catering

There’s More to Catering Than Selling in Bulk

The other day I was walking by an Applebee’s and I saw a sign in the window that read “Applebee’s Anywhere Catering.”  I thought, “Wow!  Applebee’s is catering?”  So I popped in to have a talk with their catering chef.  They didn’t have one.  I asked them about setting up a wet bar and on-site cooking for an event at a local park.  They don’t do that either.  They handed me a menu and said, “This is our catering menu.”  It was their regular menu only with larger portions and fewer options.  They don’t even deliver, you have to go pick it up yourself.  That’s not catering; that’s take-out.

KFC Catering is nothing of the sortTake a stroll by any of the soulless cookie cutter fern bars or worse a fast food joint and you’ll see advertisments that they now do catering.  This is a disturbing trend right now among the nation’s chain restaurants.  To start with they are lying to you, flat out lying to you.  Secondly it is demeaning to all of those actual caterers across the nation.  The service they provide goes far beyond large batch cooking.

In an article for HowStuffWorks.com Katherine Neer addresses catering by saying, “Food is definitely the star in the catering world, but it’s only one part of the equation.”   She quotes Chef Joel Dondis of Joel in New Orleans who defines catering as, “full event planning,” adding that, “food is no longer a focal point, but rather that it is part of a broader mission.”

If you have ever watched an episode of Food Network’s Dinner: Impossible or The Private Chefs of Beverly Hills that is catering.  Going where the customer wants, providing what the customer desires, cleaning up and heading out.  A box of 40 chicken wings thrown at you through a drive thru window is not catering.

Most foodies remember the bubbly Jyll Everman from season 7 of Food Network Star.  Jyll is the owner of Jyllicious Bites, a very popular catering company specializing in finger foods and hors d’œuvres in the LA area.  I spoke with her about what it’s like to be a caterer and her thoughts on the chain restaurant industry abusing the word “catering.”

How has the Recession effected your catering business?

The recession has definitely had an impact on catering, which honestly surprised me! I thought people would be giving up on entertaining at restaurants in favor of having events at their own home, but I have learned that many of my clients have turned to “pot-lucking” or having me do the main dishes while they supplemented the rest of the food. Also, with so many people struggling to find jobs, getting laid off or having a decrease in their income, people are not throwing the normal holiday parties, company BBQ’s, etc.

Has your appearance on FNS helped your catering business?

Jyll Everman of Jyllicious BitesYes, especially through the holidays! I was actually turning down work, hired a sous chef to be at the events I couldn’t make it to, etc. It was awesome! Although, I found so many people wanted to be in the kitchen to just talk to me (about the show) that it slowed my cooking down quite a bit! Thank goodness I am used to a lot of distractions in the kitchen (cameras, producers and former cast mates! Ha, ha.) so I am able to work through the distraction. After FNS, very few things stress me out anymore!

How do you define catering?

The technical definition is “to provide food or entertainment” but I feel it’s so much more than that. I want to provide a sense of relief to the client, that everything is under control (even if it’s not!) and I am there to make sure they enjoy their own party. I am also there to make sure EVERYONE is happy. If a vegetarian wanders in the kitchen starving because she has nothing to eat, I will make sure to cook her something before she even asks.

Do you have any thoughts on chain restaurants that call their large portion togo menus “catering?”

I will just politely say that catering is a full service job. There are 100 details that go into catering, and just because you put food in a disposable container to be picked up, I do not consider that catering. I offer “to-go” food on my menu as well and would never call it catering.

2009 Heats Up the Ultimate Recipe Showdown

Originally posted December 8, 2008.

Guy Fieri returns as host of Ultimate Recipe Showdown as a new batch of home cooks step up and put their prized personal recipes to the “ultimate” test, premiering Sunday, January 4th at 9pm ET/PT.

With more than 12,000 recipes submitted from home cooks across America, Ultimate Recipe Showdown returns for another season of delicious competition as the top 24 contestants battle head-to-head for national glory. Hosted by Guy Fieri (Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives; Guy’s Big Bite), the series features six categories: Comfort Food, Burgers, Cakes, Hot and Spicy, Desserts, or Hometown Favorites. Each week, the judges crown an “ultimate” winner who receives $25,000 and the chance to have his or her recipe featured nationwide at T.G.I. Friday’s® restaurants.

Inside Look: Ultimate Recipe Showdown

Originally posted May 30, 2009.

We have all watched the many cooking contests scattered across the dial and thought, “I could do that.” And many more have wondered what it is like to go through some of those intense competitions like say, Food Network’s Ultimate Recipe Showdown.

Well Fed blogger Jenny Flake has done just that. Flake is no stranger to big time cooking contests.  She has competed in Build-A-Better-Burger, the esteemed Pillsbury Bake-off and has even appeared on Food Network six times in the last five years.  Flake is so comfortable in the spot light that noted Pheonix-area food writer Jess Harter has suggested she get her own show.

