Catering events provide delicious food and drink for special gatherings without the hassle of cooking. If you cater from your own kitchen, advanced planning is key for success. Follow these steps so you can serve restaurant-quality dishes without a hitch when catering your next event.
What is Catering?
First, catering involves preparing cuisine for private functions held off-site from your food establishment. Common events include weddings, corporate parties, charity balls and more. As the caterer, you transport fully cooked food, beverages, serving items and decor to the event venue. This allows hosts to enjoy wining and dining their guests without kitchen prep and mess at their site. Catering allows you to showcase cooking skills for various audiences beyond everyday restaurant patrons.
Catering also requires providing exceptional service in addition to delicious fare. From initial menu planning with clients to timely delivery and artful presentation at the event, every detail matters. You must WOW guests with an elegant spread and consider dietary preferences like vegetarian, kosher, or gluten-free options. Essential logistics like reliable transportation, maintaining food temperatures in transit, attractive table decor and managing leftovers are your responsibility too. Impeccable cuisine quality simply isn’t enough. Catering means exemplary execution across the entire event scope – from the first bite through the final glass raised in celebration. Success means the hosts can actually relax and enjoy their function rather than stress over food and service. When done right, catering allows chefs to strut creative talents while forging lasting relationships with new clientele.
Set Up Your Kitchen for Safety and Organization
When using your kitchen for catering events, safety and organization should be top priorities during preparation. Clean all appliances, shelving, prep areas and tools before cooking to avoid cross contamination. Designate sections strictly for catering dishes to prevent confusing restaurant orders. Label ingredients by event as well so nothing gets mixed improperly. Store catering components together in sealed containers once cooked and cooled for simple loading at event time.
Establish structured protocols around preventing cross-contamination when handling various cuisine types. Keep produce, meat, seafood and other goods completely separated during prep, storage and cooking. Clean and sanitize surfaces, knives and hands thoroughly after working with higher-risk items like poultry before touching other ingredients. Code items with event labels as soon as they are prepped. This strict order ensures quality and guards guest health, which is paramount with off-site catering.
Organization also enables efficiently packaging components to transport. Group items requiring chilling versus ones that hold at room temp. Have serving tools and decor pieces packed separately too for easy access on site. Maintain a detailed loading checklist so nothing critical gets overlooked when departing, especially small items like garnishes, tongs or extra serving utensils. Keep extra transport bags, serving dishes, sternos, and decor on hand as well since replacement at event sites is difficult.
Strategically Streamline with Catering Stations
Strategically place catering supplies near cooking areas to assembly line the process. For example, keep service trays next to the fryer so you can easily transport rolls straight from oil to tray. Place utensils, piping bags and garnish next to platters where hot food moves after cooking. This seamless flow between prep, cooking, plating and boxing ensures high-quality presentation.
Consider setting up self-contained catering stations if you have the space. One station is purely for cold apps and sides, with designated chilling, plating and packing areas. Another for hot items complete with ranges, ovens and hot holding gear. A separate beverage bar for chilling wine, preparing coffees/teas, and arranging glassware. Dedicated stations prevent menu items from cross-contamination and allow your team to master nuanced preparation techniques. They also enable cooking specialty diets like gluten-free separately. Strategic kitchen zones streamline high-quantity output so plating remains elegant. Signage labeling stations prevent any ingredient mix-ups under catering pressures.
Invest in Reliable Transport Gear
Dedicate transport containers solely for catering as well. Purchase durable commercial-grade pans that won’t spill or crack in transit. Metal racks hold items securely and can go straight into insulation bags. Invest in quality cold storage boxes that maintain safe temperatures if serving chilled dishes off-site. Having reliable gear guarantees your elegant creations still wow guests hours later at the venue.
Acquire Specialty Catering Instruments
Unique kitchen tools also help execute specialty catering with finesse. Culinary torches enable quick crusting and caramelization without lingering over a hot burner when pacing dozens of meals simultaneously. Piping tips create ornate shapes and decorative drizzles so hors d’oeuvres pop. Misters offer a fine, even olive oil dispersal over salads and pastas. Mandolins yield perfectly uniform vegetable cuts critical for upscale presentation. Having versatile yet precise instruments elevates catered cuisine above ordinary expectations.
Written by Taylor McKnight, Author for Arista Catering