Tag Archives: chef education

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



Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

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)


six (6) 3-4 lb medium pie pumpkins 

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

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

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


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The COOLEST ideas from the CommuniCater!

It’s in your email inbox NOW!  The September/October volume of the  ICA CommuniCater

This edition of the  CommuniCater is filled with

  •  a “cool” cover story created by Chef Elgin Woodman of A Joy Wallace Production
  • comprehensive coverage from the 2011 CaterArts Conference
  •  a fabulous profile of Chef/Owner Debby Stein of Cartewheels Catering
  • a thorough look at the pros and cons of trendy camera apps by Cade Nagy
  • sales and marketing strategies

and SO much more.  Lots of delicious recipes too– and we saved Debbie Stein’s beautiful and savory Venetian Seafood Salad recipe for our ICA blog readers!

Venetian Seafood Salad

Seafood Poaching Liquid:

1 Celery Stalk

1 Medium Onion, halved

1 Medium Carrot

1 Bay Leaf

3 Tablespoons Lemon Juice (about one Lemon)

1 teaspoon Kosher Salt

2 quarts Water


1 lb C cleaned Calamari cut into rings and tentacles

½ lb Sea or Bay Scallops, foot removed

1 lb medium to large Shrimp

1 lb Octopus

To poach the seafood you will need a large saucepan fitted with a colander insert. In the bottom of the pan combine the poaching liquid ingredients and bring to a boil.

Place Calamari in the colander and cook in the simmering water for 2 minutes. Remove from the water and set aside. Place Scallops in the colander and cook until opaque, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove and place in the bowl with the Calamari. Large Scallops may be cut in half after cooking, bay Scallops may be left whole. Place Shrimp in the colander and cook until pink, about 3 minutes. Remove from water, peel, devein and cut in half horizontally, adding to the other cooked seafood.

Remove the colander from the pan and place the Octopus directly in the saucepan, adding more water if necessary to completely cover. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and gently simmer until tender, about 40 to 50 minutes. Transfer Octopus to a bowl and rinse under cold running water until completely cooled, about 5 minutes. Use your fingers and a small paring knife to remove the outer skin. Discard the hard mouth and head sac. Cut tentacles and octopus on the bias into 1 inch pieces and add to the cooked seafood.


1 cup julienned tender Celery

1 cup julienned Carrots

½ cup julienned Red Bell Pepper

½ cup julienned Yellow Bell Pepper

1 Scallion julienned white part only

2 Tabelspoons Chopped Fresh Parsley

2 Tablespoons Chopped Fresh Basil

2 large Garlic Cloves minced

6 Tablespoons Freshly squeezed Lemon or Lime Juice

1 Tablespoon White Wine Vinegar

½ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

½ teaspoon Kosher Salt

Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Combine all with the cooked Seafood. Can be served on a bed of Field Greens. We also serve it in a Martini Glass.

 Variations: Steamed Mussels may be added. To extend the recipe and add a new texture dimension, ½ cup cubed, peeled, cookedIdahopotatoes and/or ½ cup cooked or canned cannelini beans (drained and rinsed).  Although it isn’t traditional, a hint of chopped cilantro (about 2 teaspoons) can also be added.


The CommuniCater is an informative resource and *MEMBERS-ONLY* benefit of your ICA membership.   Read yours today!

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Inside the Recipe Box…

One of the REALLY great things about the ICA and the ICA Culinary Council members is that we are always sharing amazing ideas, recipes and knowledge with one another!  This helps each of us to grow, stretch our skills, and strengthen our business acumen, which in turn raises the profile and professionalism of our industry as a whole.

Take the 2009 ICA cookbook  “Inside the Recipe Box of the Catering Chef” for instance.  This book is packed with innovative and savory recipes along with ground breaking culinary techniques shared by 11 fantastic ICA member chefs.  And guess what?  It SOLD OUT! 

But two lucky CaterArts 2011 attendees have won the highly coveted book and will receive them at the opening session of the conference.


Sebation Barcos of Ebamar S.A. in Uruguay

Bryan Dunlap of Kimble’s Events by Design in Georgia

And in the spirit of all that is the ICA… I wouldn’t leave you without sharing something from the book.

