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Help! Caterer recs in Toronto for cocktail reception in 2012

0ntar10 Jun 13, 2011 02:08 PM


My fiance and I are having a cocktail reception next June for 50-75 people at the Market Kitchen at St.Lawrence Market. We are hoping that there are some wise Hounds out there that can suggest some wonderful, creative and flexible caterers for us. Any advice on how to best work with a catering company and things to look out for would also be appreciated. Our preferred budget is in the $100-125 per person range.

We'd been working with a caterer we were somewhat familiar with (they had catered our condo welcome party 3 years prior and food/service were amazing), and they came up with a rough menu for us. We had given them a few guidelines but told them that we liked bold flavours and to feel free to be as creative as they wanted. When we received a rough menu, it was a little boring.

I sent them some feedback on the menu today and we were told that they don't want our business. We were quite shocked. We've never worked with caterers before. Did we do something wrong by asking for a few changes to the first draft of a menu?

We were entirely ready to commit financially to this company, we just needed to get the menu jazzed up and have some actual numbers prepared into a quote but we were confident this would be our caterer. We had thought that the menu planning process would be fulfilling, with some back-and-forth compromise until the menu was just right. Now we are left a little disillusioned, wondering if all caterers have this "take it or leave it attitude" and unwillingness to meet our taste level.

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    JennaBean RE: 0ntar10 Jun 13, 2011 03:13 PM

    That is really unusual so I would suggest it is a good thing this happened now and not six months from now. In my experience as long as you are being reasonable and polite caterers will do just about anything to secure your business. I would suggest getting in touch with some of these folks:

    Daniel and Daniel
    Marigolds and Onions
    All the Best Fine Foods

    I've worked with all of these people in the past for both simple and very detailed and large events. I've had good experiences with all.

    Good luck!

    7 Replies
    1. re: JennaBean
      0ntar10 RE: JennaBean Jun 13, 2011 06:18 PM

      Thanks for the reply, JennaBean. I've seen your posts before and see that you plan events as part of your job. Unfortunately, the caterer we were dealing with is one from your list of recommends; I guess they are more interested in corporate jobs than helping a couple celebrate one of the most important days of our lives.

      They seemed very excited to work with us initially but as soon as I mentioned that we may want some changes to the menu, they started to give us the cold shoulder and said they had already done all of this work for us on good faith that we would hire them. I reassured them that we hadn't been in contact with other caterers and I simply needed some menu tweaks and to have some actual pricing to work with (I had only a rough menu with no price tags attached). This seemed to appease them and they said they looked forward to receiving my feedback and preparing a proper quote. So you can imagine my shock today when they dropped us as potential clients.

      I suspect that they decided our venue was too much trouble to work with, and they wouldn't make enough profit. At The Market Kitchen, 80 percent of raw ingredients must be purchased from the St.Lawrence Market, thereby causing increased food costs for them, which they would in turn pass on to us. This is something we were already aware of but we figured this added cost would be more-or-less balanced out by the fact that we would not need to rent much furniture for the event. Alas, we never found out because they did not prepare a quote for us. They simply made it sound like we were difficult clients who had offended their chef by not accepting the menu as it was presented. I wish they would have just been honest and told us they weren't interested months ago instead of wasting our time.

      1. re: 0ntar10
        eatravel RE: 0ntar10 Jun 13, 2011 07:10 PM

        I would check with the market again about the 80% raw ingredient rule. They mentioned that rule last year when we booked, but they told me this year that they have stopped enforcing it. Same goes for the Ontario-only wine and beer rule.

        1. re: eatravel
          Otonabee RE: eatravel Jun 14, 2011 12:14 PM

          I just booked with them and I think they are currently reviewing all of their policies and prices so it is possible that the rule may have also changed.

          1. re: Otonabee
            0ntar10 RE: Otonabee Jun 14, 2011 01:38 PM

            I checked today and indeed the policies have changed, eatravel is correct. I think we will still ask our caterer to get some ingredients from the St.Lawrence Market and use mostly Ontario wines, but it's nice to not be forced into doing it.

        2. re: 0ntar10
          JennaBean RE: 0ntar10 Jun 14, 2011 06:55 AM

          That's really too bad. I used D&D for an event a recently as last week and I did a friend's personal event using 10vation about four months ago but haven't had a problem with any of those folks be it for corporate or private functions.

