Saturday, April 13, 2024
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Inspired Catering

By Julie Bielenberg


A Catering by Design chef provides a colorful, artistic touch to handcrafted ravioli using edible flowers.

Francis Photography

Colorado caterers have reorganized and reimagined how events look since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. From food and supply-chain shortages to the demand for local and organic goods, industry pros have changed their menus and approaches to compete in the emerging culinary landscape.


People have been in their homes cooking for themselves for two-plus years, and they are ready for a show. Colorado’s catering industry has responded with demonstrative and on-site cooking stations.

“Our clients are really into food preparation, and we are seeing an upswing in the trend of preparing the food in front of guests,” explains Ingrid Nady, CSEP, owner and CEO of Catering by Design in Denver. “This isn’t just an action station—it is seeing the ingredients come together in an artful way. For instance, we recently did an event where we were making ravioli in front of the guests with edible flowers, goat cheese ricotta, and spring peas. We rolled the dough in front of the guests, filled it, and then cooked the ravioli to order.”

Epicurean Catering prepares food fresh on location at many gatherings by using grills and pizza ovens and has kept tried-and-true dishes on the menu. “About 25 to 30 years ago, we started doing Colorado lamb lollipops on-site, and their popularity has never faded,” says Larry DiPasquale, chair and founder. “Now, we also have state-of-the-art pizza ovens and searing stations for miniature free-range chicken kabobs that we bring to events. We can mix in different sauces to add color to the presentation. It has been a huge hit from casual to elegant events.”

Kathy Dreiling of Buffalo Gals shares her
love for cooking authentic Santa Maria-style
barbeque on an open pit for her clients.

Picnic Basket Catering Collective

The Centennial-based company also has experienced an increase in burger requests. “We just did [our popular wagyu sliders] again for a corporate event last night,” DiPasquale says. “It is because they are grilled to perfection in front of the guests and come piping hot with caramelized onions and dill pickles. It’s simple but sensational.”

“Have grill, will travel” is a mantra for Buffalo Gals, the barbecue division of Picnic Basket Catering Collective in Colorado Springs. “Through catering authentic Santa Maria-style barbecue, simple picnics, and big stylish bashes, we prepare all kinds of cuisine over red oak on our impressive grills: colorful vegetables, fish, oysters, corn in the husk, beer-basted chicken, London broil, grilled romaine salad, grilled fruit, and, of course, traditional beef tri-tip sirloin. The guests love watching and smelling all the food being prepared on-site from start to finish,” says Kathy Dreiling, president and co-owner.


Swapping in local, in-season elements for more expensive and hard-to-guarantee products, such as a certain cut of meat or a specific color of orchid, caterers are relying on Colorado resources. Sourcing locally ensures the needed items are available and arrive promptly.

DiPasquale has noticed a surge in simple, organic vegetables, and it has turned into one of his favorite presentations. “There is authentic quality to the sparkling produce. We get so many colors and different types each season. There is never a shortage.”

Epicurean also has witnessed a shift to lighter and more colorful menu items that reflect spring and summer, such as edible flowers in desserts and displays.

Epicurean’s brûléed goat
cheese salad features baby
kale and mixed greens with
caramelized cheese coins
and watermelon radishes.

Epicurean Group

“Our field staff has been wowing guests with steak stations, grill-on-site taco bars, mac-and-cheese bars, and summertime soup shooters like chilled, white gazpacho or vichyssoise garnished with seasonal microgreens and savory flavored oils and vinegars,” says Dreiling.

Catering by Design is known for its creative displays—another important piece of the catering equation. “We are always thinking of ways to present in an artful manner,” Nady says. “We have the decor division and a carpenter on staff, and we recently won an international catering award [the International Catering Association’s CATIE Award for Best Beverage Trend Incorporation] for our presentation of Bubbles the Deer. This simple deer head was transformed into a champagne tap for an event in Aspen. So, it is taking ordinary objects and transforming them in a way that can be interactive and exciting.”