Some things are best left to the pro­fes­sion­als

RSWLiving - - Departments - WRIT­TEN BY BAR­BARA LIN­STROM

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-


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.

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