On February 8th Food Network aired the dessert competition of season 2 of Ultimate Recipe Showdown hosted by Guy Fieri and Jenny was there to dazzle the judges with her Roasted Banana Bread Drop Doughnuts. So what was the experience like?  Glad you asked:

Edible TV: You are a veteran cooking contest competitor, how was Ultimate Recipe Showdown different?

Jenny Flake: The Ultimate Recipe Showdown was different because we got to compete right in the Food Network Studios.  They actually made us a set right in the Iron Chef Arena.  I would say this was by far the best competition I have been to.

ET: Can you briefly describe the process from initial entry to showtime?

JF: The initial entry time was a period of about 6-8 weeks where Food Network was accepting recipes for the show.  When the contest closes, you wait for a couple months before you hear anything at all.

I remember them calling me in the summer during my lunch break at work saying I made it through the first cut for the dessert show.  At this time, they required us to submit an additional recipe that could be made from start to finish in 30 minutes that would also be prepared on the show in a speed round.  We also were asked to send in a 5 minute video of us preparing a recipe.

A couple weeks later up to I think a month, they called back and said I had made it as an official finalist for the dessert show.  At this point, we still had a couple months before the show.  In the meantime, there was paperwork to send in to get ready for the trip.

Showtime started the day before we actually went on set.  We had a pre-interview basically talking all about our recipes from start to finish.  The next day started bright and early at 6:00am at the Food Network Studios.  We got mic’d and waited for our cue to go set up our kitchens.  The set was incredible.  We had a full kitchen to work with and a “kitchen helper” to bring us everything we needed for both of our recipes. Right before we got started, Guy Fieri came and
chatted with us.

We had an hour and a half for our signature round then a half hour for the speed round.  The time went really fast, especially during the speed round.  Ingredients were flying all over the place!

Sitting in front of the judges was the most nerve racking moment of the day.  You are just hoping they say something positive.  Thank goodness I got very positive remarks from them, so although I was not crowned the Grand Prize winner, I felt good about both dishes that I brought to the judges.

ET: What emotions did you experience when you entered the studio for the first time?

JF: It was such an honor entering the Food Network Studios.  Right after stepping foot out of the elevator, you see the big Food Network logo onthe wall and are greeted with a security guard.  I think it really hit me thatI was there when they walked us through the test kitchens.  It was just likeI remember seeing it on tv.  It was hard to believe I was really working whereall of the great Food Network Chefs work.

ET: This is the question that has to be asked, how cool was it meeting Guy Fieri?

JF: Guy Fieri couldn’t have been nicer.  He was just as cool and down to earth as he seems on tv.  He spent time chatting with each of us, making us all feelcomfortable.  It was nice to know he is a genuine and kind person.

ET: How has the exposure from URS changed your life?

JF: I wouldn’t say the exposure from URS has changed my life, but I will say that it is an experience that will never be forgotten.  Every time I compete in a competition I always learn something new.
Meeting the other finalists, and improving on the comments that the judges give you are the things that I treasure from competition to competition.

ET: Can we expect to see you on future episodes?

JF: I will say yes, you will see me on future episodes!  It is by far one of the most exciting cooking competitions I have done.

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Stuart in 80 Words or Less

Stuart is a celebrity chef, food activist and award-winning food writer. He penned the cookbooks Third Coast Cuisine: Recipes of the Gulf of Mexico, No Sides Needed: 34 Recipes To Simplify Life and Amigeauxs - Mexican/Creole Fusion Cuisine. He hosts two Internet cooking shows "Everyday Gourmet" and "Little Grill Big Flavor." His recipes have been featured in Current, Lagniappe, Southern Tailgater, The Kitchen Hotline and on the Cooking Channel.

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Stuart’s Honors & Awards

2015 1st Place Luck of the Irish Cook-off
2015 4th Place Downtown Cajun Cook-off
2015 2nd Place Fins' Wings & Chili Cook-off
2014 2015 4th Place LA Gumbo Cook-off
2012 Taste Award nominee for best chef (web)
2012 Finalist in the Safeway Next Chef Contest
2011 Taste Award Nominee for Little Grill Big Flavor
2011, 12 Member: Council of Media Tastemakers
2011 Judge: 29th Chef's of the Coast Cook-off
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Wing Cook-off
2011 Cooking Channel Perfect 3 Recipe Finalist
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Gumbo Cook-off
2011 Culinary Hall of Fame Member
2010 Tasty Awards Judge
2010 Judge: Bayou La Batre Gumbo Cook-off
2010 Gourmand World Cookbook Award Nominee
2010 Chef2Chef Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2010 Denay's Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2009 2nd Place Bay Area Food Bank Chef Challenge
2008 Tava: Discovery Contest Runner-up

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