Southwestern Cuisine at Catered Events
Catering trends are all about finding the new and creative sides of cooking. International cuisine never goes out of style, with Asian, Italian, and French-inspired dishes remaining popular at catered events. However, at the same time that the interest in ethnic foods remains high, American cuisine is waiting in the wings to be the next big thing. In fact, while all eyes were on Indian curries and Thai noodles, Southwestern cuisine has snuck up on the unsuspecting caterer and has taken center stage.
What is Considered the Southwest?
The United States Southwest is an area that spreads from south Colorado and southwest along the Rio Grande River to Arizona; it also includes New Mexico and Southwest Texas, which is the area south and west of the city of San Antonio. This sprawling area that covers four states – Southern Colorado and Texas, Arizona and New Mexico – was settled by Spanish colonists between 1540 and 1598, giving Southwestern food bold, Spanish roots. Alongside the Spanish flavors, the indigenous Americans – Apaches, Navajos, and Pueblos – contributed their foods to the cuisine of the region, making Southwestern cuisine a fascinating combination of tastes and cultures.
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Vegetable Carbohydrate Substitutes
The body’s relationship with carbohydrates is complex – the ultimate love/hate relationship. There’s no question that carbs are important: they give us energy and they contribute to normal brain function. However, not all carbs are good for us, especially not when eaten in large quantities. Many carbs are basic comfort foods – pasta, rice, bread, etc.—and it’s easy to overdo the pleasure of that particular comfort. While some people are ok with cutting out carbs altogether, a better idea may be to eat less of them. Replacing the simple carbs mentioned above with vegetable-based substitutes could be just the solution for adapting a healthier diet.
Why Eat Carbs?
Carbs seem to be everywhere; they’re found in fruits, vegetables, breads, pasta, and dairy products, and they’re an important source of energy. The body uses carbs to make glucose, which is a type of sugar that can be used immediately for energy or stored for later use. “Carbohydrates provide the body with the energy it needs and are a good source of many vitamins and minerals. However, not all carbohydrates are created equal,” says Donna Logan, a registered dietitian at the University of Texas Medical School in Houston.
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The Breakfast Trend Goes Global
Buffets, in general, and breakfast buffets, in particular, are hugely popular at catered events, and the trend seems to be gaining steam. However, because there is no rest for the weary, and because caterers can never rest on their laurels, smart caterers are always looking for ways to increase the intrigue and allure of their menu offerings. Enter the internationally inspired breakfast – the hottest trend in catered affairs.
A New Twist to an Old Stand-By
While pancakes and waffles never go out of style, and omelet stations are still an integral part of breakfast buffets, the savvy caterer is now going beyond the U.S. borders and incorporating foreign flavors and international dishes in their breakfast menus. According to the National Restaurants Association, 68% of the American Culinary Federation Chefs surveyed chose ethnic-style breakfast food as one of the hottest trends of 2018.
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Poke Bowls Come to the Mainland
Although in Hawaii, the poke bowl is as integral to the national cuisine as pasta is in Italy or sushi is in Japan, in the rest of the United States it’s a trend that, while new a few years ago, seems here to stay. Poke is chopped raw fish that is usually seasoned with soy sauce and sesame oil, and served over warm or hot rice, and it’s a staple in the food culture of Hawaii, where it can be found everywhere from supermarkets to take-out joints. For those in the “lower 48” who are just discovering poke bowls now, it’s not a moment too soon.
If you take the elements of sushi – raw fish, rice, vegetables, seaweed, sesame oil, etc. – and put them together in a bowl (and not in a roll), you’d be looking at a poke bowl, a tradition that dates back centuries in Hawaii. Poke is pronounced poh-kay, and the word means “to cut.” The fish in a poke bowl – ahi tuna or salmon, for instance – is marinated, chopped, and dished out over hot rice. The rice-fish combination is then seasoned with a variety of sauces, such as rice vinegar, soy sauce, spicy mayo and other, more-exotic options like ponzu sauce (more on this flavorful sauce later); vegetables, like chopped scallions or tomatoes can be added, along with sesame seeds or other seeds.
Continue reading Poke Bowls, Originally from Hawaii, Are a Big Hit in the Rest of the U.S.
How to Hire a Head Chef for a Catering Company
If you have a catering company, but are too absorbed by the business end of the operation to do the cooking yourself, it’s time to start looking for a head chef. This might seem like a daunting task, as the chefs you should be considering are many things rolled into one: They must be passionate about their job, creative and ingenious in the kitchen, and able to lead a full staff at the same time that they whip up the fabulous dishes that will keep your business alive. You will probably have to interview many candidates before finding the best person for the job, but once you do, you’ll rest better knowing that the food end of your business is in the most capable hands.