          1. re: JennaBean
            0ntar10 RE: JennaBean Jun 14, 2011 01:36 PM

            Yes, we were really disappointed, and the caterer was not one of the two you have dealt with most recently. Thank you so much for the recommendations.

            I have high hopes for 10tations as their menus sound like a good match for our event.

            1. re: 0ntar10
              CocoTO RE: 0ntar10 Jun 15, 2011 09:43 AM

              10tations catered my birthday bash last year and they did a great job - very accommodating - and delicious food

      2. Otonabee RE: 0ntar10 Jun 13, 2011 05:16 PM

        We are looking at doing the same thing at the Market Kitchen in September. It really is an amazing spot. The rental price was great too.

        I have been working with Rebecca at 10tations to put something together for our function . I have worked with 10tations before on a corporate function and was really pleased with the food and found the company (and Rebecca) really professional to deal with. Luckily she recently did another function at the Market Kitchen so she is already familiar with the space.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Otonabee
          0ntar10 RE: Otonabee Jun 13, 2011 06:38 PM

          Thanks Otonabee. The hors d'oeuvres on their website are already way more interesting than our previous caterer's personalized menu. Had they sent us something like those dishes, we'd have been thrilled.

          I'll definitely contact them; hope they are as accommodating with regular people as they are with corporate clients.

        2. e
          eatravel RE: 0ntar10 Jun 13, 2011 05:50 PM

          I'm having my wedding at the Market Kitchen in August, and have selected Noble Culinary as my caterer. They have been totally flexible with their menu, and have taken our comments about the food on board. They made the tasting super fun, too. They have also been great about figuring out all the rentals and timing for the event.

          Noble Culinary
          127 Manville Rd, Toronto, ON M1L, CA

          1 Reply
          1. re: eatravel
            0ntar10 RE: eatravel Jun 13, 2011 06:23 PM

            Thanks, eatravel. I actually filled in Noble Culinary's online form today and will definitely follow up with a phone call tomorrow. I've read other positive reviews of their food and service on this board, so this seems promising.

            Noble Culinary
            127 Manville Rd, Toronto, ON M1L, CA

          2. r
            RogerDoger RE: 0ntar10 Jun 13, 2011 07:02 PM

            Take a look at this if you want adventurous: http://www.facebook.com/#!/media/set/... best thing is that their production kitchen is only 3 blocks away from your venue... For that price you may not get the chef himself to show up but he will put together the menu prep it all and his staff will be onsite.

            1. b
              BequiaT RE: 0ntar10 Jun 14, 2011 06:36 AM

              My sister used Presidential catering for her wedding last year at Lash Miller House. Food was great, and they worked with her to come up with a menu that was completely gluten-free, using local food producers. I would highly recommend you give them a try.

              2 Replies
              1. re: BequiaT
                0ntar10 RE: BequiaT Jul 5, 2011 10:11 AM

                Thanks to everyone for offering support and suggestions. I ended up contacting Sequel, Noble Culinary, L'eat and 10tation. Each caterer graciously accepted changes to their menu proposals and were happy to answer all of my questions.

                I am happy to report that I've booked with Jennie at 10tation; she was able to give me a very creative menu with everything I wanted (even things I didn't think I could afford) and at a price below my budget, even with the use of some ingredients from the St.Lawrence Market.

                I guess getting dumped by my first caterer (All the Best Fine Foods) was a blessing in disguise; I definitely would have been settling.

                Noble Culinary
                127 Manville Rd, Toronto, ON M1L, CA

                1. re: 0ntar10
                  JennaBean RE: 0ntar10 Jul 5, 2011 12:51 PM

                  Oh I'm glad it worked out. 10tation is great! I'm sure you'll have a fantastic event and I don't think I will be using All the Best any time soon! :-)

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                Arcadiaseeker RE: 0ntar10 Jul 6, 2011 05:36 AM

                That's not a good experience at all! I went to a party recently catered by a couple of young guys called the Food Dudes - it was a cocktail party with pass arounds. It was excellent. I had my wedding catered by Jamie Kennedy who was also great (although it was at the Gardiner and I am not 100% sure he caters outside of there but you never know). I'd try both and get them to quote and see if they can accommodate your preferences.

                Jamie Kennedy
                9 Church St, Toronto, ON M5E1M2, CA

                1. g
                  gastrojunkie RE: 0ntar10 Jul 8, 2011 01:09 PM

                  Try The Food Dudes.. they do some great stuff!

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