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10 Things We Learned at Catersource 2017

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Credit: Catersource 2017

Credit: Catersource 2017

Catersource celebrated its 25th anniversary this year by returning to its roots of New Orleans, Louisiana, a city widely known for its stamp on American gastronomy and culinary influence. As THE industry conference to attend, Catersource is an event we at Blue Plate look forward to every year. Outside of inspiration, it allows us to reconnect with colleagues and peers and the many creative and talented individuals that make this business of hospitality something we truly love.

The Art of Catering Food, the renowned culinary training program, also joined the conference for the first time this year with a three-day culinary immersion school directed by Blue Plate’s Executive Chef Paul Larson, with help from several of our field chefs.

This year we brought five members of our team representing our cross-section of experience across culinary, sales, service and even human resources. Each member participated in several educational sessions addressing topics on human resources, building a strong service team and managing a sales team for peak performance. We also facilitated the show’s first ever education program called “Gather Around the Campfire” that invited participants to a more intimate, speaker-in-the-round setting. Pastry Chef Ashley Harriger’s Fruit Salad Chiboust also received a nomination for Best Dessert.

Below are ten things our team took away. Stay tuned for Catersource 2018 in Vegas!

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Impressive Holiday Hosting: How to Host a Spectacular Holiday Event

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The holidays are here! Each year, December and January are chock full of happy hours with coworkers, special dinners, and festive gatherings to mark the holiday season. If you’re planning a party of your own, here’s how to stand out from the crowd with creative, yet simple ideas to entice your guests.

 

Food: A global twist on a favorite

Holiday parties are a chance to spice things up. Our executive sous chef, Randal Jacobs, puts a worldly Christmas spin on an iconic, American hors d’oeuvre–the deviled egg. This creamy, half-moon treat actually traces its roots back to ancient Rome. Who knew?? Serve the traditional deviled delicacy alongside our four versions below with flavors from around the world. We’ll get your culinary juices flowing with a full recipe for one of the four variations on the holiday favorite.

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  • The Irish Devil with whole-grain-mustard-infused yolk with potato, bacon and chives.
  • Russian Deviled Egg, a red-beet-soaked egg with caviar and dill
  • Greek Deviled Egg with pesto, feta cheese and kalamata olives
  • Italian Deviled Egg with white-truffle-oil-infused yolk and prosciutto

 

Beverages: Iced and cozy options

Perfectly crafted, timeless cocktails, such as martinis and old fashioneds are always welcome at a party. But what about shaking things up a little with a wine cocktail? Check out these recipes from our mixologist, Lov Carpenter.

 

Wise Cabbie

1.5 oz cabernet sauvignon

0.5 oz pomegranate juice

0.25 oz lemon juice

0.25 oz sage syrup

 

Shake all ingredients with ice, strain into martini glass, garnish with sage sprig.

 

Oak and Stars

1.5 oz Merlot

0.75 oz bourbon

0.25 oz anise syrup

0.25 oz lemon juice

Whole cranberries

 

Muddle 4-5 cranberries with anise syrup. Add Merlot, bourbon, and lemon juice; shake with ice. Strain into old fashioned glass, add ice, garnish with speared cranberries and anise star.

 

Is the latest polar vortex chilling guests? Warm them up with a cozy, tea-infused beverage.

 

Ginger & Roy

1.5 oz brewed Rare Tea Cellar Gingerbread Dream rooibos tea

.5 oz Amaro Nonino

.25 oz Grand Marnier

Nutmeg-infused whipped cream

 

Brew tea, then add amaro and Grand Marnier. Top with whipped cream. To make whipped cream, prepare with bowl and whisk or combine heavy whipping cream and ground nutmeg in a shaker tin, add spring from strainer, shake vigorously.

 

Decor: Keep it simple and festive

  • Twinkle lights are a holiday season staple, but they’re not just for shrubs and light posts. Bring them inside your space and string white twinkle lights over the bar, buffet or dance floor to set the mood.
  • Purchase simple, yet festive greenery and berries from a wholesale flower market to dress up the bar, dinner table, or buffet. And don’t forget the mistletoe!
  • Invite guests to bring a holiday photo, decoration or stocking from their childhood and display them on the fireplace or above the bar. The most original memorabilia takes home a bottle of wine!