Hiring a Head Chef
Hiring a chef is a major challenge for a caterer. You’ll be looking for someone who is a competent and hardworking chef, as well as a person who will be as dedicated to your company’s success as you are. If you find the right person for the job you will be able to trust him or her to prepare food (of course), as well as train new staff members, develop menus, and offer input and advice regarding marketing decisions that will affect your business. The head chef will become your right-hand person and you should take your time thinking about what you’re looking for, wording the best advertisement, sifting through resumes, and interviewing the candidates.
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Pâté: The Next Best Thing is Here
When it comes to catering trends, the phrase, “what goes around comes around,” is particularly meaningful and relevant. The culinary pendulum is in constant swing and what goes out of style one year is bound to become the trend of the moment a decade or two later. Wait long enough and tried-and-true buffet staples, like pâté, start showing up again at catered events, with a few twists and turns that make them a dish so right for our times. The classic French favorite, pâté, as well as various modern interpretations, are now a trendy item that can showcase a caterer’s skills.
What is Pâté?
Pâté (pronounced pah-TAY) is French for “pie,” but we tend to refer to anything that is ground into a spreadable topping for crackers, or molded into a terrine, as pâté. It is often served baked in a crust (en croûte) but it is easier to simply serve the pâté mounded in a decorative way, so that guests can easily partake.
Continue reading The Revival of Pâté is a Welcome Trend for Caterers and Guests Alike
Opening a Gourmet Popsicle Business
For many of us, cooks and customers alike, popsicles hold a dear place in our hearts, evoking the summer days of childhood spent outdoors, listening for the distinctive melody of the ice cream truck and celebrating its arrival. The heat of the summer would be alleviated with a sweet, frozen treat on a stick, whether fruity and colorful, or creamy and chocolatey. On the strength of this memory – of popsicles gone by – the frozen treat is finding its way in an updated and dressed-up version. Gourmet popsicles are all the rage right now.
Popsicle Catering: A Niche Operation
While many caterers will supply their own cakes, cookies, pies and other baked desserts for their catered affairs, very few of them will also be able to prepare gourmet popsicles in bulk without seriously expanding their operation. Instead, caterers are outsourcing their popsicle order requests to entrepreneurs who have set up an operation devoted solely to gourmet popsicles, so that these orders – which are becoming more and more popular every day – can be accommodated.
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Hop Aboard the Experiential Catering Train
In today’s modern world of catering, it’s a mad race to find the one (or two or three) original approaches that will put you ahead of the pack. In this age of constant change, it is less about the food and drink that you serve and more about latching onto the latest trends or – better yet – predicting what the next great trend will be. With that in mind, you should be keeping an eye on the steady rise of the experiential catering trend. Because, in addition to serving your guests the finest culinary options, you now have to incorporate them into an overall experience that will leave a lasting impression on everyone present.
The Experience is Everything
Driven by a sense of exploration, or perhaps a dire fear of missing out, Americans today are always on the lookout for new experiences. Restaurants are offering novel, fun and memorable meals through pop-up venues and entertainment-themed locales. At the same time, while restaurants are offering unique experiences through their food and beverage options, venues that typically place experience over food and drink, such as sporting events and music festivals, are upgrading their menus to complement the experience. In other words, the experiential dining trend is on the rise and caterers have to join the fray or be left behind.
Continue reading Use These Experiential Catering Ideas to Create a Memorable Event
Homemade Condiments for the Trendy Caterer
As a caterer, you are always trying to set yourself apart from others in the industry with premium offerings that include the best ingredients. The goal is to differentiate your business from others with unique flavors and concepts that earn you a reputation for originality and quality. Offering homemade condiments is a way to give a specialized twist to common foods that people have in their refrigerators, giving an artisanal flare to old familiar flavors.
Homemade Condiments: Perfect for Caterers
While some home cooks may embrace the homemade trend, it’s still way easier for them to grab condiments off the supermarket shelf and store them for later use. Caterers, on the other hand, can whip up a batch of homemade condiments – to be used at a specific event – and not have to worry that it won’t last forever in the refrigerator. Store-bought condiments are loaded with sugar and chemicals, which make them long lasting but not the healthiest of items. Making your own condiments may seem to hark back to the middle of the last century but, creatively, they are a big step forward in this age of health-conscious menus that stress natural ingredients.
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Gluten-Free Catering Cuisines
Dining out in restaurants or eating at a catered affair can be a risky proposition for anyone who is restricted to a gluten-free diet. While many restaurants and caterers offer gluten-free options – along with other offerings that take into account various food intolerances and allergies – not all take the time to train staff about the dangers of food sensitivities and to ensure that those “free-from” items are also free from cross-contamination.
These days, however, given how many gluten-free products are available – including vegetables, meat, legumes, and flour alternatives, such as cornmeal and rice flour – chefs can offer menus that are entirely gluten free, making life for a caterer whose client has gluten-free demands much easier. Caterers can offer a wide range of gluten-free cuisines, many of which we’ll discuss here, such as Mexican, Thai, and Indian.
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