Cade Nagy’s“Shrimp and Cotton Candy”:  Thai Glazed Shrimp with Wasabi Cotton Candy from page 83 should do the trick.  

12 large shrimp (16/20) peeled and deviened with tail removed

1/2 cup Mae ploy thai chili sauce

1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper

2 tbsp. mirin

1/2 tsp. curry paste

2 Tbsp. coconut milk

1 tsp. cumin

1/2 tsp. coriander

2 tbsp. fine granulated sugar

1 tsp. wasabi powder

Combine all ingredients minus the sugar, wasabi and shrimp.  Mix well and coat shrimp.  Let chill for 4 hours.  Place the shrimp on bamboo skewers lengthwise so they are straight.  Place on a hot grill and cook through, about 4 minutes.  Chill for 1 hour.

For the cotton candy, follow the manufacturers instructions for the machine using plain sugar.  Using a paper towel, remove all moisture from the skewered shrimp by squeezing lightly.  Roll the skewered shrimp in the cotton candy as it forms in the machine.  Dust with a little wasabi powder to finish.  Serve immediately.  It will not last very long.  Any moisture from the shrimp will dissolve the cotton candy.


Cade {Catering by Design} credits Chef Eric Levine for the idea of doing savory cotton candy,  and suggests trying the recipe with other dried powders as well like jerk seasoning, ginger or even garlic.

Tell us what you think?  Should we create another exciting ICA cookbook?  Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized


We’ve heard the catch phrase…”food as art…” many times, but international ICA member FoodArt by Cacique is living the motto.  During the recent 2011 Paradise Plates event, their dynamic chefs showcased an interactive “Wild Garden” welcoming guests to sample Mango Shots, Gazpacho Shots, Chili Prawns and Thai Beef Coconut Rolls with edible flowers while the event successfully raised charitable awareness and funds for the Hands for Hunger organization.

Sponsored by the New Providence Development Company Limited and Tommy Hilfiger, the creatively presented event sported a lavish array of gourmet food prepared by chefs from Nassau’s premier restaurants, fine wine and spirits, and live entertainment with all proceeds benefiting Hands For Hunger, the non-profit, humanitarian organization committed to the elimination of unnecessary hunger and the reduction of food waste throughout New Providence in The Bahamas.


 A fabulous display concept,  and recipes too!


Thai Beef Coconut Rolls

Prep Time: 45 min

Total Cooking time 20 min

Serves 15


8 ounce Beef Tenderloin

Sweet Thai Marinade

Whole Fresh Coconut thinly sliced

Yellow Bell Pepper thinly sliced



Marinade Beef Tenderloin for 20 min or over night. Roast Beef Tenderloin at 375 for 5-7 minutes for Medium Beef, or to your liking.  Brush the meat with excess marinade for added flavor. Let Beef rest for 5 minutes, then thinly slice so each strip can easily roll. Using a Mandolin slice coconut strips and the yellow bell pepper.  Stack the Beef, Fresh Coconut and Raw Yellow Bell Pepper strips and roll them in a wheel then thread on a bamboo skewer or strong toothpick.


 Chili Prawn Skewers

Prep Time: 25 min

Cooking Time: 10 min

Serves 30


30 large raw prawns

2 ounces Butter

1 clove garlic (crushed)

2 teaspoons soft brown sugar

2 tablespoons lemon or lime juice

2 tablespoons fresh coriander sprigs, finely chopped

2 tablespoons fresh basil leaves, finely chopped

1 tablespoon sweet chili sauce


Preparation: Remove heads from the prawns, then peel leaving tails intact.  With a sharp knife, slit each prawn down the back and devein.  Heat the butter in a large frying pan or wok. Add garlic, sugar, juice, coriander, basil and sweet chili sauce.  Mix thoroughly, add the prawns in batches, then cook over medium heat for 5 min, or until the prawns turn pink and are cooked through.  Thread the prawns onto bamboo skewers or strong toothpicks. Serve warm.



Thank you to KellyAnne Smith {Marketing, Public Relations & Branding Manager for  The Cacique International Ltd. Group of Companies} for sharing the concept, menus and vibrant photos with me, and KUDOS to the FoodArt by Cacique culinary team!

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


1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Liquid Candy!

