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May 26, 2008 07:32 PM

First time catering a large event ...

Hey Hounds...

I've been given the exciting task of catering an informal wedding. There will be about 80 people and we're only doing cold/room temp. food. I've never catered before and would love any and all advice on how to plan and what is easy, yummy and beautiful.


stuffed tomatoes
2 dips with crackers
artisan breads with 2 flavoured butters

sesame asparagus
roasted peppers (marinated)
a couple of large baked salmons
chicken wings

1 green salad
potato salad
black bean / corn salad

a cheese tray
fresh fruit

sweet stuff will be done by someone else.

Thoughts? Advice? Warnings? Kudos?

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  1. I have been told by a caterer friend to have 1/3 made in advance and in the freezer. It is impossible to make everything fresh, the day of. Also, I am assuming this is all buffet style service. I think you need more food than you have listed. I don't think I would do quiche - egg based and could get warm and food poisoning issues.

    Finger Foods
    - stuffed grape leaves
    - olives
    - tiny meatballs in a sauce
    - stuffed grape tomatoes
    - 2 or 3 dips, such as hummous, baba ganoush, spicy feta dip
    - taco chips and salsas
    - gorgeous veggie tray with a dip like tzatziki
    - skewered satay meats

    Main Course
    - sliced beef tenderloin with horseradish
    - I like your idea of salmon, maybe poached and served cold with a sauce
    - your salads

    1. Looks pretty good. Cold/room temp makes things easier. Eighty people is not too many.

      But, you need more wings and salmon: 500 full wings done in a way that everyone likes and 15 perfectly baked (not overdone) salmon.

      How will the food be served? Not in the i=order you'e presented.

      Email if you like.

      1. Might find some tips on recipes and quantities here:

        1. I cook for 50 people every 2 weeks so I know a bit about quantity cooking. I've also catered the appetizers at 2 events last year( 250ppl) and 100ppl). I have another gig coming up in 2 weeks( 50ppl for 6 meals).

          Why do you do a huge antipasta platter. Combine the marinated vegs with your cheeses and meats to cut down on your cheese platter, your roasted pepers, etc.

          I also always do a huge raw veg platter with dips. Hummus is great too for a crowd. The last appetizer wedding I did, I made tons of open faced sandwiches. They were big hits.

          Here is my senior dining thread on Eg.

          There will be another thread regarding my latest catering job.

          1. Good luck! I hope it's a really rewarding experience for you, and that everybody appreciates your hard work!

            My mom and I did the food for my wedding, about 90 people. For appetizers we had a cold/ room temp buffet of mediterranean stuff (gazpacho, baba ghanoush, cheese platter with shallot marmalade, and other stuff I can't remember), then had cookout stuff on the grill with lots of salads on the side, then the bride's cake I made and the groom's cake my mom made. The mix of foods was determined by the amount of storage space and cooking space we had in my parents' house--the baked beans were in the oven while the sauerkraut was heating in a crock pot while the 40-cup coffee makers were perking in the dining room while all 4 stove burners and the microwave were busily reheating something or other....and all the shelves came out of the fridge to hold my 3-tier cake and my mom's six containers of potato salad. It was a lot of fun and a LOT of work (besides the lunch/afternoon wedding itself, we did snacks for the family-and-helpers party the night before; breakfast the morning of, for the helpers who'd stayed over; sandwiches, snacks, and desserts for the 40 people who attended our after-party that lasted until three in the morning; and breakfast at 9 a.m. for the 50 guests who'd stayed in town, including the ones sleeping off their hangovers from the after-party.

            The advice I would give to an amateur caterer is... at any event called "informal," your friends will volunteer to help you out, so you'll think there'll be people on hand to help you bring out the food, or clean up, or refill bowls.... But half of them won't. They'll offer to carry out the salt and pepper, then they'll lose the shakers, and they'll get drunk and disappear. That's just the way it often happens, and it's better to be prepared than disappointed! I was an event planner at the time, so I was prepared NOT to be helped by any of my so-called volunteers, and was very gratified by the four or five who did do what they said they would (and I thanked them effusively in person, in a toast I offered to them, in thank-you letters a week after the wedding, with gifts, and with a thank-you brunch at which they didn't have to do a thing). Anyway, because of the lack of reliable helpers, the food moved a little more slowly than I would have liked, which led to some harassment from angry guests who would corner me and my helpers and demand that we hop to it. (And I was the bride. So don't expect to be cut any slack!) So, make sure you have reliable helpers--it's very hard to be a first-time amateur doing it even with help, and I can't imagine it without.

            Second, if the wedding's at a house, find out in advance where the fuse box is. We overloaded the circuits a couple times running several cooking appliances at once, which meant that some of the things meant to be heated simultaneously couldn't be.

            Third, lists, and a timetable in 5-minute increments, with the tasks that need to be done in those increments, from moving dishes to plating to garnishing to putting out serving utensils, because, as a first-timer, you will not believe all the things that need to be done in a 2-minute span, running between kitchen and buffet, unless you write them down, much less a 5-minute span. And you need minutes built in for emergencies.

            Third, have one of your volunteers take pictures of your prep and the filled buffet tables and people eating, because you will be so damn proud of yourself afterwards, and you'll want a record of it!

            My one big regret? I meant to do a final tasting of all the dishes to adjust salt. But while I was doing my makeup (3 minutes flat--as budgeted in the timetable), my volunteers carried out some of the dishes that I meant to check, and when I stepped out into the patio with my dress and flowers and my saltshaker, I got mobbed. So I never made that final adjustment, and those dishes really could have done with a shake or two.