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Food Art: Profiles of Great Catered Events

The Greater Washington Board of Trade's annual Fall Business Classic was packed with 800 of the area's corporate leaders, but the most popular attraction was the food.

Susan Lacz, principal of Bethesda, Md.-based catering company Ridgewells, wanted to showcase her company's fall and winter menus and serving piece collection during the event, held at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington. The gallery's stark columns and polished marble served as the perfect canvas to feature 60 food items from the caterer's new line displayed in creative pottery and ceramics.

"When guests arrived, they received a menu book introducing our collection, just like a book you would get for an exhibit at a gallery," Lacz says. Radigan & Radigan of Reston, Va., provided the books.

Ridgewells used 75 opaque gray pedestals to display its cuisine and new serving pieces. Typed title cards stood on each pedestal, Lacz says, describing each dish as a work of art, including the name of the artist/chef.

Some of the displays did triple duty, showcasing food, serving ware and accessories. "One pedestal had a chiavari chair under a chiffon cover, topped with a square platter with smoked scallops on it," Lacz says.

Ridgewells senior event designer Mark Chaikowski was the creative mind behind the project, according to Lacz. "He actually sat down and paired the food with the platters."

To keep food rotated and fresh, Ridgewells used more than 100 servers to keep every pedestal supplied. "The waiters would continually switch out a food item using the same style of bowl," she says.

The pedestals were close together so guests wouldn't have to go far to grab a plate. "Near each food item, there was a pedestal of plates, like one featuring our new blue glass plates," Lacz says.

She charged only $40 per head for what was easily an $80 per head reception. "We charged them what their budget was, and we picked up the rest," she says. "I saw an opportunity to reach about 800 people as potential clients whom we wouldn't normally reach."

To cover costs, "We asked our vendors to help," Lacz says. Washington-based Hargrove donated the pedestals. Ociana Group, also in Washington, donated floral. Current Events of Laurel, Md., provided lighting for the displays.

The event was a success, Lacz says, earning Ridgewells 80 new catering jobs. She adds that she is looking for the perfect venue for the Fall Business Classic 2000.

Ridgewells 5525 Dorsey Lane Bethesda, MD 20816 301/652-1515

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