With July being National Culinary Arts month, the ICA CaterArts conference couldn’t come at a more perfect time!  Amazing opportunities will exist for chef’s to stretch their culinary muscles, flex their food art skills, and embrace artisanal processes.  And…to just plain take away the most sizzling ideas.

Sizzling ideas like this TOO WONDERFUL “liquid candy buffet” shared with us by Joanne Purnell, Chef de cuisine of Good Gracious! Events in Los Angeles.  Joanne is the co-chair of the ICA Culinary Council and is working hard alongside Ken Barrett to create a schedule of education not to be missed.

Consisting of Mango Coulis Shooters, Coffee Milkshakes, Dark Chocolate Ganache Soup, Berry Soup Shots, Kiwi Mint Coolers and fresh made Lemon Swizzle Sticks, this would be a hit at any event and WOW your guests!

Joanne shared recipes with us for the Mango Coulis shooter and the Kiwi Mint Cooler…for the other innovative and refreshing recipes…well…you will just have to attend CaterArts for those!


 Makes: 1 quart

 3 mangos

1 cup simple syrup (equal parts water and equal parts sugar)

2 Tbl lemon juice


1)    Peel the mangos and chop into cubes to puree in the food processor..

2)    Add simple syrup to taste.

3)    Season with a few drops of lemon juice.  Pass through the food mill or strainer.



 Makes: 16 x 1oz shot glasses

 1 cup simple syrup (equal parts water and sugar)

8 green kiwis, roughly chopped

⅓ cup lime juice (3-4 limes)

½ cup, mint leaves firmly packed, extra for garnish

2 cups ice cubes

*if serving as a cocktail, can top with sparkling wine or water


1)     In a Cuisinart, blend all ingredients above.

2)     Pour into shot glasses and garnish with mint leaves.



Thank you Joanne for always providing innovative inspiration, and for all the hard work the culinary council is putting forth to create a one-of-a-kind culinary conference– CaterArts!

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

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

A CaterArts “Sneak Peak!”

The CaterArts conference is just around the corner filled with culinary tips, inspirations and a bevy of top pro chefs sharing their skills!    Chef Elgin Woodman of A Joy Wallace Production has been gracious to share a sneak peak recipe from her upcoming session with Ron Dando of Thomas Preti Events to Savor on bringing your dishes to life with scintillating sauces and accompaniments.

{Chef Elgin Woodman  Photo Credit:  Roy Llera}


“Tuna Nicoise”


1 lb Fresh Tuna

2 tbs Mustard Seeds

½ tsp Dijon Mustard

2 oz Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Salt and Pepper to Taste

2 lb Yukon Gold Potato

Juice of one Lime Juice

1 tbs Aji Amarillo

3 tbs Mayonnaise      

Salt and Pepper to Taste

80 French Green Beans

16 Quail Eggs

16 Grape Tomatoes

32 Nicoise Olives

1/2 cup Mayonnaise

1/4 cup Pitted Nicoise olives

Micro Greens and Lemon zest for garnish

Chive Oil to Drizzle


Marinate the Tuna in the Olive oil, Mustard seeds, and Mustard for ½ hour. Season with Salt and Pepper. Sear on a hot pan, turning it to get a nice even sear along all the edges. Extreme caution must be taken to not overcook it. When seared, cool.

Boil the potatoes, skin on, until tender. Peel the potato. Dice half of the potatoes and pass the other half through the ricer. Toss with mayonnaise, lime juice, Aji Amarillo and season with salt and pepper. These last ingredients can be modified depending on your taste. You can make it tangier or less tangy by increasing or eliminating the lime juice. You can also adjust the spiciness level with the Aji Amarillo. Using a ring mold place the potato in the mold and chill.

Blanch the green beans. Cook and peel the egg.


Push the potato out of the mold and place it on the plate. Top it with the green beans. Slice the tuna and place it on top. Toss the micro greens with lemon zest. Paint the plate with olive mayo and herb oil. Finish the plate with the quail eggs, nicoise olives, and grape tomatoes.


Thank you Elgin for sharing– it looks stunning and delicious!  And makes me glad I am registered for CaterArts…

Success and regards,
Jody Wimer, JPC Event Group
ICA Marketing and Communication Chairperson

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized