Some things are best left to the professionals
The Art of Catering
Whether you are planning an intimate dinner for two, a birthday party for your child, or an anniversary party for over a hundred guests, finding the right caterer can make that event far more memorable, special, and enjoyable. While word- of- mouth recommendations can prove to be the most reliable way to begin your search, you’ll want to keep in mind that matching your personality to a caterer’s personality is paramount. Your ability to get along with, respect, and admire the caterer is key to a successful event.
When it comes to assessing the right match in a caterer, Alexis Michel Angelo, an event planner for the past twenty years, provides a list of qualities to consider. She has hired a countless number of caterers here in Southwest Florida, up North, and from as far away as Rome, Italy, for an equally wide- ranging spectrum of events. Being of Italian descent, she sums up the imperative of serving quality food as the most important ingredient of any event. “As Italian mothers teach, the quickest way to someone’s heart is through food,”
says Michel Angelo, president of Alexis Michel Angelo, an event- planning company based in Naples. “Food is the essence of life and the soul.”
Whether it’s the perfect pairing of the right white wine with fresh seafood appetizers or the frivolity of choosing the right color frosting for your kids’ cupcake party, these decisions are why you are turning to a professional to create a lasting memory. “The first thing I look for is a passion for their profession,” says Michel Angelo. “Make sure they bring a real joy and willingness to partner with you.”
With passion comes a flair for creativity and a desire to make your event reflective of your unique desires for a distinctive out-
YOUR ABILITY TO GET ALONG WITH, RESPECT, AND ADMIRE THE CATERER IS KEY TO A SUCCESSFUL EVENT.
come. “Everyone has a specialty,” Michel Angelo adds. “It’s important when you are considering which caterer to ask them what there is and how it could enhance your planning.”
With the initial phone call to a potential caterer, you’ll get a feel for whether or not your personalities are a match. Then, you’ll want to plan a tasting and a sit- down to see what they bring to the table, both literally and figuratively. “Consider how their ideas for food, presentation, a theme— all of that— will appeal to the five senses,” suggests Michel Angelo. “There is a real psychology behind events. They need to take sight, smell, taste, touch, and hearing all into account. In Italy, we consider it to be a way of life to have all these come together in a way that rings true to the heart.”
Aside from some of the very obvious considerations, such as professionalism as evidenced in the way a caterer communicates over the phone, the way they dress for a tasting, and the way they effectively co- create with you, are some down- toearth realities. Prior to becoming general
manager of the Sandbar restaurant on Sanibel Island, Brian Silveira spent time as a caterer, learning how to hone the craft. “One piece of important advice,” he says, “is to make sure that the catering contract has every piece of information the client wants and/ or needs for the event. When finishing the contract, go through, step- by- step, exactly what will take place at the event and the timing of when the foods will be served.”
Silveira notes that giving attention to such detail minimizes stress for both the caterer and the client. If you really want to keep your stress level at a minimum so that you can totally enjoy whatever event you are planning, you might do yourself the favor of indulging in an event planner. Michel Angelo agrees. “Caterers really appreciate having an event planner,” she says, “because the event planner works directly with the client and adds another level of professionalism to ensuring that every detail is considered.”
While you might think that adding an event planner also means adding cost to your event, you should also consider the value of what they might add to your experience at your event. “I’ve helped clients plan something as small and intimate as a dinner for two on the beach, to a wine and cheese reception at a business to a $ 500per- plate wedding overseas,” Michel Angelo says. “Event planners help you create and realize your vision, and they can also help to ensure you stay within your budget.”
To help identify the right caterer, Michel Angelo will bring a few to the client’s table for a tasting after she chooses the ones that she thinks will get along best with that client and the ones that she thinks can best carry out a particular theme. And that’s another advantage of working with an event planner: you can talk with the planner in detail about the background aspects of an event— venue, colors, music, lighting, flowers, and mood. That way, you are developing a vision that does have appeal to the five senses, with the primary one being the taste that will be delivered by the caterer.