S1 E7: Choosing Food for an Event



Where do you start?

Start by having conversations with Chef, catering, sales

Sometimes there is a gatekeeper to the chef like the catering manager or a sales manager


May be predetermined as part of the contract with the venue.

Will determine single entrée vs dual entrée.

Find out where beverages fit into your budget.

Try to be current in popular trends

Subscribe to food and wine magazines like

  • Saveur
  • Food & Wine
  • and local restaurant magazines like Edible

Eat out at popular fine dining

Joe has a menu collection that we will reference for inspiration. These menus are from food critic Fredric Koeppel’s collection which was donated to the Memphis Library.

Food is the most memorable part of an event. It’s what people talk about when they leave an event.

We really like custom menus for events.

Attend other events. Find out what other people in your area are doing at events.

We have also been known to look through cookbooks to get inspiration for chefs and menus.

Talk to colleagues about their experiences with food at events and as they travel.

Think about the chef’s capabilities

It’s good to ask what they chef can do or what they like to do

What’s their specialty? What are they good at?

Is there a new food product that they would like to showcase?

What have they done before?

Listen to the chef.

What is the best thing they have ever done?

What are their favorite things they’ve done?

How can we speak to their strengths?

Often the chef will only offer pre-prepared deserts if they don’t have a pastry chef on staff.

We like to stretch the chef and the catering staff

Joe loves desert trios because it allows the guest to choose what they like and so they don’t have to defer to the other guests at the table as sometimes happens with alternating preset deserts.


First course is the first impression, so it needs to be spectacular.

Think about coordinating the food with the design concept. For example, with a Latin American theme, consider a spicy desert.

Consider putting the meal in a hot box for an extended period of time to see how it holds up. This gives you a feel for how it will look the night of the event. Or ask them to prepare the salad the day before if that is how they are going to prepare it for the event.

Ask the hard questions to see if they can actually accomplish what you are asking for.

If you are planning multiple days of meals at an event, think about building up to the most important meal.

Start off light and end light.

Think about a to go meal at the end of a conference.

Look at photographs of things they have done.



If there are lot of meals, just taste things that you are not sure of

Tastings are very often only between the event planner and the chef

Often times tastings are very showy as an event

Consider using ballots to gather people’s opinions.


What does the client like?

Take  your client out to eat and observe what they like to eat.

Customize your menu to people of honor at the event.

Address demographics with flavors, tastes and spice level.

Large groups – work to create menus that are palatable across many palettes

No strong garlic, no seafood, not too spicy, not too heavily flavored

Give us your feedback!





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