Finding A Caterer In The Berkshires MA

Finding A Caterer In The Berkshires MA: One very important wedding service that you may find yourself needing more information about is wedding catering!   To qualify my thoughts, you should know that I spent the first 10 years of my career in the Berkshires MA, working at a very high-end resort, and then in a myriad of restaurants, trying to get as much excellent cooking experience as possible.  I would only work for places that I felt could teach me the skills to further my career of being a top chef. Finally, after 10 years, I felt like I had worked myself out of the Berkshires, so I set my sights on an area that was renowned for great food!  I found myself working in Boston for a catering company that thrived on excellence regarding both the quality of the food and their service. My timing could not have been better for just as I arrived in Boston the food industry there exploded! New and creative chefs found were working with an expanded variety of foods and cooking methods.  Needless to say, I grabbed onto the tail of this explosive ride.

Food Creativity And Finding A Caterer In The Berkshires MA

Prior to this explosion of food creativity, event catering had a bad reputation for serving rubber chicken in chafing dishes with sides of watery vegetables and overcooked pasta, so I had to think long and hard about going from working for high-end restaurants to doing off-premise catering.  Fortunately, I worked for and then with a woman who was a natural-born chef, and an adventurous one at that!  She and I diligently studied all of the restaurants within our reach that were getting such acclaim, as well as reading cookbooks and magazines that were edgy.  Suddenly, thanks to Lydia Shire, Todd English, Barbara Lynch, and Martha Stewart, off-premise catering knew no bounds; we could (and did) serve the same foods that you could get at any high-end restaurant;  there was nothing holding us back!

So now you might ask what off-premise catering means?  Off-premise simply means that the caterer brings in absolutely everything that they need to produce your menu and event anywhere!  An on-premise caterer is working on-site in the caterer’s kitchen (called a commissary) which is located where the diners will eat.  While still challenging to cook great food on-premise, a  (successful) off-premise team has to have the dexterity to deal with pretty much any situation that you can imagine!  The true skill of any off-premise caterer is the ability to anticipate and cope with challenges that come their way and to still provide a delicious and timely meal.

Wait Staff And Your Vision
Finding A Caterer In The Berkshires MA

When you hire a catering company, you should expect them to provide you with great food served in a manner that is akin to your vision. They should also provide you with a full wait team, possibly bar service and bartenders, and the equipment needed to produce your event, as well as advice based on their experience in the industry.  You should make sure that they are fully insured by requesting a certificate of insurance and make sure that they limit the number of events that they produce on any given day or weekend to ensure that your event is a priority.  Ideally, you want to make sure that the person that you are working with will be at your event, as they will be the one person from their company who knows you the best as they have attended the meetings at the rental house, have been present at the tastings and will be your guide into and through your special event!

If you the venue where your event will take place has an exclusive with a catering company this is usually good news.  It means that the venue has worked with enough catering companies and has chosen the best (meaning that you do not need to worry about it), or they feel that the caterer that they chose provides the same level of quality as their site offers.  If you are looking at a venue that does not have an exclusive, they will have a list of preferred vendors, including caterers.  You may find this a little daunting at first, but it will narrow the field of whom to consider.  During your visit to the site, your guide will surely give you an inside opinion on who they like the best, so ask and listen carefully to their answer! 

If you haven’t chosen a site yet, but are looking around, you will get to a point where you will hear the names of several catering companies repeated.  You may also have been to an event where you were served particularly good food and offered great service.  The person who threw that event will be happy to share both the name of the catering company, as well as an inside opinion on how they were to work with. 

Once you get a few names you can start narrowing down your catering choices.  Most important is to choose a company that you feel is listening to what is important to you. They should offer the style of service, types of foods, quality of service, event co-ordination that you desire and are expecting.  The last thing you want is a company that produces events by rote!  The top-notch caterers and restaurateurs are very passionate about their food and the overall experience of their diners.   A good indicator of the service that you can hope to see from them is the attention that they give you before your event: Are they returning calls and emails in a prompt and attentive manner?  Are they addressing your questions in an organized and detailed fashion?  Or are you getting the sense that they are either not listening or too busy to talk to you?  If that is the case, run away, find someone who will treat you and your event with a level of care, passion, and urgency that every great event requires!

Wedding Planners And Finding A Caterer In The Berkshires MA

Depending on how your planning process goes, your caterer can be one or some of the most important people that you have to produce your event.  If you already have an event planner, the planner will assume a natural role of leadership. If you don’t hire an event planner you will find that many caterers offer some level of event planning within their services.  An experienced caterer and their staff will help you step through your event well in advance of the event date, starting with the cocktail hour and ending with dessert and clean up.

Now onto the fun part!  The tasting!  This will tell you a lot about the caterer that you are considering, and I would strongly urge you not to hire any caterer without going to a couple of tastings first!  Usually, the tasting will be at the caterer’s commissary and will be a “mini” event, as far as the foods are concerned, served course by course.    While it is much easier ( but more expensive ) to cook for two than it is to cook for two hundred, this step will show you how your caterer seasons and displays the food, and even it will help you assess if they can actually cook the food that you have chosen!  Maybe it’s just the cook in me, but when I read a menu, I can imagine by the menu description what the food will taste like.  When I am served a completely different vision, I am usually pretty disappointed!  This truly is the reason for a tasting!  This is also a great time to discuss the timing of your event with your caterer to include approximate timing of each course, including your hors d’oeuvre hour, speeches, and when to cut the cake!

Only after the tasting should you make a decision on whom to hire to cater your event.  Hire a company whom you feel listens, cares, and wants your event to be great for you, not just for them and their checkbook.  The word passionate comes to mind here, because for this decision you really want a team of people who are there for you!

Win Rutledge

Personal Manager,

Classical Tents & Party Goods

Photo Credits: Eric Limon Photography

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