Ban the boring buffet line

Turn catering into an exercise in creativity.

By 
Bianca N. Herron, Digital Editor

salmon cedar plank

While catering is an important part of many foodservice operators’ revenue, there’s only so much appeal that can be squeezed from a chafing dish. Unorthodox equipment is making its mark, with some operators finding that creativity doesn’t have to be a budget-buster.

For Lisa Poggas, nutrition and environmental services director at Parker Adventist Hospital in Parker, Colo., that creativity starts even before food is ready to serve. Cedar planks ($5-$10 each) and pieces of granite and slate (about $25-$50 per piece) make a play as both cooking and serving surfaces for dishes including salmon at Parker’s VIP catered events at the hospital, such as artist receptions.

Parker Adventist sanitizes the granite and slate surfaces to ensure cleanliness, and cedar planks typically are a single-use item. “We don’t use any wood that is considered unsafe, and we definitely would never use anything that is pressure-treated due to chemicals,” Poggas says.

Planks are soaked in water or rubbed with oil so they don’t burn quickly, then are topped with the fish and placed in the pizza oven at 500 degrees for about 12 minutes, depending on the thickness. “It gives the salmon a nice aroma and mild flavor,” Poggas says. A lit heating canister beneath the planks finishes the cooking process during presentation.

Vinnie Livoti, director of food services at Blue Cross Blue Shield in Columbia, S.C., agrees that a small, inexpensive change can have a big impact. “Recently, we did a breakfast for about 60 people where we made frittatas in a 10-inch cast-iron skillet and served it fresh out of the oven,” he says. “We rolled the skillets out on a cart and placed them on the table five to 10 minutes prior to guests being seated,” he says. The skillets retain heat so the food stays warm.

Livoti said he wanted to give the guests a different visual than the typical pan of eggs, and he received a good response to the skillets, popular among home chefs for generations due to their longevity. “They really loved it and said it gave a great appearance,” he says. “I went out afterwards and bought about 15 of those skillets.”

He plans to use the skillets to make cornbread at his next event. And as far as transporting the hefty iron cookware goes, Livoti says it’s nothing a cart can’t handle.

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion

Regional School Unit 17 in Belfast, Maine, is banning straws beginning on Monday, the Penbay Pilot reports.

The ban was put into action by a student group and the district’s foodservice director. Over the years, the district has also phased out plastic utensils and plans to completely eliminate foam food trays this upcoming school year.

Director of Food Services Perley Martin told the Penbay Pilot that the district’s foodservice budget has not increased as a result of the transition to more eco-friendly materials, due to the fact the change was made slowly.

The...

Industry News & Opinion

School districts in Jefferson, Oswego, and St. Lawrence counties in New York will be expanding their farm-to-school programs as the result of new funding, Watertown Daily Times reports.

The expansions will be made possible by the Seeds for Success program, which awarded grants to seven school districts last year to begin farm-to-school programs. This year, it will provide $5,000 grants to an additional 19 districts to either start or expand their local food efforts.

One of the grant recipients said it will use the funds to add additional gardens and expand its composting...

Industry News & Opinion

Aramark has begun using a new system to track, purchase and report on its sustainable practices.

The system, named Open Fields, allows foodservice vendors to create and monitor their own sustainability programs. Users can run their own metrics on various sustainability initiatives based on factors such as location, product, spend, attribute, farm/vendor, miles to location and distributor. Managers can also generate reports on their organization’s sustainable purchases.

Aramark says it’s using the software to track its sustainable purchases of products that are Fair Trade...

Industry News & Opinion

Columbia Public Schools in Columbia, Mo., has introduced a farm-to-school coordinator position for its new farm-to-school program , the Missourian reports .

The district partnered with the Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture to create the role, which is intended to help about 1,000 third- through fifth-graders eat more fruits and vegetables. The coordinator will be in charge of arranging student field trips to the Center’s farm as well as writing and planning a curriculum and activities for students.

The Center will provide around $42,000 for the position, and the...

FSD Resources

Code for Asynchronous jQuery Munchkin Tracking Code