Chef Thad Smith of SternoCandleLamp gives tips on ensuring that catering operations at outdoor events run smoothly
While many prefer the ease of more controlled indoor events that take place in hotels, banquet halls or homes, adding more control to outdoor events that take place in the windy city of Chicago or on the breezy shores of the Gulf Coast is possible. With a little extra strategy and planning, outdoor events can quickly turn into an enjoyable experience for the event planner, caterer, and client. Here are some tips for ensuring you select a caterer experienced with the outdoors.
It's important to select the proper caterer for outdoor events. Here are some tips:
Prepare for wind, not just rain: Even the best caterer can’t control the weather, but you can plan for it. And a sunny windy day can be just as detrimental as a rainstorm. Are you and your caterer prepared for the high gusts that may blow through your event, knocking over all of your centerpieces or putting out your lit candles or chafing fuel?
Select the proper equipment: Because it is not always possible to set up cooking areas out of the wind, chefs often spend more time creating make shift wind breaks and less time focused on the food and guests. Be sure to ask your caterer about the equipment that will be used. Are the stoves that will be used heavy-duty enough for outdoor use? Will they provide the flame range needed to cook efficiently? Are the chafing dishes designed with professional wind-block attachments versus using rolls of tinfoil to keep wind from blowing out a flame?
Keep food safe: While keeping hot foods hot and cold foods cold may seem simple, unpredictable conditions outdoors can add challenges to this simplicity. Food shouldn’t sit out so long that hot food cools to the danger zone and cold food warms to the danger zone (temperatures at which bacteria multiply the fastest). Solutions include having an extra supply of chafing fuel on hand, keeping buffet times to 1 ½ to 2 hours maximum, or putting food out in smaller portions. What are your plans?
Maintain ambiance: The importance of ambiance is made most obvious by lighting but when the wind kicks up, the flicker of traditional wax candles goes out. For outdoor evening events, consider flameless candles to help guests feel more intimate with their friends and family. And the right lighting also helps highlight your food.
Event planners and caterers who take a little extra time up front to discuss contingency plans for unexpected weather and how to maintain food quality, safety and ambiance are guaranteed a better outdoor entertaining experience—as well as a happy client. Enjoy the outdoors!
A graduate of the French Culinary Institute (now International Culinary Institute) and recipient of its Grand Diploma, Smith is responsible for helping chefs, caterers, restaurateurs, event planners and other foodservice professionals gain greater control over costs, food quality and decor. He is also responsible for maximizing SternoCandleLamp’s brand exposure.