Tips from a Catering Diva

Welcome to Tips From a Catering Diva! As Executive Chef and Creative Director of Sweet Basil Catering & Events, much of my cooking is more formal for catered events, but I also enjoy preparing casual dinners at home when friends visit — dishes like a mixed green salad with spiced pecans, seafood linguine, and chocolate souffles are always a hit. Often there’s a group of us sitting around on the floor while catching up, sharing appetizers like tuna tartare and fried chickpeas, along with a great bottle of wine (or three). I’ve wanted to chronicle some of my favorite experiences involving friends, family and food for years, and now it’s time to start.

My twins, Alexandra and Andrew, adore food almost as much as I do. At only 2 ½, they’re curious with healthy appetites. Others are amazed at the wide variety of foods they eat, and also their interest in cooking. A & A like being part of the process and running around the kitchen with me, often sampling each ingredient before it enters the pot.

I hope this blog will encourage you to cook with your kids, your spouse, your parents, and your friends. Sharing delicious food is an important part of any relationship, and always at its best when created with love.

5 Tips to Avoid a Catering Disaster

It’s August. It’s hot, muggy, and everyone has left New York City for someplace a little cooler, calmer, and quieter. But soon enough, everyone will flood back into the city and the parties will pick up.

Who knows, you may even find yourself in need of a caterer.

Hiring an inexperienced caterer can bring your party down to its knees; on the other hand, an efficient and experienced caterer can create a buzz that will leave your guests gushing for days and weeks.

Here are five serious questions you need to ask before you decide on a caterer:

  1. Do I like the food? Although it may seem obvious, sometimes we let our concerns override our pleasures. The food and drinks are going to be your guests’ most notable experience so make sure you absolutely love the food your caterer has to offer.  Even with a polite, well-trained staff, you won’t like your party if you don’t love the food.

  1. Do I know enough? There are always details that slip away. Make sure you know how big the catering staff will be, how much they will be interacting with your guests, and how they will be using your space.

  1. Does my caterer know what I am expecting? Do I know what I want? Again, seemingly simple, but we need to know what we want in order to have fun. Make sure your caterer is clear on your expectations, that you have covered everything from drinks,  appetizers, and serving quantities, to clean-up and dress-codes. Make sure that your vision is clear.  If you’re  having a hard time, talk to your potential caterer to see if they have the creativity and experience to give you ideas you love.

  1. What kind of party am I having? Talk to your caterer about other events. Get references if you want. Make sure you know your stuff, and they know their stuff. If you want a fun, relaxed party, talk to your caterer about staff interaction.  Discuss the tone you would like to set so that you are on the same page.

  1. Who am I inviting? Make sure you know your audience. If you’re  inviting your bosses and coworkers, you’ll likely have a different party than if it’s close friends and family. Talk to your caterer about the guests and make sure to mention anyone who might need special attention.

Jump into a season of events that will be fun and well-run. And don’t forget to enjoy yourself!