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Special Events

The Art of the Buffet

Readers often tell Special Events Magazine that dreaming up exciting new buffet designs can be challenging.

Not for Pauline Parry, president of Los Angeles-based catering company Good Gracious. For a recent event, she started with a simple idea-a table draped in white organza-and developed a world of variations.

The event was the holiday party for an L.A. law firm. Instead of hosting the group of 400 attorneys and guests off site, "they brought their clients to their offices," Parry explains. "This kept the focus on the law firm and provided a bit more intimacy."

To avoid tying the event to a particular religious holiday, Good Gracious "started off with an Asian look-sleek, clean lines," Parry says. "My client likes foods from around the world. Before we knew it, we had developed a theme and a look."

Good Gracious set up buffets in four conference rooms plus a dessert buffet in the reception area. Lighting accents and performers in each room underscored the different themes.

The traditional holiday buffet included a miniature winter scene with a white picket fence, skating rink, silver birch trees with twinkle lights, and birdhouses filled with snow. A choir in robes sang beneath old-fashioned street lamps draped with lemon garlands.

The buffet table in the Asian room featured yellow and brick Thai silk laid over white organza. Suspended above were white paper lanterns accented with amber gels over the existing lights. The credenza, decor-ated with bonsai trees, offered sake. A costumed musician played the koto, a Japanese zither.

The color green played a key role in the European room, where umbrella forms dressed with ivy and white flowers suggested gazebos. The credenza featured marble trays of champagne cocktails, tinted green with a splash of Midori liqueur, set in a moss field accompanied by moss topiaries. Romantic ballads played softly in the background.

The Hot Hot Hot room offered a flamenco guitarist to complement a vivid neon sign and spicy menu. "These buffets were not costly to do; they just required a bit of imagination," Parry says. "The sign-which the client decided to buy rather than rent-was the most expensive item."

The dessert buffet, set up in the reception area, had an effervescent look created with white and silver balls, bubble platters atop pedestals and bouquet spheres of white chrysanthemums.

Designer Stephen Davanis of Good Gracious created the overall look; Rosalie Stern served as floral designer. Karla Ross Productions provided entertainers, while Classic Party Rentals supplied rental items; both firms are based in Los Angeles.

An overwhelming array of dishes is a Good Gracious trademark: "We want to offer lots of choices," Parry says. The small portions are another signature of the caterer: "We used 7 1/2-inch plates, so everything had to be a reasonable size. People prefer petite things; they don't like having to cut up their food."

To please sophisticated guests today, buffets must be much more than trays on a table, Parry says: "Thanks to style-setters such as Martha Stewart, you must create an ambience, a look, a feeling."

Good Gracious! Catering & Event Production 5714 W. Pico Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90019 323/954-2277 e-mail: [email protected]

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