the information is not uncommon for me.) The Catersource show is generally a lot easier to navigate, with every product focused specifically on catering and events.

But even so, I saw these new styles and innovations that caterers might find interesting.

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Five Tasty Tidbits from the IACP Conference

Here in Minneapolis, where has been freezing rain all day, I’m remembering fondly last week when I was in San Francisco at the International Association of Culinary Professionals conference. I miss the warmth of San Francisco, the delicious local fare I ate all week and the very cool and super smart attendees and speakers who made the conference a fantastic experience.

And now, without further ado, five things I learned while at the IACP conference that will inspire and make an impact on caterers…

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What do caterers want for the holiday season?

We know this is the busiest time of year, so how about a selfish distraction? We asked Mike, Meryl, Cade and all the members of the Catersource family: what do caterers want for the holidays? What do you want to start your new year off right?

New pair of insoles
Fresh supply of Advil and aspirin
An airline gift card to anywhere
–Mike Roman, Catering guru and Catersource Consultant

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How to Make a Definitively Nashville Party

Nashville: a town of twang, of giant dreams, of newly successful tv shows and old movies starring Lily Tomlin and, most recently, a town with a huge culinary history. For this year’s International Foodservice Editorial Council (IFEC) conference, 179 foodservice editors and publicists headed down to Music City– or NashVegas– to check out the newest products and culinary trends. From November 5-8, 2012, I ate through foodservice trends with other IFECers. Here are my highlights:

1. Learning about classic Nashville specialties: Before the New American Foodie Revolution of the past 10 years, Nashville had already contributed two distinguished regional dishes beyond the basics of Southern cuisine.

Meat-n-Three designates the type of restaurant where you serve a protein (usually fried chicken) and three sides, cafeteria style, with the addition of cornbread. And Meat-n-Threes are common throughout the South, but they hold a particular significance in NashVegas. At many of Nashville’s meat-n-three joints, you can see country stars, aspirational singers, tourists and just about anyone else in town shuffling through the cafeteria lines, selecting their sides. As one of the speakers at IFEC put it, the cafeteria line itself is “the great equalizer.”

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