Let’s get shakin!!

So as most of you know I closed my last full-service catering business over 6 years ago. I have since helped friends, past clients and local organizations but I officially stopped all catering with a final wedding I did for a friend this past September. It made 188 weddings in my career and with my OCD, my health, my sanity, and the release of the first book in the Benwood’s Surely Southern cookbook series it was time to close that chapter. 

What should you look for in a caterer, how do you find the right caterer for the right type of event? I get these and all kinds of questions almost daily. Here’s my overall take on it after over 15 years in the business. 

(1) What are your specialties? 

You want to know what they specialize in and does that type of food fit your event/theme. A lot of catering companies do not have an actual chef on the job. A lot of times it’s recipes and cooks, don’t take that the wrong way there’s nothing wrong with that and it could be the best food you’ve ever had. But you don’t want a company venturing away from their specialties if they don’t have a classically trained chef on staff. 

(2) Ask them what they recommend based on certain budget ideals and the type of event. 

This will give them (the professionals) a chance to explain what they envision for the event and see if they are creatively offering what you are looking for or have the ability to guide you in a direction you like. 

(3) What is the estimated cost? 

Some caterers do per person cost, some have different ways of figuring the cost. Have a budget and be ready to offer that to the caterer. I see so many people ask something like, how much would it cost me to cater a function for 100 people? Well, that’s a loaded question, I always tried to remain polite, but the honest answer based on what you just asked with no further info will probably get you an answer along the lines of well, “our minimum is $$$ per person or event, how much per person over that depends on YOU.” Caterers have to take into account, drop off, seated and served, buffet, location of event, foods served. Most caterers are very skilled at what they do but they aren’t mind readers. A lot of factors come into play and without those or your willingness to give details they will probably turn down the job or you will pay too much. 

(4) Do you provide a sampling of the menu?

Most high end and experienced caterers offer this, some charge for it some do not, most do. I would suggest if you haven’t spoken with past clients, don’t know the caterer personally, or it’s a larger scale event to ask for a sampling. Sometimes it’s worth the fee.

Finally, since I’m retired, I will tell you what most caterers won’t. Don’t expect to pay what you would in a restaurant and the days of $10-$15- sometimes even $20 per person are over with. Caterers work with you to plan the food side of your event, they shop or order the ingredients and often have to plan purchases or rentals of utensils, plating, napkins, serving pieces, and decor. They assign and schedule staff for not only the event but days of preparations before the event. They must plan how to get and serve warm or cold foods at a venue you selected that doesn’t offer a kitchen or doesn’t have refrigeration or stove or ovens, maybe not even a prep area, because you liked it. They then execute the event in a way that makes you look good, them look good, and put out quality great tasting food. All in all, this is a big undertaking even for experienced caterers but it’s what they do. 90% of the work that will go into your event you will never see. You see a finished product for 2-5 hours and it’s over. 

Till next week, I’m Chef Hunter Lee 

Remember, “treat your kitchen, treat yourself”

Benwood’s, uniquely southern, surely the best