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Delicious While Distancing: Appetizers for the COVID Age

Prominent caterers share ways they present appetizers and hors d'oeuvre during the COVID crisis.

Appetizers and hors d’oeuvre are often “passed” and “shared”—two less-than-ideal options during a pandemic. Fortunately, caterers are finding ways to balance safety, taste and style to keep events special from the very first bite.

PIVOT TO DELIVERY Due to state and local guidelines, Bethesda, Md.-based Ridgewells Catering has transitioned its focus to small soirees and virtual galas, says Katie Fleury, director of sales.

“Adding food elements to a virtual gala or meeting elevates the event,” Fleury says. “We are transitioning with our clients to help them reimagine their events and make them special, despite the circumstances.”

She shares this example: "One of our corporate clients planned a virtual partners’ meeting in May and wanted to find a way to make it feel festive. We decided to add a happy hour element to one of the days and delivered beautiful hors d’oeuvre displays and wine to 65 partners. For the ones out of town, we shipped non-perishable desserts two days in advance, so they could enjoy a treat during the happy hour as well!"

Abby Borden, owner and principal of Table, Set, Go in Los Angeles, shares that caterers have shown creativity and adaptability by offering appetizers and hors d’oeuvre that can be picked up from the caterer and then reheated or prepared at home under the direction of a chef.

“[Celebrity chef] Curtis Stone, for example, recently participated in a virtual dinner offering his hamachi crudo as a first course, allowing guests to take on the intricate plating themselves,” she says.

For its virtual fundraising galas, Los Angeles-based Schaffer now offers a “gala box” that is delivered to guest homes. The box includes a range of foods, including sharable appetizers, depending on the level of donation from the participants, explains Melissa Darpino, director of sales and marketing.

SAFETY FIRST In addition to offering amazing food and orchestrating a beautiful event, event professionals now have taken on responsibilities to keep clients and staff safe. It’s a challenge that Ridgewells Catering has tackled head on with a safety team tasked with setting guidelines for on-site staff.

“Our team wears masks at all times, we are working in larger kitchen spaces to help staff spread out, and we’re working with our clients on how to safely entertain,” Fleury says.

Caterers without in-house safety teams can still safely practice their craft by putting commonplace precautions in place.

“We check temperatures, wear masks and gloves, work behind acrylic screens, and do the necessary physical distancing,” says Pauline Parry, founder and CEO of Los-Angeles based Good Gracious! Events.

Alexandra Morris, founder of Tastings NYC, says her team is preparing appetizers and other food in their kitchen and individually packing everything to minimize contact with guests at in-person events. “We feel that, right now, this is the safest way to go,” she says ….

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

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