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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.

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

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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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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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