THEY MAY BE wealthy and recognized around the world, but just like the rest of us, celebrities have to eat. With a lot of planning and a dash of pizzazz, feeding the famous can be a relaxed affair.
When planning menus for events with a high celebrity turnout, it's important to note that “a lot of celebrities are very wealthy people, so it's the same as catering a high-end party,” explains Tony Laurenson, managing director of Eat to the Beat in Watford, England, which caters for headliner acts during their concert tours. “They know what they want, and they're confident, articulate and able to express their likes and dislikes.”
For the Isle of Wight Festival, held off the southern coast of England in June, Eat to the Beat provided meals for 200 artists — including The Who and David Bowie — and their entourages, as well as 120 on-site crew.
For the three-day event, 15 Eat to the Beat staff created dishes designed to accommodate the artists' performance times and special dietary requirements. The extensive buffet-style menu included beet, goat cheese and green bean salad; Moroccan spiced couscous with lime-glazed tiger prawns; and traditional Sunday dinner of roast beef with Yorkshire pudding and roasted potatoes. Desserts such as chocolate cheesecake were “a firm favorite” with the musicians, Laurenson notes.
While excellent food at celebrity events is always a priority, the professionalism of the people serving it is also vital. “If we do use agency [serving] staff, then they're well briefed on not taking photo-graphs or looking for autographs, obvious things like that,” Laurenson says. “I think the best route is that of total diplomacy. Discretion is the key.”
THE MEAL DEAL
Michel Euliss, director of sales at Gourmet Celebrations Event Planning & Gourmet Catering, Los Angeles, says that some of his company's celebrity clients prefer a low-key approach for parties they throw in their own homes. “There's this misconception about celebrities having wilder parties with taller canapes, but the truth is, often celebrities like to have comfortable, down-home type of events because their lives are so busy,” he says. “During these parties, they want ‘feel good’ food and to be treated like anyone else. Of course, the food has to be perfect — if they request four buttons on the chocolate-dipped tuxedo strawberries, you have to have four buttons!”
While those parties may be subdued affairs, many of the caterer's movie studio clients still want cutting-edge cuisine for their celebrity guests.
For a June party thrown by a media and music production company, Gourmet Celebrations tray-passed hors d'oeuvre that were familiar, but with a twist. Instead of standard chicken skewers, the company presented Hawaiian teriyaki chicken on extra-long skewers stuck into carved tropical fruit atop a bed of crispy noodles. Roasted pork tenderloin with candied apples and Calvados brandy sauce on a pastry disk replaced the ubiquitous filet mignon crostini, Euliss says.
“Many celebrity parties do have a larger budget, and because of that [clients] request a more involved or intricate type of event,” he notes. “So whether it's for the menu or the decor, they want to raise the bar because they've seen most things.”
For many star-studded events, “It's often the style, type and timing of the party that will drive the menu more than any specific guests,” says Suzanne Gilliam, co-owner of New York-based The Catering Co., which has catered events for MTV and VH1. However, she adds, “Sometimes the presence of celebrities is what gives the OK to make the menu more fun.”
At a recent awards show after-party for a television station, her company created a late-night menu for 500 guests that included butlered hors d'oeuvre such as Cuban pressed sandwiches with rum-crusted ham and manchego cheese and shrimp chopsticks with coconut-orange dipping sauce. A Brazilian churrascaria bar offered sausages, fire-roasted filet of beef, pork loin and chicken, which were carved to order and served in South American flatbreads topped with condiments including chipotle aioli and sweet peppers. A celebrity favorite, the sushi bar, was also present. “The popularity of these has never wavered,” Gilliam says. “I've been in business for 15 years, and the request for [sushi] is constant.”
While catering celebrity events requires a creative touch, “the potential star presence doesn't always guarantee that the budget for the menu necessarily correlates,” she explains. “Plus, if it's not a sit-down dinner, many [stars] don't really eat at the party anyway, as they are under constant scrutiny, often with people lined up to say hello.”
The Catering Co., 212/564-5370; Eat to the Beat, +44 192 321 1702; Gourmet Celebrations Event Planning & Gourmet Catering, 310/253-7705