• Local Chefs Dish On What Makes Party Food Memorable

    FROM THE Summer 2016 ISSUE
  • Local Chefs Dish On What Makes Party Food Memorable

    FROM THE Summer 2016 ISSUE
  • Local Chefs Dish On What Makes Party Food Memorable

    FROM THE Summer 2016 ISSUE

Food is an essential part of any successful event, but doing it right means thinking beyond shrimp cocktail and chicken breasts. Why miss an opportunity to make your guests’ experience a memorably delightful one? MIM+E talked to local experts about the hottest catering trends that will transform your event from ho-hum to heroic.

Presentation and Pinterest

With the popularity of Pinterest, caterers are being pushed to another level as party planners bring new menu requests, complete with photos and even recipes.

“People are smart, people are tuned in and people know what they want,” says Kelli Lewton Secondino, chef and owner at 2 Unique Caterers & Event Planners. “It ups our game.”

Dan Kelly, owner at Catering by Kellys, agrees. He says that presentation can transform a simple dish into something truly special.

“Desserts are more unique, from fruit cobblers in mason jars with fresh whipped cream, to brownie mountains,” Kelly says. His team loves the warm touches brought by natural elements like wood and marble. “We’re using wood boards and half slabs of logs for cheese plates alongside imported Italian meats. Pinterest is giving people lots of great ideas.”

Lewton Secondino is having lots of fun with presentation, especially what she calls MYO.

“It stands for Make Your Own, and it’s all the rage,” she says. She and her team recently did an event for Fox 2 where they created a custom grilled-cheese station with an array of artisanal cheeses, breads from rye to sourdough, beer pairings and two grills where guests could toast their sandwiches to perfection. The concept was simple, but the presentation and interactive elements made it a huge hit with the crowd.

Inspired by Michigan

Michigan’s agricultural industry is second in size only to California’s, and food that reflects the beauty and richness of Michigan’s landscape, farms and communities is inspiring chefs across the state.

“It’s so fun to see what Detroit and Michigan can provide,” says Geoff Cole, sales director at TM Catering. “I love Pure Michigan and Eastern Market items.”

Vegan dishes, including those featuring the dazzling spectrum of local produce, are becoming part of TM’s regular menu offerings. “Quinoa, sweet potato, Peruvian potato and rainbow carrots have been very colorful centerpieces to some of our newest veggie-centered dishes,” Cole says.

“Farm-to-table is here to stay,” Lewton Secondino says. She is enjoying the rekindled interest in old-world craftsmanship and traditional food preparation springing out of places from Detroit to Kalamazoo. “Who would have thought that all these young people would make sausage- and salami-making their life? That’s been my jam since I started cooking; local, sustainable and American. We don’t have to try so hard, we can be what we are.”

Kelly says the Michigan’s natural beauty continues to be integral to his cooking: “Northern Michigan is full of beautiful barns and wineries and events in tents on top of hills.” Food that celebrates this unique place and all it has to offer is always on trend.

Get Personal

Creating an interesting menu is about choosing food that connects on a personal level. That means it’s all about customization. Select items that reflect the personality of the event and its hosts. If your event is casual and relaxed, think comfort food in bite-sized portions or stations that invite guests to interact, circulate and mingle. If your event is formal and elegant, consider sophisticated options with strong visual appeal and gourmet touches. But don’t shy away from surprises.

“There’s just so much chicken and beef tenderloin, so I love it when anyone comes at me with something different,” Kelly says. “We’re doing Middle Eastern, Taiwanese, Macedonian, Indian … We’ve been doing this for 40 years, and we’re just excited about food.”

Cole says that he and his team are moving further and further away from one-size-fits-all menus.

“We never want anything to be the thing we do anymore,” he says. “Every event experience should be different.” Unexpected combinations of ingredients or old favorites reimagined in a modern way keep things fun and interesting for guests, giving them something to talk about and remember.

“You just set the stage, and food is the actor,” Lewton Secondino says. “We have so many things at our fingertips now.”

The CDC defines close contact as within six feet or less, for 15 minutes or more with someone who tests positive for COVID-19. At gatherings of many kinds, contact tracing is used to trace the people that someone has come into contact with, before they learn that they have tested positive. This allows the people that the sick person came into contact with to be aware of the situation, and to make health-informed choices. 


In 2020, Houston First Corp. (HFC) reported that the city was slated to host 252 meetings and 611,000 room nights. By March 14, the Bayou City had already hosted 115 conventions and 137,400 room nights. Then the pandemic hit, and meetings and events across the country came to a screeching halt.

We asked Michael Heckman, acting president and CEO of Houston First Corp. (HFC) how the health crisis has influenced the organization’s business model moving forward.


Chances are, you won’t know you’re living through history until it’s too late. It’s already happening. A chain reaction has been set in motion and the ground has begun to slide beneath your feet.

This past year has been a whirlwind to say the least. As a global pandemic sent the world reeling, planners were left grasping for footholds as the event industry was brought to a standstill, and many of the most fundamental elements of live meetings and events were cast in a new light.