Catering chefs are emerging from the kitchen—or wherever they’ve been tucked away to prep the food—to let guests observe the cooking. Or they’re opening up the work space and inviting attendees to join in choosing ingredients and flavor enhancements.
Two of the buzzwords are customization and interactivity, and the point is to integrate the catering into the experience, to give food-crazy guests a chance to try something new. Make-your-own stations now go beyond salads and sundaes to all kinds of drinks, desserts, and entrées.
While often these changes mean putting a more prominent spotlight on the food, the movement away from long, seated dinners or static buffet stations can also allow attendees to focus on the point of the gathering. They can get up and mingle with each other instead of being stuck at a table for two hours. Or they can try out a new product, chat with a business contact, or listen to a presentation while the food comes to them, in waves of small plates passed in courses, or wheeled to them on carts.
With this increased interaction comes more menu choices and innovative presentation styles. Here’s a look at the newest interactive and hands-on approaches from caterers and venues looking to get guests involved with their food.
Create a devil-your-own-egg bar with hard-boiled eggs set on ceramic cartons and mini pails filled with toppings like paprika, caper powder, and chives.
Add a twist to your regular ice kacang to allow guests to customize their ice desserts with flavors including cran-raspberry and mango.
Instead of the usual chocolate fountain, individual fondue cups are filled with warm chocolate sauces, with items like marshmallows, kiwi slices, and strawberries to dip.
A new backpack contraption called the “Rocketman” that straps to the back of a staffer, can serve beverages among mingling guests.
Create a taco station, where guests can decorate homemade tortillas with an array of toppings served in custom-made resin pedestal pieces inspired by handcrafted Mexican pottery.
“Salad-tinis” made by “chef-tenders,” who mix ingredients with oversize drink shakers and serve them in martini glasses.
Create a Bloody Mary bar with ingredients including pickled vegetables, scallions, beef jerky, and rosemary stirrers, plus spicy elements like banana peppers and jalapeños.
A chandelier is lowered to become a 24-foot round dessert buffet.