Tag Archives: catering innovation

Intolerance Tolerance

Gluten-Free ∙ Lactose Intolerant ∙ Allergic to Eggs ∙ Milk Sensitivity ∙ Shellfish Restriction ∙ Severe Peanut Allergy!

Have you noticed an increase in requests for special diet meals? If so, you’re not alone. Food allergies and intolerances are a growing health concern – the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted an 18% increase in the United States between 1997 and 2007. Food allergy awareness and advocacy are also growing, leading to increased demand for allergy-friendly meals when dining outside the home. In the special events industry, where just a few years ago menu exceptions tended towards religious or lifestyle needs such as vegetarian or Kosher plates, caterers are seeing increased requests to accommodate allergy-related dietary needs – often multiple exceptions at a single event.

So how do caterers meet the challenge of providing several special plates without incurring unreasonable costs, interfering with streamlined operations, or risking slighting food allergy-sufferers with unimaginative “plain” food? A food consultant and ICA members share some tips below:

Event planner and food and beverage consultant Tracy Stuckrath, CSEP, CMM, CHC of Thrive! Meetings and Events provides education on dietary practices within the realm of special events. She recommends asking specific questions to determine the exact nature of the allergy – directly to the planner or even the guest. Maybe two or three guests with special dietary needs can receive the same meal. Think about ingredient substitutes, she continues, such as cashew “cheese” sauce or various gluten-free flours for baking to provide a dish equal in quality to the contracted menu. Consider being proactive when preparing seasonal menus, says Stuckrath. Creating two or three versions of recipes will save time when you receive requests shortly before the event.

Heidi Vail of Tempe, AZ-based Heidi’s Events encourages clients who themselves have dietary restrictions to plan a menu for all based on their own requirements. Where multiple guests need a special meal, when appropriate Vail suggests increasing variety to allow guests to make their own choices.

It’s not just about menu selection, says Stuckrath. To avoid cross contact with allergens, it’s important to consider exactly how the food will be prepared and brought to the guest. Based on specific requirements and available resources, this may involve cooking the allergic person’s food first, using separate utensils and surfaces or even dedicating a sous chef to prepare the special plates and nothing else.

Puff ‘n Stuff in Florida has an operational plan to minimize risk of cross contact. Regardless of the reported severity of allergies, prepared special meals are transported separately, clearly labeled, then finished on-site first or separately from the main dishes. The person receiving the special plate is indicated on the seating chart and staff apprised before service.

From a risk management perspective, you may consider devising a written plan for dietary restrictions outlining how special requests will be handled. Welcoming Guests With Food Allergies is a guide for restaurants, much of which also applies to on-site and off-site caterers. Created by the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network, an allergy advocate group, the complete guide is available at www.foodallergy.org .

As the incidence of food allergies continues to grow, caterers are discovering that education and acceptance are key to the management of special requests. Some embrace the challenge as an opportunity for creativity and exploring new ingredients. Others market their ability to work with dietary restrictions to attract this growing customer base, surprising and delighting clients with complete menus for common dietary conditions.

Despite fervent work in the research community, it is clear that food-related allergies are not going away any time soon. Responding appropriately is not only legally necessary but also demonstrates your commitment to customer service and desire to excel.

It is important to remember that allergies and intolerances are disorders, not food preferences. There is no cure or medicine; strict avoidance of the allergen is the only way to prevent a reaction. For some, the sensitivity is so great that even trace amounts of an allergen can cause a reaction from mild discomfort to life-threatening anaphylaxis. Not a responsibility that caterers eagerly bear, but a reality to those afflicted. Food allergies are covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and guests with food allergies should be able to enjoy the same quality of food as other guests.

Photographer credits: Grains – Kathleen Brennan;  Flourless Hazelnut Pear Torte – Annabelle Breakey

Thrive! Meetings & Events: www.thrivemeetings.com

Heidi’s Events: www.heidisevents.com

Puff ‘n Stuff: www.puffnstuff.com

 

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An Island Unto Itself

Working together, ordinary people can perform extraordinary feats. They can push things that come into their hands a little higher up, a little further on towards the heights of excellence.
Source Unknown

When you consider the structure and operating persona of your catering company, do you view it as an “island unto itself” where you attempt to provide everything your client could possibly want or need, or do you relish the opportunity to  work as part of a  team of specialized vendors each contributing your expertise? 

Recently I have asked myself this question during reflection and planning for the future of our company, and I know you probably have as well.  The trend in the industry seems to be toward becoming mogul mega-companies that can do it all from food to flowers, planning to papergoods.  But I also see successful vendor “dream teams” coming together to market as a unit harnessing the power of referral between the companies, and even offering purchase discounts for clients that opt to use all of the companies.

