salad meal Photo courtesy Behind the Scenes
A gorgeous veggie tray from BTS Catering.

Catering Forecast: Clean and Green For 2019

What's the big news for catering in 2019? Think "mindful menus."

Forward-thinking caterers have long been crafting mindful menus that satisfy the palate while preserving the planet. In culinary terms, mindfulness translates into more organic, veggie-centric dishes, plant-based proteins, sustainable meats, and the notion of "conscious consumption."

SIMPLE, SUPER STARTS “Anything eco-friendly is in,” says David Turk, owner of New York-based Indiana Market and Catering. “Even though budgets have gotten better, presentation needs to reflect a more stringent approach. Anything disposable should be compostable.”

This clean and simple approach is reflected on his hors d’oeuvre trays. “Guests don’t want to have to ‘find’ their food on passing trays, he says. “Clean and simple is our mantra. Wasteful garnishes are minimal.” Locally sourced and organic ingredients remain strong, he adds, as do one-bite hors d’oeuvre, noting that heavy, messy and fried items are being phased out in the New York market, leaving space on the tray for lighter, cleaner options.  

Rob Garceau, vice president of culinary operations at New York-based Neuman’s Kitchen, concurs, foregoing the ubiquitous fried favorites such as mini grilled cheese sandwiches for more creative vegan-based preparations including carrot gravlax, beet jerky and parsnip pastrami.

For plated appetizers, John Crisafulli, head of San Diego-based BTS Catering and Events, is also looking to the vegetable bin. “Guests love tableside service, so we pre-set what appears to be a colorful chopped salad for a seated meal,” he says. As guests are seated, servers pour flavorful, savory tomato water into the bowls, creating an on-the-spot garden-fresh gazpacho. “It’s vegetarian, gluten-free and dramatic,” he notes.

KEEPING IT RAW Fresh raw seafood in the form of crudo and tartare will replace last year’s poke craze, predicts Barbara Brass, vice president of catering and sales of Los Angeles-based Wolfgang Puck Catering. The caterer’s crudo creations include Arctic char with beet horseradish and dill, ahi with tamari, soy, ginger and lime, hamachi with jasmine tea and white grape, and coriander-crusted salmon with orange zest and ponzu. A tartare station features made-to-order crispy heirloom rice cakes topped with spicy tuna, miso hamachi, Korean beef tartare, and ocean trout with Thai salsa.

Elgin Woodman, corporate executive chef at Miami-based A Joy Wallace Catering, foresees an increase in health-minded accent ingredients, such as bamboo charcoal (believed by some to have medicinal health benefits), which he infuses into mini waffles topped with fig and persimmon compote and foie gras butter. The charcoal adds a distinctive and unique color accent to the batter without changing the taste, he notes.

MINDFUL, MULTICULTURAL MAINS “With the growing number of millennials desiring artisanal and local foods, and the increasing number of dietary considerations, we’re creating new innovative dishes and menus for the new year,” says Rich Wilner, general manager of Atlanta-based Affairs to Remember, whose “farm to party” menus can be customized to suit any and all dietary needs without compromising flavor or variety.

The caterer’s most recent “Mindful Grazing” menu features carved roasted za’atar-seasoned cauliflower with house-made tahini sauce; beet- and horseradish-crusted salmon; organic buckwheat and roasted vegetable salad in citrus-cashew-tamari dressing; fresh collard greens, roasted tri-colored carrots and crispy chickpeas with a coconut oil and white wine vinaigrette; and vegan mac and cheese made with cavatappi pasta tossed with pureed “cream” of carrots, potatoes and spices topped with breadcrumbs and toasted cashews. Gluten-free fried chicken (this is Atlanta, after all) is made with chicken breasts battered and fried in tapioca, rice and quinoa flours.

At Chicago-based Catering By Michaels, traditional comfort foods such as ...

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