Operations

Chartwells Higher Ed team used creativity and adaptability to cater award-winning event

Foodservice staff at Oklahoma Baptist University found a way to keep guests safe while providing a memorable experience during the university’s presidential inauguration event.
Roasted pork bao buns with pickled pineapple and radish.
Photo: Melodie Thornton

The catering team at Oklahoma Baptist University in Shawnee, Okla., was recently named Best On-Premise Caterer of the Year by Catersouce for its efforts during the university’s presidential inauguration event in spring 2021.

Faced with pandemic restrictions, the Chartwells Higher Ed team used creativity and flexibility to give guests a memorable experience.

Getting creative with single serve

As they planned the menu, the team looked for enjoyable menu items that could also be served safely.

“We designed a menu that would showcase single service-style appetizers, and this allowed minimal guest contact with serving utensils, trays and things like that,” says Valerie Vo, national director of catering for Chartwells.

Dishes included roasted pork bao buns with pickled pineapple and radish, braised short ribs with Yukon mash and carrots served in mini cocottes and more.

There was also a request that cheese, crackers and fruit be on the menu, so the team had to get creative for safe serving.

“Our chef had a great idea to slice the cheese into sticks instead of traditional cubes, and then we used a divider cup so then we could add in the fruit and crackers,” says Vo.

With so much packaging used, catering staff worked closely with their procurement team to source the different single-serve containers.

The procurement team was able to share vendor samples with the catering team, and from there, the latter team created a vision board that showcased the different serving options and presented it to the clients during a tasting, where it was well received.

Finding flexibility with the format

Creativity also came into play when the team was designing the layout of the space. The event was housed in a large outdoor tent, so they decided to split the tent into quadrants and have stations that mirrored each other in each section. This reduced crowding throughout the event.

As the catering industry bounces back from the pandemic, it will be crucial to stay flexible and creative, Vosays, and the best way to do that is to develop strong relationships with everyone involved.

“Building a solid partnership relationship with your clients, vendors and your very own team is more important now than it has ever been,” she says.

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