There is an old saying about ducks, and the reason that they look so calm and peaceful on top of the water is because beneath the water, their feet are paddling like mad. Anyone who as ever hosted a party might have some idea what that is like, but to truly understand what throwing a successful party is like, it is best to spend a few days behind the scenes with a catering company as they prepare to serve their food at a party.
Obviously, the whole thing begins when the caterer and the client agree on a date and a menu. Once that is done, typically the next big step happens four to six days before the event. That is when the caterer goes through the planned menu and starts contacting their purveyors to make sure all of the fresh ingredients they need are in stock. If there is something truly special on the menu, such as lobster or sushi, they might make these inquiries earlier, just so their purveyors know to be on the lookout for them, but the risk of planning too far ahead means potentially sacrificing the freshness of the ingredient.
The bulk of the work starts 24 to 36 hours before the event. That is when the chefs start prepping the foods that they need. This means creating the sauces, marinating the meats and portioning up the sides. The next morning, on the day of the big event, is when the final preparations begin. They have to make sure that the food is at its freshest and hottest - or coolest, depending on what type of menu has been selected - for exactly the moment the party begins.
Getting the food ready is obviously a major part of what the caterer does, but in today's competitive market, it is only one part. Most caterers also provide their own unique plateware and serving utensils, and some also include items of decoration. The goal is to help establish the same feel customers are used to when they visit their dining room here at the catered event. These items are checked and double checked to make sure everything they need is ready to go.
Most caterers will tell you that the easiest part of the event is when the food is being served. Afterwards comes the final step, and this is reason alone why some people choose to have their parties catered: the break down and clean up. Caterers are just like everyone else. They want to be done working as soon as they can, so while the hosts are saying goodbye to the last few guests, the catering team is diligently doing everything they can to look as if they have never been there. The sign of a truly great caterer is that they always look as smooth as glass, even when they are paddling like mad.
Jack Terry is a freelance writer who has been covering the food and beverage industry for more than 20 years. http://www.osorioslatinfusion.com