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Culinary_Capers_Poke.jpg Photo by Jamie Lee Fuoco
From Culinary Capers, a vegan compressed watermelon poke with avocado rice crisp.

Menu 2020: A Catering Forecast for the New Year

Top caterers share their forecast for event menu trends in 2020.

PLANT-CENTRIC PLATES Saving the world one plate at a time is best achieved through a more plant-based diet, and more caterers are shifting their menus to reflect this growing, client-driven trend.

A North American market research study found that 35 percent of millennial guests are looking for more vegetarian options on menus,” says Debra Lykkemark, president of Vancouver, Canada-based Culinary Capers. “Plant-based menus are gaining traction due to concerns about climate change and reducing our carbon footprint. This trend will make it necessary to develop new and exciting vegetarian and vegan offerings.”

She cites several passed hors d’oeuvre—vegan compressed watermelon poke with avocado rice crisp (pictured above), savory pumpkin tarte fine, vegan mac and cheese croquette with spicy tomato-cashew bechamel, and vegan golden beet cashew cheese bites—as examples. Wild, locally foraged ingredients will appear more on the caterer’s 2020 menus, with dishes incorporating wild mushrooms, huckleberries, ramps, sea beans, fiddleheads, stinging nettles, licorice root and mustard flowers.

GOOD TO GROW At Stamford, Conn.-based Marcia Selden Catering and Events, the demand for more creative, high-end plant-based fare has prompted a partnership with celebrity chef and plant-centric pioneer Matthew Kenney, resulting in a new brand called Naked Fig Catering.

“The collaboration provides an opportunity to expand a luxury plant-based culinary presence into the catering and event industry,” says managing partner and executive chef Robin Selden. “We have catered many events for clients who aren’t even living a vegan lifestyle, but are just excited to try something new.” A recent menu featured tomatoes, corn and mushrooms each prepared multiple ways—tomato tartare, sorbet and heirloom chips; corn pudding, ribs and bisque; and mixed mushroom lasagna and shiitake sticks.

In the American South, where barbeque reigns supreme, Raleigh, N.C.-based Mitchell’s Catering and Events has found jackfruit to be a viable vegan substitute for both pulled pork in its North Carolina Eastern-style barbeque and blue crab in its coastal crab cakes. At Philadelphia-based Feastivities Events, vice president Meryl Snow foresees building more recipes focusing on lentils, chickpeas, split peas, quinoa, hemp and flax in 2020.

EXOTIC INFLUENCES For starters, Richard Mooney of Los Angeles-based Kensington Caterers cites Yemen zhoug sauce as a favorite flavor enhancer. At Feastivities Events, exotic means Afro-Caribbean cuisine, which features a distinctive spicy flavor profile with dishes composed primarily of seafood and/or different cuts of meat combined with yam, sweet potato, cassava, plantains, cocoyam, coconut, lentils and rice. “This cuisine is delicious but has some heat, so chefs will need to lighten the spice for the American palate,” says Snow. The team at Culinary Capers favors Japanese donburi (rice bowls) stations, where guests top seasoned rice with a choice of glazed beef short ribs, crispy tofu tempura or sake-cured steelhead garnished with kimchi, cabbage, scallions, black sesame and togarishi.

Mitchell’s Catering and Events incorporates flavors from the Middle East and Northern Africa into its menus, with such dishes as spanakopita with zucchini, basil, feta cheese and toasted pine nuts, lamb kofta kabobs with tomato harissa, and spicy shrimp chermoula skewers. Likewise .. 

The complete article will appear in the Winter 2020 issue of Special Events, available only to subscribers. Not a subscriber? We can fix that; just click here.

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