Friday, April 17, 2015

A Conference for Event Planners and Caterers

On March 7th, 2015 Amy and I embarked on our annual trip to Vegas to participate in the Catersource Conference and Tradeshow that was held at Caesars Palace this year. As we arrived at our hotel room we were able to take a moment and map out which seminars and vendors we wanted to go to.
Our view of Las Vegas from our Hotel Room

From Developing Successful Caterer/Vendor Relationships to the hottest trends of the year our minds were greatly expanded with ideas to take University Catering to the next level.

Here a just a couple of the seminars I went to that impacted my goals and ideas for catering:

As customer service is my highest priority Anthony Lambatos (CEO of Footers Catering in Denver Colorado) seminar on Turning Lemons into Lemonade made me review how I can turn a client into an advocate for University Catering. We want to be prepared, have a system for coordinators, know the do's and don'ts of client interaction, understand value is relative when handling hard clients, and prevent by doing what we do best.

Another aspect of my job with University Catering is being the Graphic Designer. With that I am always looking for ways to improve our brands image and how to do that through photography has been one of my struggles. With that being another focus of mine, Denise Vivaldos seminar on Making Food Photos Mouthwatering I was able to get the following key points that will be integrated into what we currently do with our photos:
1. Under cook your items
2. Have an extra of what you are shooting
3. Prep meticulously
4. Design a plate
5. Create elevation and movement
6. Plan on garnishes
7. Cold vs. Hot
8. Natural light
9. Study food photos you like and create something similar
10. Less is more 

After two great days of seminars we also enjoyed the trade show and all the vendors that sparked our minds with products that University Catering can use!
Now onto implementing our ideas!!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

2015 USU Founders Day: Year of the Water

In celebration of the 127th anniversary of the establishment of USU, University Catering created  a water inspired menu and event set-up for Founders Day on Friday, March 6th 2015. Catering staff and chefs came together to "create and an excellent college experience" for alumni, Aggies, and friends. See how the event unfolded in the images below, displaying the progression of the event, from preparation to presentation. 

As part of the Year of the Water theme, each centerpiece included a beautiful blue Betta fish.
TSC Facilities set up tables, chairs, the stage, audio and production to help make the event successful.
Planning and organizing table numbers and layout. 
Founders Day was fully staffed with many hands to put the centerpieces together.

Each guest received a take-away bag from the memorable evening. 
The salad: Roasted Cauliflower Steak with Heirloom Grape Tomatoes, Tuscan Kale Pesto, and Honey Grapefruit Essence
Assorted artisan breads were provided throughout the meal.
The chefs prep the dinner salad.
The centerpieces included bright LED lights tucked into river rocks, highlighting the Aggie A.
The staff continues to prepare for the evening, adding linens, table settings, and centerpieces to the tables.
Jeff Woolley, University Catering's Executive chef (left) reviews the menu with Banquet Chef Dan Warnick.
Dining Services Director, Alan Andersen, organizes and instructs the staff.

Chefs prepare the main entree.
The entree: Napa Wrapped Monkfish with Mais Broth and Spiced Clarified Butter, Chicken Ballantine Stuffed with Garlic and Fresh Herbs, and King Trumped Jus served with French Haricot Verts and Heirloom Baby Carrots.
Amy Rasmussen, the General Catering Manager, organized and managed the event.
A Betta fish swims around the Aggie A in one of the centerpieces.
University Catering staff serves the main entree.
The staff prepares to take food from the kitchen to guest tables.
The dessert: Spring Berry Galette with Blue, Red and Black Berries Baked in a Flaky Pastry with Butter and Sugar topped with Lemon Custard Aggie Ice Cream and a Warm Berry Drizzle.
The chefs and staff prepare the dessert plates.
Founders Day guests celebrate the awards and speeches just after dessert is served.

Founders Day 2015 was a great success and we are looking forward to further celebrations in the years to come.


Monday, March 16, 2015

"Annual Campus Cook-off: Appetizer Any One?"

