Tuesday, February 7, 2023
Home Planning Expert Advice Catering Tips and Trends

Catering Tips and Trends

By Anne Nagro

Food fads are changing fast as savvy planners turn to Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook for inspiration.

What’s popular today may be very different from what was hot just a short time ago. Michigan caterers who are staying ahead of the curve say the following trends will influence your events in 2014 and beyond.

(Photo Credit: 2 Unique Caterers and Event Planners, Scott Spellman)

Classic comfort foods become “wicked and sexy” when given a “polished new twist,” says Kelli Lewton-Secondino, owner of 2 Unique Caterers and Event Planners in Royal Oak. Guests love the unexpected, from lobster mac and cheese to mini chicken pot pies with fancy phyllo crusts.

Nick Forte, general manager of Forte Belanger in Troy, has served peanut butter and jelly panna cotta in shot glasses, Pop Rocks beignets in Kool-Aid pouches and homemade Pop-Tarts lollipops. A deconstructed mojito featured rum over frozen cubes of fresh mint mix.

Guests desire more and different tastes, whether passed individually or served at a station, says Geoff Cole, sales director of TM Catering in St. Clair Shores. One large plate of food served smorgasbord-style is passe, he says. People want to sample dishes at all stations. Small portions also let caterers showcase their creativity in food preparation and design.

The future is “definitely all about the display and decor,” Cole says. Forte anticipates simple, clean lines and “not as much fluff” on plates or stations. Color-blocking the dessert table is simple yet dramatic, says Susan Keels, sales and marketing director of the Royal Park Hotel in Rochester, which offers multiple morsels in a three-color scheme.

Expect more statement-making vessels like shooter glasses, which Cole uses to serve everything from mini margaritas to tomato soup, and ladle-like spoons that hold everything from salads to desserts.

Disposable bamboo items are gaining attention, as are old-fashioned containers like Mason jars. Lewton-Secondino uses the jars for individual pies and layered salads, attaching forks with twine. It’s “grandma-style with a hip twist,” she says.

Not long ago, spicy food was a no-no, Cole says. Today, people crave heat-from bacon-wrapped jalapeños to zippy pad thai. “It’s not bland meals anymore,” Cole says. Expect to see more deconstructed foreign dishes with modern lifts.

Even eggs are going bold. Duck eggs, larger and richer-tasting than hen eggs, are showing up in baked goods and served sunny-side up, Keels says.

(Photo Credit: Forte Belanger)

Requests for gluten-free items are rising in epic proportion, Lewton-Secondino says. The topic is always discussed when planning large events. Caterers who cook whole food from scratch usually offer more gluten-free options, as prepared ingredients like salad dressings can contain gluten-based additives. The nutritional value of ingredients is also coming into focus, she says.

Keels expects all things European to start trending. Branzino, a Mediterranean sea bass, is already replacing salmon on menus, she says. Savory crepes, made with herbs, cheese, wine and root vegetables, will remain popular.

Affogato bars combine gelato, espresso, and liqueurs for delightful après-dinner drinks. Served at stations, guests select ingredients and add chocolate shavings and fresh whipped cream. Mini cassata cakes and cannolis boost the Italian influence, Keels says.

According to Cole, guests increasingly want to see the action, such as chefs flipping salads, making crepes and plating crab cakes.

Forte Belanger took the traditional carving station to new heights when it catered a strolling, Brazilian-themed event for the University of Michigan. Servers carried roasted meats on swords churrascaria-style and carved portions onto guests’ plates. It was “a lot more fun and exciting for the guests,” Nick Forte says.

(Photo Credit: 2 Unique Event Caterers and Event Planners)

Food produced locally and authentic farm-to-table dining are here to stay, says Camilla Buehler, managing partner of Epicure Catering and Cherry Basket Farm in Omena.

Forte agrees. Clients are putting “a lot of importance on supporting the local community” to rebuild Detroit, which is good for vendors in the city and across the state.

Guests “appreciate the simplicity and the flavors of the foods,” compared to dishes with many components, Forte adds. They’d rather have “local cherries grown conventionally than organic ones from California,” adds Buehler, who grows her own herbs and edible flowers and buys produce from a farmer who leases her land.

Local menus often work best for small gatherings. Sourcing local beef filets for a 400-person benefit can be a challenge, though vendors and farmers are catching up with demand, Forte says. For larger events, he’ll use local beef in passed appetizers instead of the main protein.

Generation Y professionals are driving this movement, according to Lewton-Secondino. They want to know the origin of food products and ensure waste is minimized, recycled and composted. “Everything green is cool,” she says, from electronic invitations that don’t waste paper to using local honey for event favors.