Chris Hammond: We start by finding out everything we can about the event and what our client has in mind. Then we ask questions: What is the budget? What is the event for? Is it celebrating something? Has it been done before atother venues? Can we see the previous menu? Next we ask the client what they liked and disliked about their previous events so we know what things to avoid and where we can exceed their expectations. Once we have everything pulled together, we sit down and start to plan a menu catered to the client’s wishes.
MM: What changes have you seen for event menus recently and how have you accommodated these changes?
CH: Everybody is stretching their budget, so we work very hard to meet their goals within their limitations. We have found that more of our clients prefer casual reception-style service instead of formal, sit-down meals. This works well for many reasons. We can provide a larger variety of food than you can during a plated dinner and do so more inexpensively. You don’t have to sacrifice taste for the bottom line.
Many clients are also interested in local/regional offerings, and with event planning, literally, “everything is on the table.” Events are about getting the most local flavors, the best seasonal ingredients and showcasing our local community farms. Since many of our groups tend to be from the region, it’s great when you can create a menu using farms and growers that are part of their neighborhood.
MM: What can groups do to make the most of their often limited budgets and still create a great impression?
CH: Our goal is to ensure our clients have an amazing event and that they’ll want to come back. We work within budget limitations with our clients and we know what we can do. Our goal is to put together an amazing event, make our clients look good and leave a lasting impression.
CH: Our clients are really enjoying interactive breaks or events that involve food. With the popularity of food-focused channels, like the Food Network, people are much more involved and fascinated with food right now and they want to be part of it. We have taken the standard break of milk and cookies and created mini cupcake competitions. Our clients break into teams where they make and decorate their own cupcakes. This is a great way to break up a long meeting with something fun, creative and memorable.
MM: What do think will be the next big trend?
CH: I believe the reception-style trend is going to continue for quite some time. It’s a great way to meet the needs of a casual get together, as well as a formal meal. We have so many creative ways to put together simple style meals or extravagant spreads. Our approach to food is a simplistic one - don’t overdo it, make it understandable, make it crave-able and make it memorable. We call our approach “Simple Elegance.”
MM: What would your dream menu look like?
CH: I would love to create a reception with everything in individual servings, but still cooked right in front of you. I envision food that is true and authentic: mini “street” cuisine from around the world such as Mexican Tacos, Poutine, Pork Buns, Jerk Chicken… I could go on and on. I would add a mini pairing of beverages at each station. Imagine eating a carnitas taco with a mini margarita or Jerk Chicken in a paper bag with a taste of Red Stripe or a meatball with a sample of a super Tuscan. I’ve had this menu in my head for years; it evolves every day. All we need is a client to say, “Go for it!”