The Campus Cook-Off is an annual event University Catering created where members of the campus community, students faculty and staff, may submit an original recipe. We wanted our contestants to truly feel like they are a chef fighting to introduce their recipe to the world, so we teamed them up with one of our experienced USU chefs to help them prepare their recipe in our professional catering kitchen. To further add fun and a competitive experience, each of our contestant chefs was outfitted with a customized chef coat with their name forever emblazoned on that was theirs to keep.

This years Campus Cook-Off featured Appetizers. When the submission deadline came several recipes had been entered. University catering then meticulously reviewed them and narrowed the field to the top three contenders. 

Our lucky three contestants for this appetizer edition, were Lisa Starett and her Pork Street Tacos, Chase Lambert & Assistant with his Cauliflower Wings, and Jonathan Bafford, who entered his Pork Steam Buns. All of these contestants were students of Utah State University.
Contestants showing off their chef coats
Our three contestants arrived for the showdown on February 12th. Food preparation was done in the catering kitchen behind the Aggie Marketplace.
Jonathan Bafford rolling his dough for the steam bun

Lisa Starrett preparing topping for the pork street tacos

Chase Lambert and Assistant/Wife preparing cauliflower

Meanwhile, down in the HUB, a stage was set up in the middle of the dining area, which we call the Pit. At 11:30, our contestant chefs were introduced to the crowd and the people's choice judging was underway. 50 tokens were given out at random to judge the peoples choice.
Peoples Choice Judging

50 random guests chosen to participate in the Peoples Choice

Every contestant showcased their appetizer with a 10 - 15 minute entertainment piece to the judges. The judges this year included the winner of the 2014 Bake-Off event, Mickelle Anderson from USU Human Resources, Heidi Bringhurst winner of the College of Agriculture and Applied Sciences Cook-Off, and Don Donaldson Chef and General Manager of the Junction.

Lisa Starrett sharing her Pork Street Tacos
Chase Lambert and Assistant/Wife sharing their Cauliflower Wings
Jonathan Bafford sharing his Pork Steam Buns

 After much tasting and deliberation on the judges part, the event commenced with awards. The awards given this year included Judges Choice ( plaque and a 25 block meal plan ), Peoples Choice ( plaque and a 10 block meal plan ), and Runners-Up ( 5 block meal plan).
Judges deliberating and scoring the appetizers. Left to Right: Don Donaldson, Heidi Bringhurst, and Mickelle Anderson

Judges Choice and Peoples Choice were awarded to Lisa Starrett whose Pork Street Tacos were mouthwatering good and a sensation around the board. Jonathan Bafford and Chase Lambert were awarded the Runners-Up awards. 

We appreciate the culinary talent and passion of these students and look forward to the next Campus Cook-off.


Thursday, March 5, 2015

Experience Blue was the theme of the 2015 Caine College of the Arts Gala.  Experience Blue brought a night full of art exhibit openings, honoring the Caine College of the Arts' outstanding students, founders and accomplishments, the Grand Gala is the highlight of Arts Week.
When I initially consulted for the V.I.P reception, I envisioned immediately what the Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art would look like of the evening long event.

The evening started with University Catering building the centerpieces using blue floral gel beads, submersible LED lights, and a myriad of sizes of glass cylinders of centerpiece. The end results fit perfectly into the Experience Blue theme.

This butler passed menu was enjoyed by all:This butler passed menu was enjoyed by all:

Skewer Basil Wrapped Pearl Mozzarella ~Grape Tomato ~Honey Lime Vinaigrette
Crostini with Crisp Pork Belly~ Tomato Aioli~ Havarti Cheese~ Micro Greens
Shrimp Cocktail Shot
Smoked Cheese Quiche ~ Leeks~ Marinated Tomatoes

With a “Blue” themed dessert buffet tucked away area of the Art Museum to finish off the reception perfectly.
Mini Coconut Cup Cake with Coconut Frosting
French Vanilla Blue Macaroons
Fresh Blueberry Tarts

The evening continued with the acknowledgement of the Founders, Donors and Outstanding Seniors of the Caine College of the Arts with a brief presentation held in the atrium of the Chase Fine Arts Center lit up in blue.
We are proud to continually support such events held on the campus of Utah State University.