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10 Ways to Use a Caterer (That’s Not for a Wedding)

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Weddings typically take the main stage when thinking about collaborating with a caterer, but the many ways to work with one span from the smallest, intimate gathering to large-scale, city-wide events; if there’s food involved, rest assured, a good caterer can do it. “Outside of food, our caterer can always direct you with budgetary concerns, dealing with groups, wording on invitations, connecting with other vendors, event budgets, flow, menus, etiquette…it’s what we do,” says Senior Sales Consultant, Rachel Razowsky. Large or small and anything in between, we can do it all. Read more below on 10 Ways to Use a Caterer (That’s Not for a Wedding).

1. Corporate Events

Caterers in Chicago
Caterers in Chicago

2016 Relativity Fest at The Field Museum of Natural History; Photo Credit: Blue Plate Catering

Our capacity for large-scale events makes us a go-to for the many corporate events throughout Chicagoland. Last year, Blue Plate helped kCura, recently rebranded as Relativity, celebrate its annual Relativity Fest conference with a networking bash at The Field Museum in collaboration with long-time, décor partner HMR Designs. This year, we helped Relativity roll out the company’s rebrand at their Summer Jam employee outing at Northerly Island with a special branded donut wall.

 

2. Award Parties/Galas

Chicago Innovation Awards
Chicago Innovation Awards

2016 Chicago Innovation Un-Gala at Morgan Manufacturing; Photo credit: Sean Su of SpotMyPhotos

Outside of great food and exceptional service, a caterer can also be a terrific resource for elevating an event theme. For the 2016 Chicago Innovation Un-Gala honoring celebrity chef Rick Bayless, our team took inspiration from the theme of reinvention and Bayless’ culinary contributions to Mexican cuisine. We created a unique, 3-course menu using signature ingredients that embody Bayless’ culinary perspective and style. Dishes like Sweet Corn Polenta Ravioli and Sweet Tamale wove a delightful Mexican-themed, thread and provided a visual stunner for quests.

 

3. Holiday Parties

Holiday Party Planning Ideas
Holiday Party Planning Ideas

Right: 2016 Crate & Barrel Holiday Party at Venue One North Shore, Photo Credit: Collin Pierson Photography; Left: Neopolitan Milkshakes; Photo Credit Blue Plate Catering

Holiday parties, whether social or corporate, are the perfect time to kick back and celebrate with family, friends and co-workers. And, the Blue Plate treatment can make it THE party of the year for your circle of friends or organization. With exclusive access to more than 85 venues around Chicago, including this year’s premiere SNL Exhibit at Museum of Broadcast Communications, and custom-created menus, our event planning team can take the guesswork out of throwing a holiday bash.

4. Social Gatherings

Larkin Hall, Blue Plate Catering
Larkin Hall, Blue Plate Catering

Intimate Birthday Party at Larkin Hall, new home of Blue Plate Catering, Photo Credit: Juancho SC Photography

Event the most intimate events can leave a lasting impression when set in the right space with the right details. Our new home, Larkin Hall in the West Loop Fulton Market District is the perfect venue for throwing a stellar birthday party, celebrating a wedding anniversary, or hosting an employee happy hour, all with a view of downtown from our second-floor terrace. Read more about our available venue spaces and what’s coming down the road.

 

5. Delivery/Business Meetings

lunch delivery in Chicago
lunch delivery in Chicago

Right: NeoCon 2017 at Merchandise Mart; Photo Credit: Blue Plate Catering; Left: HMR and Blue Plate Catering at Dahlia Farm; Photo Credit: Kent Drake

Did you know our award-winning catering is also available via delivery with our DIRECT from Blue Plate program. Imagine lunch meetings with specially packaged boxed lunches, ready-made buffets, morning presentations with fresh pastries, coffee and hand-held sandwiches or specialty snack packages for an afternoon refuel. Not only does DIRECT give employees something to talk about, it eliminates the hassle of focusing on food when you need to focus on other things. A dedicated customer and delivery team can guide you through creating a seamless drop-off program complete with all disposables that fits any of your in-office needs. 