 

Music: Conversation backdrop or dance party?

First, ask yourself if your gathering will be more of the mix-and-mingle sort or if you expect guests to eventually hit the dance floor. Next, choose a band or a playlist. Yes! You’ve heard of bands instead of DJs at weddings, but what about live music at your holiday party? Depending on the mood you want to set, ask a trio of high school, college, or professional musicians to play at your cocktail party. If you want something a little more casual, invite a guitarist/vocalist to play holiday tunes and take requests. If you’re on a budget or crave the crooning of original artists, create a playlist so that you can easily select and organize songs to set the perfect backdrop for conversations all the way up to spirited spinning and twisting on the living room floor.

 

Activities: Ornament decoration or gift exchange

If your guests are the interactive, creative sort, designate an ornament- or cookie-decorating station. If children are in tow, set up a space for activities and crafts that will keep them engaged (err… occupied). Play-doh® (if you can stomach the cleanup) and Lego® building blocks are always a favorite among kids of any age. So set aside an area where young guests can create holiday sculptures, buildings and scenes so that parents don’t have to worry about bored kids. A viewing area for holiday movies completes the activities area.
Happy holiday party planning!

Catering a City-Wide Event: Bank of America Chicago Marathon

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The Bank of America Chicago Marathon is an exciting time of year, especially when you’re the premier catering company that’s feeding it.

For more than 20 years, Blue Plate Catering has been fueling the Bank of America Chicago Marathon with our award-winning catering and services. It is a partnership that is near and dear to our hearts and business highlighting the key of what makes Chicago run — collaboration, relationships and good ole’ Midwestern hospitality.

This year added another “win” for us — our kitchen and crew cranked out an estimated 2,000 assorted breakfast sandwiches, 2,000 bagels, 2,000 muffins and scones, 6,200 pounds of beverages, 70 pounds of coffee, 500 mimosas and 50 fruit trays plus other unique tasting and buffet stations across various tents and spaces; all for nearly 4,000 guests.

From initial planning meetings and coordination with Chicago Event Management, the planning arm of the marathon, to four days of kitchen production and then day-of service, it is a big event for us and one we look forward every year. “We have employees who have worked the marathon for more than 15 years, it is their most coveted event,” says Beth Bracco, vice president of business development. “From our CEO, Jim Horan, to our receptionist, it’s all hands on deck for the marathon; everyone is eager to be there.”

Pulling off large events like the Bank of America Chicago Marathon is one of our specialties, and each year we go through our own training to make sure the event goes smoothly. Check out our recap of what it takes to be Chicago’s Caterer to one of the most anticipated events of the year.

Find more behind-the-scene and day-of photos at our 2016 Bank of America Marathon Facebook album!

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Our Pro-Tips to Consider When Catering Large Scale Events

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When you think Blue Plate Catering, you might think of us for our delicious bites at weddings, galas, and intimate home parties. But, did you know we have also featured our catering service at some of Chicago’s largest iconic events? If you attended the NFL Draft, ran the Chicago Marathon, were a guest at the World Routes Forum, or at one of the many events around Chicago, you’ve probably had one of our bites!

When it comes to catering large scale events, we are the experts and we know what it takes to successfully cater an event. Here are some of our pro-tips to consider with catering large scale events:

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  1. Communication Generates Success
  2. Large scale events are never hosted in one single space or venue – and with these larger events, there is never just one person that is in charge of the full event execution. In other words, when catering is just one piece of a the event, communication with other groups is vital to a successful event.

    Understanding expectations and limitations right from the start generates success. For outdoor events, find out zoning restrictions, where the closed streets are, and most importantly keep in constant communication with the main event coordinator assigned to your catering company.

  3. Internal Planning – Break It Down
  4. When catering a large scale event, your team might ring up to 200-300 people on staff. Creating a proper line of command and breaking down groups to focus on individual components of an event are important items to think about to ensure a successful event.

    The best way to manage the overall execution of your catering is to break everything down into individual tasks – down to the micro-level. Yes, even to the “designated ice stocker.” This may seem a little over the top, but why take any risk of having something not get done right?

