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CBM_Living_Coral_Strawberry_Ganache.jpg Photo courtesy Catering by Michaels
The plated 'Living Coral Strawberry Ganache' from Catering by Michaels.

Caterers Cook Up Dessert Service As Business Resumes

Caterers foresee an emphasis on plated desserts and homey recipes as special events come back online.

PACKAGE DEALS “The next 12 months will see a shift in overall food presentation and service,” says Dina Biondo Iglesias, vice president of sales and marketing of Atlanta-based Proof of the Pudding. “Everything is going to change as far as how food will be presented, but that does not put any limits on creativity. It will just make us change how we serve, not what we serve.”

To that end, she envisions creative pre-wrapping and individual packaging of desserts on buffets, and carefully executed, consumer-safe, super-hygienic chef stations (e.g., masked, gloved and plexiglass-shielded attendants, chef-assisted “build-your-own” bars, hand sanitizers) as ways to navigate the new normal. “Bountiful, open dessert displays are definitely gone for the foreseeable short term.”

Lisa Ware, director of business development for Chicago-based Catering by Michaels, agrees, citing consumer safety and creativity as paramount priorities. “I don’t think dessert buffets or sweet displays will be a thing for quite a while,” she admits. “Anything that has direct contact with all of the guests will likely be avoided for guest safety. There are some very creative ways we can use packaging that could fill that gap of the usual over-the-top dessert and sweets displays.”

SAFE AT THE PLATE If the days of everyone grabbing a doughnut from the doughnut wall are over, the days of serving a beautiful, creatively plated dessert have begun again in earnest. “Plated and individual presentations will play a much bigger role in the coming years, where every item feels intentional and singular,” says Chicago-based Entertaining Company’s founder Wendy Pashman.

As for what’s on the plate, Biondo Iglesias believes that pastry chefs must get creative with potentially limited ingredients, and, like the rest of us, use what they’ve got on hand--at least for a while. “We will see a shift in the commodities markets, and chefs will have to adapt to the changing markets and be creative on a daily basis,” she says. “Desserts will be simpler, with an emphasis on what the market dictates and what’s available. Less elaborate and perhaps more traditional desserts that can be scaled down to individual sizes will dominate the plate” .

COMFORT CRAVINGS “Now that the world is a different place, I think we’ll be seeing more homestyle, comforting, American dessert classics with a focus on great, local ingredients—apple pies and fresh apple doughnuts, trays of cookies just out of the oven, cobblers, cheesecakes of all sorts, and, of course, anything made with deep, dark chocolate, such as our hand-made, dark chocolate-dipped, sea salted caramels,” says Eric Michael, president of Washington, D.C.-based Occasions Caterers.

“Even post-pandemic, people will be drawn to home-style desserts, ones that feel nostalgic or family-oriented, desserts that are more ‘homier’ than formal,” adds Pashman, citing luxury chocolate brownies, skillet cookies, small-batch cinnamon rolls, olive oil cakes, and citrus tinged pound cakes spiked with turmeric as examples.

“Our client demand in the past has always been more fruit-based, or a balance of something decadent and something fruity,” says Kristine Sanabria, marketing and events coordinator for Tastings NYC in New York. “It will be interesting to see what kinds of desserts people create.” Pre-pandemic familiar favorites, she says, were mini fruit tarts using oranges, lemons, blueberries, strawberries, rhubarb, figs and dates, bite-size strawberry and vanilla Battenberg-style cakes, and mini sticky toffee cakes with vanilla Chantilly cream—all of which can be served wrapped or plated as needed. 

And since few things soothe the soul better than chocolate, Joann Roth Oseary, president of Tarzana, California-based Someone’s in the Kitchen, foresees batches of brownie bread pudding and Belgian chocolate-dipped s’mores skewers filling the retro bill. “Comfort reigns supreme, and it will for quite a while,” she says …

See the full story in the Summer issue of Special Events. Not a subscriber? We can fix that; just click here.


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