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As the holidays near, a caterer shares event essentials

Kathi Bankes, director of catering for Metz Culinary Management, describes how she stays creative while planning events.
Photograph: Shutterstock

Kathi Bankes, director of catering for Metz Culinary Management, has catered many unique events, including a 310-person wedding in an empty airplane hangar. As holiday season approaches, she shares how she stays creative during planning and what’s essential to running a successful event.

Q: How do you stay creative?

I think I stay creative just by listening to people's ideas, getting a feel for what they're hoping their event will be and then just creating it to what their hopes are. Really, the creativity isn't as hard as people think it is—it's just really listening. … I just take it and run with it.

Q: What is the key to a successful event?

The banquet event order (BEO). It's the most important part of an entire event, because it's got all of your information on it. That's my bible. I pass it out to everybody and I say, “Read the BEO and it will tell you everything you need to know.” … I create that BEO as I'm talking to the guests when we’re in the planning stages, and we revise it every time something changes. It gets sent to everybody that needs to have a copy.

And then, the day of, that is the main resource. That’s how our chef is ordering his food, that's how I'm ordering my linen and any rentals I need. Another thing is working with the rental companies and making sure you build a good relationship with them. That can make or break you because you need to make sure you have all of your items in a timely manner … and that they're in good shape. You're really relying on these people to make your event special.

Q: Do you have any best practices for working with customers?

You need to listen to the people booking the event. At the end of the day, it's their event, and if they want to have something very obscure and crazy that you know is not going to work, then you better have a solution for them, because they've got their heart set on this. I try to never say no. If they want something absolutely crazy, I say, “OK, well, I'm not sure we're going to be able to do it in that way, but I think we could bring it in this way.”

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