  5. Meal Planning
  6. Before jumping in and adding food items to a menu, there are many things to consider. Think about the time of year and even day of the week your event falls on – as it is important to have your food both seasonal and timely. A menu that features earthy and light foods is great in Spring and Summer months, whereas warm and rich foods are excellent during the Fall and Winter.

    One thing definitely to have in mind while developing your menu is the size and palate tastes of your crowd. For example, when catering an event which includes guests from all over the world, it is pertinent to have options that are appealing to them. The same rules apply for vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, and allergy guests. In short, have options!

    Producing fresh, quality, and attractive foods – at a mass quantity – is not an easy feat to accomplish. Blue Plate Catering embraces the challenges of serving thousands of people while staying true to their values of providing innovative foods from the freshest ingredients possible with pride and overall excitement.

  7. Sometimes You Just Have to Improvise
  8. You can follow all of these tips mentioned above, but let’s be honest. Mistakes are part of the game. And at some point during an event (larger ones more importantly), something is bound to go wrong. It’s inevitable! Having a staff that is experienced and talented enough to roll with the punches and handle the unexpected curveball thrown at you are the ones that are going to make your event a success.

    We also recommend staffing your event with team members that are on call to handle any unplanned situation. These on-call staff members can become your saviors, as their role is critical to overcoming any unforeseen issue that may develop.

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Blue Plate Catering has been proudly providing catering services for large scale events throughout Chicago for 30 years. We are passionate about what we do and it shows.

If you are in need of fabulous catering services for your next Chicago event, feel free to contact us today. We’d love to speak with you!

Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle 8K

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Shamrock Cupcake | Blue Plate Catering

Blue Plate will be catering a private VIP event for the upcoming Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle 8K. This annual road race, which will be held on Sunday, April 3, welcomes thousands of runners who look forward to continuing St. Patrick’s Day celebrations with a fun and lively run through the heart of Chicago.

About the Event

Now in its 37th year, the Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle 8K continues to be an extremely popular race among local runners, with more than ninety percent of Shamrock Shuffle participants being from Chicago and its surrounding suburbs!

This is a truly fun race that celebrates running in Chicago. Welcoming runners of all ability levels, from those running their first road race to those with plans to run the Bank of America Chicago Marathon in the fall, this event also hosts the popular Deloitte Team Competition at both the elite and non-elite levels.

Starting and finishing in Grant Park, the Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle 8K boasts a one-of-a-kind course, taking runners on a scenic our of downtown Chicago. The race concludes with live music at the traditional post-race party in Grant Park.

Blue Plate Catering at the Shamrock Shuffle

Blue Plate is excited to be involved in this Chicago race tradition! At the bank’s private VIP event, we’ll be serving a delicious menu consisting of:

  • A “Build Your Own Yogurt Parfait Bar”
  • A wide assortment of Artisan Sandwiches, including:
    • Corned Beef, Aged Swiss Cheese, Spicy Brown Mustard, and Creamy Cole Slaw on Caraway Rye Bread
    • Smoked Turkey Breast, Avocado, Cucumber, Alfalfa Sprouts, and Tarragon Aioli on Sliced Nine Grain Bread
  • And for dessert, a festive Shamrock Green Hand Painted Fondant Cookie

 

Blue Plate Shamrock Shuffle Team

Blue Plate also has our own team running the race! We currently have over 150 participants on our team, made up of our employees and their friends and family.

To thank our team for their efforts and participation, we’ll have a special post-run celebration for them at tesori, a favorite Chicago restaurant. Each runner/walker on our team will also be presented with a custom-made medal and our very own Shamrock Shuffle T-shirt designed by our marketing team.

Join the Celebration

Looking for an excuse to have some more St. Patrick’s Day fun and the perfect way to kick off running season in Chicago? Sign up for the Shamrock Shuffle! Check out the event website for additional details about the 8K and to register. And be sure to read our post about the best foods to eat on race day to help you prepare for an awesome race.

If you’re interested in having us cater an upcoming event, find out more about our catering services and contact us to discuss your needs. We’d love to work with you!