Tip of the Day # 59: Expert Catering Advice from JPO Concepts

Tip of the Day #59: Expert Catering Advice from JPO Concepts

I was immediately drawn to JPO Concepts because of the catering company’s fresh, innovative approach to events – and then I tasted their mini chicken pot pie and knew that they were on to something good.  Really good.  Enjoy some expert advice from the innovative and fabulous ladies of JPO Concepts.

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What are the biggest food trends you are projecting for 2013?
There are many trends that hit hard and then slowly become exhausted (i.e. cupcakes).  However there are several food trends that we believe will permanently make their way onto catering menus:

*Variations of Hand-Crafted Hot Sauce from all over the world
*The consumption of fine teas (versus coffee) and its use in food preparation
*Possibly the next phase of farm-to-table is the use of vegetables as the main ingredient in dishes rather than the typical animal protein

Is there a magic formula for projecting food and beverage quantities for a wedding?
Yes!  Of course these formulas often must be adapted to the guests demographics:

Beverages = 1.5 Glasses Per Guest/Per Hour
Note: Quantities Per Guest/Per Hour will increase as the variety of your beverage choices increase, as it will become increasingly difficult to predict their drink preferences.

Hors D’oeuvres = 5-7 Bites Per Hour
Note: Quantities Per Guest/Per Hour should be adjusted depending on the duration of the reception and whether or not it will be followed by a full dinner.

How do you handle picky eaters and guests with unannounced food allergies at events?
Of course we always try to screen for allergies and dietary restrictions prior to an event, but clients may not be aware (or guests may suddenly decide to become a vegetarian for the day!)

We always come prepared with 5 Gluten-Free Meals Per 100 Guests.  Usually this very specific dish will accommodate nearly all requests.  This is in addition to the usual vegetarian options that are mixed into a typical menu.

JPO Concepts has been described as “A breath of fresh air.”  What do you believe sets your company apart from the competition?
We put as much emphasis on the planning process as we do on the event itself.  The countless number of hours you spend preparing for your wedding should be as enjoyable as the wedding itself.  We strongly feel that a positive planning experience always results in a happier, confident, relaxed bride walking down the aisle.

Equally as important is our transparency.  The clearer we are, the more we empower our clients to make well-informed decisions regarding their event.  Even our invoices are line itemized, so our brides can allocate their budget to what they feel is most important to them.

What specific questions should a couple be asking when they meet with a caterer for the first time?
*Will I be the only client you are servicing on my wedding date?
*Do you have a wedding planner on your in-house team?  If so, are their services included in my package or will we incur a separate fee?
*Do you offer menu tastings?  Is there a fee for tasting or are they complimentary?
*Are gratuities included in your listed package pricing?  If not, what is an appropriate amount to offer staff?

What do you feel are the benefits and drawbacks of a seated versus buffet dinner at a wedding?
It’s all about the atmosphere you are trying to craft.  The way you structure your food service will help indicate to guests the suitable behavior for that evening.

Buffets or Stations will encourage more socializing, dancing and switching seats.  Seated dinners imply something a bit more formal and encourage guests to stay at their tables a bit longer.  At seated dinners it is easier to get guests’ attention for key moments during the wedding.

But why not do both?    Have appetizers plated at the table and then do a station dinner.  Or have a lovely seated 2-course dinner and get guests on their feet for passed desserts.  There are no rules!  Just make sure your caterer is comfortable with the scenarios as they call for different staffing and equipment requirements.

Can you describe your favorite wedding or event that you have catered and what made it so special?
We had a BLAST catering a wedding at the very unique 632 On Hudson, an ornate 4-floor townhouse.  Each food station had to coordinate with the room it was nestled in.  The “Art Deco Lounge” reminded us of Miami Beach so we served Latin inspired cuisine.  In the “Shanghai Suite” was an Asian Station with sushi and dumplings.  And finally in the “Rustic Tuscan Kitchen” we set up a station featuring braised beef short rib in a cinnamon red wine sauce, mushroom ravioli and homemade focaccia bread.  Yum!

How do you handle couples that have a totally different palette and taste in food?
Luckily “fusion” dishes are becoming very customary.  However, if a bride and groom’s taste in food is drastically different and not satisfied by a fusion theme, there are some other tricks.

Offering guests a station-style dinner is a great way of appeasing both the bride and groom and allows guests to try a wide variety of cuisines.  Each station should be set up as a “complete meal” offering protein, vegetable and starch options.

You can also be playful with hors d’oeuvres.  For example, we worked with a lovely couple that had half of the family flying in from Korea and the other half from Germany.  We decided to offer a simple contemporary American menu but featured national specialties during cocktail hour.  We served mini individual jars of both kimchi and Spätzle.

Be playful!  And just remember…before the food served at your wedding becomes a point of argument, you will barely have time to eat at your own wedding!

Where do you find inspiration for your menu?
Although our kitchen can prepare anything, our forte is sophisticated comfort food.

We explore different cultures and find out what they associate strongest with “Home.”  We then take these familiar and comforting dishes and transform them aesthetically, while maintaining the coveted flavors.

Many brides are watching their bottom line these days.  What are some clever substitutions for classic dishes for brides who are working on tight budgets?
It’s so incredibly case-sensitive that ti’s hard to give a reliable answer.  However, we do suggest not offering an entree choice on-site; that always raises the cost and a lot of food goes to waste!

As a wedding planner, one of my favorite things to do for couples is to pre-arrange for the wedding caterer to pack a box of food for the bride and groom to take home after the wedding.  Do you do anything special to treat your clients?
We are fortunate to have a working relationship with a local restaurant where we host our couples’ initial menu tasting.  Since many of our couples don’t have the opportunity to eat much at their weddings (even with our valiant efforts) we are able to invite them back for their anniversary to “re-live” their wedding menu by enjoying the exact same meal that was served at the wedding.  We even encourage bringing in the old cake top (eek!)

Helah Kehati of JPO Concepts was kind enough to share a few mouth-watering images of JPO Concepts’ signature dishes, pictured below.  To find out more information about JPO Concepts and the company’s services please visit www.jpoconcepts.com or call 646.558.5860.  Happy planning!

Mini chicken pot pies (I literally ate three of them at the holiday party…)

Mini Chicken Pot Pie

Mini Apple Pies

Mini Apple Pie

Split Pea Shooters

Split Pea Shooter

Squid Ink Capallini

Squid Ink Capallini

Tiramisu Shooter (I also threw back three of these delicious desserts at the holiday party!)

Tiramisu Shooter

Trio of Creme Brulee, C’Est Magnifique!

Trio of Creme Brulee

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