Four Seasons Magazine : Dishing with Catering Genius Peter Callahan

  • Anne Chertoff, you’re an amazing friend, writer and editor. Thank you for featuring me and Peter Callahan Catering in the Four Seasons Magazine!

    Dishing With Catering Genius Peter Callahan

    Fours Seasons Magazine : We talk cocktail-and-appetizer pairings, dessert buffets, and thematic menus with the man credited with starting the mini-food catering craze.

    As more and more couples label themselves “foodies,” the menu has become just as important as the flowers, stationery and every other personalized detail of the wedding. To ensure that their guests have an enjoyable meal, brides, grooms and their parents are asking caterers to think outside of the traditional grilled chicken, beef or fish selection when finalizing each wedding menu. The cocktail hour, reception and dessert menus all get the foodie touch at today’s weddings.

    Peter Callahan, author of Bite by Bite: 100 Stylish Little Plates You Can Make for Any Party, kicked off the mini-food catering trend years ago. We asked the New York–based caterer to share his advice on what to serve and how to display dishes creatively at your wedding.

    Can you explain why you decided to create mini-foods for your events?
    I do mini-foods because what people really want to eat at weddings are foods like cheeseburgers, grilled cheese, hot dogs, apple crumb pies and sugar doughnuts. But in order to be served at the fanciest party, these need to be shrunk down to bite-size. They look just as stylish as the most au courant tuna canapé, are unexpected, and please foodies as well as less adventurous palates.

    Some of the foods you serve are paired with drinks. Is there any particular reason you decided to offer a drink-food pairing on a tray instead of having people go to the bar for their drink?
    When you pair mini drinks with hors d’oeuvres on the same tray, they become an ice-breaker for conversation at cocktails. They’re also fun and provide entertainment. You can have a mini drink experience, such as a margarita in a mini Patrón bottle to accompany a taco, a mini mug of Guinness to go with a quarter-sized soft pretzel, or Champagne to go with a caviar ring.

    Traditionally, appetizers are passed on a simple tray. Why do you serve them on more thematic or attention-grabbing platters?
    After we have gone to all the trouble to make a mini grilled cheese the size of a stamp, we want the guests to see all of the details (including the sandwich’s mini loaf crust). So we decided to make special trays to hold each hors d’oeuvre in place where guests can see it best: The grilled cheese stands on end held in place by a little spike, frites cones are evenly spaced on trays with holes, and mini chicken fortune cookies become more on theme when they’re set in small, custom Asian takeout boxes. Each tray is like a stage for the hors d’oeuvres it was designed for.

    Are there any food options that you encourage your clients to serve at their wedding because they’re a fan favourite?
    Fan favourites at a wedding are the caviar rings. We serve those during cocktails as well as at the cake-cutting time, paired with mini flutes of Champagne.

    How thematic do you like your wedding menus to be?
    Our food works great in all types of destinations. However, we do like to emphasize mini lobster rolls and shrimp lollipops on the coast, and short-run burgers paired with frites in the country.

    What do you see as the next big idea or trend in catering? Or is there something that you think we’ll be seeing less of in the future?
    As wedding clients get more sophisticated and everyone becomes a “foodie,” I think there is less desire to eat out-of-date, mediocre food at weddings. I also think how the meal is displayed will become more inventive. For example, caterers planning to serve a meal buffet-style will use unique props, displays and serving utensils to complement the look and feel of both the wedding and the venue.

    How much of the wedding’s setting should a bride and groom take into consideration when planning their wedding menu?
    A couple should take as much of the wedding’s location and season into consideration as works for them. Each season has its own intrinsic bounty that adds to a celebration. However, don’t feel limited by seasonal choices: If it’s available fresh and it’s important to you, serve it!

    What are some novel ideas for plating and serving a main course?
    Some novel ideas for a main course are serving just one entrée and one side dish, such as sautéed wild mushrooms and haricots verts, then adding family-style bowls of shaved corn, or perhaps roasted Jerusalem artichokes, to be passed around. The added layers of dishes make for an evolving dinner experience that pleases everyone. As for how to serve the main course, we recently made 500 wood cutting boards that we used as the dinner plate for each guest at a steak dinner.

    The dessert course: Do you recommend couples choosing one dessert in addition to wedding cake, or offer a variety of dessert options in a buffet format or passed?
    I recommend couples choose many different bite-size desserts. After dinner, guests want a cocktail-hour experience. They are up dancing and socializing, and want easy-to-eat desserts in manageable sizes so they can taste a lot of different things. A dessert buffet can make a great visual statement, but make sure you have the space to have it accessible.

    {Written by Anne Chertoff who has worked as a wedding editor and consultant for more than 10 years at wedding magazines, websites, and bridal and lifestyle outlets, including Martha Stewart Weddings, Brides.com and Vera Wang. She shares wedding planning and style tips on her blog, From “I Will” to “I Do.” Read this entire article and check out some of the yummy foods Peter is known for at Four Seasons Magazine/Weddings.} 

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    February 17th, 2014

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