 

6. Boats/Outdoor Events

Catering in Chicago
Catering in Chicago

Left: HMR and Blue Plate Catering at Dahlia Farm; Photo Credit: Kent Drake Photography; Right: Ft. Dearborn; Photo Credit: Chicagoline Cruises

Our chefs don’t need a professional kitchen to bring your event to life (we have magic tricks!). If you can dream it, we can do it. From classic farm-to-table events, to seafood-inspired Low Country Boils, to a summer boat cruise down Lake Michigan or the Chicago River replete with fancy hor d’oeurves and Champagne, the outdoors offer a creative way to engage guests without the confines of four walls. Passed hors d’oeuvres and Champagne are a big hit on boats as well as cheese and charcuterie platters, giving an event the “cocktail/fancy” feel without the fancy budget.

7. Chef Collaborations

Guests attend Dinner en Blanc, a communal picnic in which attendees wear all white, in Chicago, IL on Thursday August 24, 2017. Photographer: Christopher Dilts / Sipa USA
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Left: Diner en Blanc 2017 in collaboration with Chef Cleetus Friedman at Theater on the Lake; Right:  2017 Mastercard Priceless Dinner with James Beard Guest Chef Sarah Grueneberg at Symphony Center.

Throughout the year, we get the honor to collaborate with many of the city’s known chefs on special menus and occasions including working side-by-side with James Beard award-winning chef, Sarah Grueneberg, for a special MasterCard event at Symphony Center this summer and Cleetus Friedman for the 2017 Dîner en Blanc at Theater on the Lake.

 

8. City-Wide Events

Chicago Marathon
Chicago Marathon

2016 Bank of America Chicago Marathon; Photo Credit: Tristan Zeier

Feeding a city takes a lot of resources and time, and our involvement as an exclusive caterer for the Bank of America Chicago Marathon for more than 25 years is something we get excited about every fall. Last year we fed almost 4,000 guests our award-winning catering, and this year we anticipate more for the 40th anniversary.

 

9. Product Launches

Chicago Woman Magazine
Chicago Woman Magazine

Chicago Woman Magazine September/October 2017 Issue Launch; Photo Credit: Blue Plate Catering

Using a caterer for a brand or product launch is a great way to create buzz and excitement for your company. Last month, we hosted more than 100 of Chicago Woman magazine’s friends and network in our Terrace Room at Larkin Hall for the launch of their September/October fall issue and their second-year anniversary. Our space lends itself to various action stations and passed hors d’oeuvres, and our built-in bar makes it easy for in-house mixologist, Lov Carpenter, to shake up crafty cocktails.

 

10. Customized Menus

Caterers in Chicago
Caterers in Chicago

Photo Credit: Blue Plate Catering

Customization isn’t usually equated with catering but it’s one of the biggest benefits you get when working with Blue Plate. Whether it’s a special themed event to match your specific tastes, recreating your grandma’s pie recipe for 100 people, or designing a whole menu for a group with special dietary restrictions, our talented culinary team can literally do anything.

 

Contact our sales concierge team to talk about your special event and foodservice needs.

A Fashionable Evening with Jason Wu for the GREY Dinner Series

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When fashion and food intersect, the result is a harmonic celebration of aesthetic and design.

 

Last month, we had the honor of participating in such an event when we hosted celebrated fashion designer, Jason Wu and an intimate group of his friends in our venue space and new home, Larkin Hall for the fifth installment of his GREY Dinner Series celebrating the fall launch of his GREY collection at Nordstrom.

The GREY Jason Wu Dinner Series is an extension of Jason’s passion for home entertaining and cooking, so it was important to his team that the evening feel intimate and interactive. To capture the essence of a summer evening spent with friends and speak to the celebration of life that is the inspiration behind the GREY collection, we proposed “A Midsummer’s Night Dream with Jason Wu,” playing to both the designed yet whimsical.

