Knowing the Difference & Having Specific Conversations with Your Caterer….
You’re counting down to that special moment in your life – planning, organizing, and making sure that all of the details are carried out appropriately. The most important element of your big day is making sure that all of your guests are able to savor in a delightful and tasteful meal that will have them talking for days. Then you remember that your best friend is allergic to peanuts, or Aunt Susan is a vegetarian, and the list begins to increase with special instructions regarding the menu. What do you do?
First, I think that it is important to know that dietary requests fall into 3 categories; food allergies, dietary preferences based on lifestyle, and dietary preferences based on religious affiliations. Most caterers are concerned with accommodating requests that are based on food allergies (because it is related to an individual’s health) and dietary preferences based on religious affiliations. Individuals that fall in the category of dietary preferences based on lifestyle are usually accommodated for within “your” menu of choice with side items that are generally a part of a menu such as starches, vegetables, and pastas. Based on the 3 categories and evaluating your guests’ requests it is now time to have a specific conversation with your caterer.
When discussing your special meal request based on food allergies, you must inform your caterer the type of food allergy that exists with the individual(s). The top 8 food allergens are milk, egg, peanut, tree nuts, fish, shell fish, soy, and wheat.* Be specific so that your caterer can accommodate not only the allergy but to provide a flavorful meal that your guests will enjoy. You and the caterer should have top priority to accommodate the health needs of your guest(s). Food allergen requests are about 5 – 10% of your guest list.
The next type of special request is dietary preferences based on religious affiliations. As a planner, I deal with this on a regular basis because of the religious faith of my clients. This type of dietary preference is not as difficult as the food allergy food restriction. However, it is a request that should be taken very seriously and the percentage of guests that fall within this category is usually about 40% of your guest list, and “You” the client is normally a part of this list. In most Muslim religions, the most common type of food to avoid in this category is “pork”. Avoid pork in salads, entrees, and most importantly make sure that the food is not cooked with any type of pork fat or oil. Still I require that you are specific with your caterer regarding the restrictions around the food selections here also; letting the chef aware that pork means no pork – no bacon, proscuitto, pork chops, and the list goes on. Other than that, your chef, can prepare a bountiful assortment of choices for your guests ranging from chicken, beef, and seafood entrees. Other religious faiths require Kosher meals; not a difficult menu to create, however, there are certain requirements that have to be followed from the preparation to the caring of the food. And only certain caterers are Kosher certified.
Don’t allow the words “food requests” stumble you in planning your wedding day menu. Know your guests – determine if the request is based on an allergen, dietary preference based on lifestyle, or dietary preference based on religious affiliations. Be concerned only with allergen and dietary preference based on religious affiliations. Make sure that you have detailed conversations with your caterer. Make sure that what you are serving is as appealing as the plate without dietary restrictions. And lastly, try to have their meal served the same time as everyone else so that your guests do no have to feel any different than the person sitting beside them.
*Source – Affairs to Remember Caterers, August 28, 2012
*Examples of Special Dietary Menus:
Vegetarian option: Baby Beet Salad with Fromage Blanc Tart (in photo)
Golden and red beets, tarragon, honey, vinegar, shaved rainbow radishes and frisée salad
Gluten-free, vegan (without cheese) and vegetarian option: Roasted Vegetable and Heirloom Bean Terrine
Roasted red and yellow bell peppers, fennel, thyme, basil, and heirloom beans, wrapped zucchini, served with capers, red pepper coulis and Asiago cheese
Served with the same starch and vegetables as the regular entree (Short Rib Provençal): Gâteau De Pommes Du Terre
Smashed young red potatoes, olive oil and parsley
Legumes du Jour Pas De Beurre
Fresh seasonal vegetables tossed in fresh herbs and olive oil
Gluten- and dairy-free option: Coconut Panna Cotta
Made with coconut milk and fresh berries
*Source – Culinary Capers Catering and Special Events | Vancouver, British Columbia | Debra Lykkemark, CEO | Special Events Magazine