Catering with Combinations

Published in Menu Strategies

Although box lunches and meeting fare account for most of UNC Health Care’s annual catering business, the Chapel Hill, N.C. based healthcare system also caters some memorable upscale events which offer creative menus and beverage pairings. And like their peers in commercial eateries, Executive Chef Shawn Dolan and Sous Chef Susan Gardner often feature in-state wines and craft brews and use foodstuffs from nearby farms.

Argentinean cabernet sauvignon with Carved Sous Vide Beef Tenderloin, California chardonnay with Tandoori Chicken and North Carolina brown ale with pasta are just some of the prime pairings UNC Health Care board members enjoyed at a special catered event prepared by the top chefs of the not-for-profit healthcare system in Chapel Hill, N.C., recently.

Although box lunches and meeting fare account for most of UNC’s $800,000 to $900,000 annual catering business, there are a handful of memorable upscale catered events like that each year, some of which host as many as 5,000 guests. In addition to board affairs, they include holiday parties, networking sessions for local businesses and the Service Awards banquet for hospital associates.

Each is an opportunity for Executive Chef Shawn Dolan and Sous Chef Susan Gardner, both trained at the Culinary Institute of America, to put their talents to the test with creative menus and beverage pairings.

“Shawn always gets excited when we have these events because he has the chance to really play,” says Ryan Miller, associate director of retail services.

Like their peers in commercial eateries, the chefs often choose in-state wines and craft brews and use foodstuffs from nearby farms in their pairings.

A particular hit at the board member event was the beef tenderloin, cooked sous vide for four hours to a rosy pink and served on brioche rolls with chimichurri, barbecue and horseradish sauces. Sous vide equipment is also used daily to prepare chicken and burgers for patient meals.

It’s emblematic of the company mission. “Our goal is to bring restaurant-quality food to the hospital setting,” says Miller.

Menu Sampler: UNC Health Care

Board Catered Event


  • Goat Cheese Tartlets

  • Pasta Station with Tortellini in Aurora Sauce and Orecchiette in Primavera Sauce

  • Shrimp & Grits

  • Assorted Handmade Truffles