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At the Bar: Getting Creative with Iced Tea

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Photo credit: Blue Plate Catering

Guest post by Blue Plate Mixologist, Lov Carpenter

Iced tea is a warm weather staple. Whether it’s green, black, herbal, or the go-to Lipton, iced tea is a refreshing alternative to iced coffees. Not only is it great for non-alcoholic beverages, tea can also provide a great canvas for fun, summer iced-tea cocktails. Of course, we’re all familiar with the Long Island Iced Tea — that booze-packed party starter popular on college campuses and dive bars. But tea-based cocktails have come a long way, and they’re a great addition to any event, from backyard BBQs to dinner parties, even weddings. Tea cocktails are also quick, easy, and great for batching.

There are some amazing teas on the market; from rich, smoky pu-erh to bright, tart hibiscus, there’s a tea to fit your palette. David’s Tea is one of our favorites at Blue Plate for fun blends, and Rare Tea Cellar is our go-to for unique and distinct flavors.

Below is an easy-to-make tea-based cocktail to consider for your next event.

Gold & Magic
2 oz Magic Dragon tea (David’s Tea)
1 oz Don Q aged rum
.5 oz lemon juice
Muddled blackberries

Muddle 4-5 fresh blackberries. Add remainder of ingredients, shake with ice and strain into Collins glass. Add ice. Garnish with lemon slice and fresh blackberries. For easy batching for larger groups, make a blackberry syrup.

Giving back at After School Matter’s Summer Teen Cuisine Event

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Giving back at After School Matter’s Summer Teen Cuisine Event

cupcake

Being part of the Chicago community means investing and giving back. When we’re not creating memorable culinary experiences for our clients, we dedicate time and resources to organizations that align with our company mission and values, as part of our corporate social responsibility program.

This year, our focus is on education and continuing to support After School Matters, a non-profit organization that provides life-changing, after-school and summer program opportunities to nearly 16,000 Chicago high school teens each year. One such program is their Advanced Culinary Program, which pairs budding tastemakers and chefs-to- be with local chefs for a series of lunches during the summer, served on the third-floor terrace of Gallery 37 Center for the Arts.

Last year, Chef Randal Jacobs lead students through the culinary steps of menu design, recipe execution and service for a Blue-Plate- inspired lunch. This year, students have been introduced to a variety of cuisines from the menus of favorite local restaurants including Black Bull, El Che and Allium at Four Seasons Hotel Chicago.

We’re partnering with After School Matters outside of the kitchen, too. Three of our employees served as mentors to students in the spring 2017 Corporate Mentorship Program. We’re also looking into partnering with teens in the future on a community service project.

It was a pleasure get to try last week’s American BBQ menu provided by Pork Shoppe BBQ for the kick-off luncheon. Check out pictures from the day and if you are as inspired by this program as we are, we highly recommend you attend one of the upcoming Teen Cuisine lunches taking place every Friday through August 4th and the final lunch taking place on Thursday, April 10th. Purchase individual tickets or get a group together and purchase a table to help support these amazing teenagers.

Looking Back at a Creative Outdoor Event with HMR Designs at Hudsonville Dahlia Farm

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HMR_Dahlia-070

It all started with a bride’s quest for dahlias.

 

Which is how we found ourselves on a bus one day last fall with Brittanie Navarro and the team from Blue Plate’s longtime partner and collaborator, HMR Designs. Destination: Hudsonville Dahlia Farm in Michigan for a farm-to-table lunch and flower-picking getaway. Brittanie wanted to host an informal lunch with the wedding planner using the farm as the backdrop, so she reached out to our team for inspiration. A simple menu request soon turned into a fully produced event; when people who cater events co-host events themselves, no opportunity is lost on the chance to create a memorable experience.

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