So catering universe… tell me…

Regards,
Jody

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Pumpkin Palooza

Happy Halloween from the ICA! 

 

It’s harvest time!  The leaves are changing and the season is filled with so much pumpkin deliciousness!

Recently our ICA friends at Someone’s in the Kitchen catered an elaborate autumn wedding in Pebble Beach,California.  To feature her favorite autumnal food, the bride requested pumpkin recipes and SITK’s  Executive Chef delivered by designing a seasonal menu  that included two delicious pumpkin courses creatively presented.

The first course was an individual pumpkin filled with Savory Pumpkin Ravioli.  The pumpkin tops were all removed by service staff in one choreographed moment of theater!

 

The Pumpkin-A-Go-Go featured mini “Elvis Lolli-Pies,” and other scrumptious flavors, handcrafted in flaky dough and skewered onto sticks that were placed atop large pumpkins.
The guests enjoyed every bite and came back for more! 

 

Savory Pumpkin Ravioli  (Serves 6)

Bowls:

six (6) 3-4 lb medium pie pumpkins 

Pasta:
2-1/2 to 3 cups all-purpose flour
five (5) eggs
1 tbsp olive oil

Filling:
one (1) 2-1/4 lb small pie pumpkin, peeled and cut into 1″ cubes
4 tsp chopped shallot
1/3 cup butter, cubed
2 tsp minced fresh sage
¾ tsp minced fresh thyme
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
2/3 cup heavy whipping cream
one (1) egg, slightly beaten

Sauce:
1 cup heavy whipping cream
3 tbsp butter
2 tsp minced fresh sage

Cut tops off 6 pumpkins about half way down the side at a slight angle and scoop out the insides with a spoon and reserve the seeds for a later use. (The pumpkin should look like a bowl with a lid on it.) Set aside.

 Place 2-1/2 cups flour in a large bowl, make well in the center. Beat eggs and oil, pour into well. Stir together, forming a ball. Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 8-10 minutes, adding flour as needed to keep dough from sticking. Cover and let rest for at least 30 minutes.

 Sauté pumpkin cubes and shallot in butter until tender, then add sage, thyme, salt and pepper. Transfer mixture into a food processor, cover and process until blended. Return to the pan and stir in cream. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 15-20 minutes or until thickened.

 Divide pasta dough into fourths and roll one portion to approx 1/16″ thickness; keep remaining dough covered and cool until ready to use. Working quickly, distribute rounded teaspoonfuls of filling 1″ apart across half the pasta sheet. Brush egg wash around filling, fold pasta sheet over and press down to seal. Cut ravioli into squares with pastry wheel. Repeat with remaining dough and filling.

 Bring stock pot of salted water to a boil and add ravioli. Reduce heat to gentle simmer; cook for 1-2 minutes or until ravioli float to the top and are tender. Drain and keep warm.

 Bring cream to a boil in small saucepan and cook, uncovered, until reduced by half. Stir in butter and sage. Remove from heat and fold in ravioli to gently coat the pasta with sauce.

 Place 4 ravioli in each of the 6 pumpkins and garnish with a few pieces of shaved parmesan cheese (optional). Place lids on the pumpkins and serve.

 
“Elvis” Lollipies  (Makes 12 pops)

 two (2) pie dough sheets, 9″ round
2             bananas, cut into 12 ½ inch slices
36          chocolate chips
3 tsp      creamy peanut butter
8 oz       egg whites
4 oz       sugar
12           white lollipop sticks
 

Punch out 24 2″ rounds out of the pie dough sheets. Line 12 rounds about 2″ apart on a parchment lined sheet pan. Place one stick in the middle of each pop.

 Place ¼ tsp peanut butter in the middle of each round. Top peanut butter with 3 chocolate chips per pop and then push on banana slice down into the peanut butter and chocolate.

 Add 2 oz of sugar to the egg whites and brush the edge of each pop. Place the other 12 dough circles on top to complete the pops. Use another lollipop stick to crimp the edges of the pop and seal the filling.

 Brush each Lollipie with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

 Bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes until golden brown and flakey. Cool before removing from sheet tray.

 Note: Any pie filling you enjoy using can be used for this recipe!

Thank you again to Joann and the Someone’s In The Kitchen crew for sharing their creativity and innovation with the ICA blog!

Success and Regards,
Jody Wimer, JPC Event Group
ICA Marketing and Communications Chairperson

 

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