On the menu: A look at the top catering trends

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catering

By Jasmine Baker

In today’s competitive meetings and events industry, catering is a major component of most business and social events that can benefit from the expertise of hospitality professionals who care about crafting thoughtful food, beverage and hospitality experiences in unexpected settings — from small and intimate to the big stage. At For the Love of Food, it is our job to know what’s exciting in all forms of catering and it’s our pleasure to share it with you.

Here are some of the trends we think will continue through the rest of the year:

Veggies take centre stage

Vegetables are no longer just side dishes or accompaniments. They are now often the main dish and star of the show. Chefs are having as much fun experimenting with vegetables as they have with various proteins. Slow roasting, braising, marinating and more; chefs are discovering many ways to play with veggies and we couldn’t be more excited.

Canada’s 100 Best Restaurant’s editor Jacob Richler says this year it’s all about the vegetable: “It’s good for the waistline, good for the planet — and most important, it agrees with my palate, too.”

For event planners who have often struggled with how to cater to a rising number of vegans and vegetarians, we say don’t look for veggie substitutions — make vegetables the focus.

Vegetable main courses can be bright, colourful and flavourful, easily playing host to a variety of seasonings. Take our friends at Fat Pasha with their BBQ Broccoli dressed with chili peanuts, labneh and apricots, or their now famous Whole Roast Cauliflower with tahina, skhug, pine nuts, pomegranate and halloumi. We could make a meal out of this any day and think you should too.

Gluten-free: A friend, not a foe

In our business, dietary restrictions and honouring them is not only a requirement, it’s a challenge we enjoy. Back in 2014, we talked about how happy we were to see caterers and restaurants alike really celebrating gluten-free options and using them as the catalyst to take their culinary stylings to another level.

Since then, there’s been a lot of talk or focus on gluten-free (or GF) foods, some of it not too favourable. Many consumers have been accused of declaring this as an allergy or “food sensitivity” and the popularity of this declaration has had a lot of dieticians and restaurateurs up in arms.

To us, if you don’t like the way any food makes you feel after you’ve eaten it, you shouldn’t have to eat it; after all, food should be the most pleasurable of fuels.

For us, GF foods have led to a string of exciting, energizing and really delicious food discoveries. Super foods like chia seeds packed with omega-3 fatty acids, fibre and calcium can be sprinkled into and onto almost anything and make a great base for an awesome rice-pudding-like dessert. Finally, desserts that are good for you!

Other popular healthy ingredients are hemp seeds, which are high in protein and contain all the essential amino acids needed for growth and repair of muscles, and quinoa, an excellent gluten-free source of protein, iron and fibre. Both make excellent substitutions for breading, bases for salads or partners for stews, grilled meats and fish.

Food trucks: Off the streets and into your event

Food trucks with their authentic and playful takes on street food are fast becoming the planner’s solution to catering challenges. Food trucks are complete commercial kitchens on wheels, meaning they can go anywhere. So when you are tasked with doing an event in a remote location or raw space, why worry about building out a kitchen when you can hire one or more food trucks to serve your guests. Food trucks are popping up or pulling in at weddings as late food stations, they are at all the best music and arts festivals, and can easily be at your next event. We use food trucks all the time and are constantly impressed with how these artisans craft their menus, meet the dietary needs of our guests and work hard to meet the desires of an ever changing landscape. Resources like http://torontofoodtrucks.ca are great for discovering what’s new and exciting in this burgeoning food scene.

Playing with food

People have been awakening their inner chef and wearing the label “foodie” like a badge of honour for quite some time. One of the growing trends in food that we are seeing is the rise of food entertainment and people’s need to not only eat the best, their need to know how it’s done.

Now this isn’t a new thing by any means. George Brown College offers trade quality classes and workshops in state-of-the-art cooking labs, while events like Taste of Toronto offer 24 hands-on cooking classes with celebrity chefs for up to 36 people, over one weekend — all free of charge.

Give your guests the chance to get their hands dirty and break bread in the most authentic way — we know they will leave with full tummies as well as hearts.

About the author

Jasmine Baker is a hospitality professional, culinary enthusiast and founder of For the Love of Food. Jasmine’s dynamic personality, vision, commitment and dedication have put her at the forefront of Toronto’s hospitality industry for over 20 years. In 2012, Jasmine launched For The Love Of Food, a company born out of the revelation that music festivals and food culture were surging in popularity. Heading into their fourth season, For the Love of Food has built an extensive resume of festivals past and present. For more information visit www.fortheloveoffood.ca or contact Jasmine at [email protected].

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