How to Work with a Private Chef or Caterer For Your Next Event

By Shanelle Fisher

 

Those who host for the holidays know that it can be a labor of love. There’s the planning, the shopping, the inviting, the cleaning up, the setting up, the pressure to create an IG-worthy vibe…and we haven’t even got to the food yet!

But the solution isn’t to just stop having gatherings altogether. Such events are important to us as humans. Not only are they a chance for us to let our proverbial hair down, but they’re an opportunity for communities to come together and for relationships to grow. They can strengthen existing bonds, help strangers connect, and create memories or traditions that can last lifetimes. The solution is to leave (at least some of it) to the professionals.

Why you should hire a private chef or caterer for the holidays

Not only would you be making both the planning and execution of your event easier, but you’d also be taking your guests’ experience to the next level. Sure, your appetizers are impressive, but are they perfectly plateable? Can you adapt them to suit your vegan cousin or the in-law that has a gluten allergy? Do you have the capacity to scale your small batch recipes up for a crowd? Do you have the time to devote to building out a menu?

All of that can be handled by a private chef or caterer. As we all know, food can make or break an event, so letting someone who does this, do it, is a great investment in your guests’ experience. Depending on the chef, it can also be an opportunity for you to get creative and collaborate on something that your guests will remember all through the year.

Hiring a caterer or private chef can also free you up to focus on the areas where you really shine, like decorating, baking, crafting cocktails, curating playlists, or thinking of games to get the good vibes going.

What to consider when hiring a private chef for the holidays

While one of the big selling points of hiring a private chef or caterer is to take the work of cooking off your plate, that doesn’t mean you can totally set it and forget it. There are still some factors you will need to take into consideration.  

We talked to a few private chefs and asked them to help us compile a do’s and don’t’s list for you to keep in mind as you work with them to make your holiday gatherings bright.

Do’s

1. Consider and coordinate your guest’s dietary restrictions. Hiring a vegan or vegetarian catering company is a good option to accommodate all your guests. “With the growing rate of people adapting to a plant-based diet, it is imperative to consider a variety of vegan and vegetarian options around the holidays,” says Candice Maiden of Squash the Beef Catering. Her business focuses on meals that are completely vegan and full of flavor.

2. Contemplate quality as well as pricing. If organic ingredients and locally sourced dishes made from scratch are a priority for you, talk to your caterer about how they source ingredients and prepare the meals. For example, Chef Batts of Chef Batts Catering says he makes all of his items from scratch and uses high quality ingredients. Something else to consider, is the increase in prices amongst all industries.

As Chef Brittiney of 8th Wonder Cuisine notes, “Keep in mind how much the cost of food has grown as well as the shortage of operational items since the pandemic.” These are things to be aware of when assessing the value and cost of the service.

3. Realize there is a cost for convenience. Hiring a caterer or chef can be a more convenient and enjoyable way to curate your holiday meal, but it’s not necessarily the cheapest option. Just like when going to a restaurant versus cooking at home, you are paying for that convenience and the experience of professionals.

4. Read all of the reviews. To avoid getting talked about in the family group chat, hire a caterer with experience and great reviews. “This is important because you shouldn’t take the risk of trusting your big day with someone that is inexperienced or incompetent,” says Chef Orenthal, of Graffiti Culinaire

5. Inquire about a taste-testing. While aesthetics and presentation are important for getting a picture of your plate for the ‘gram, taste is the benchmark of a successful meal. Getting catfished by your holiday meal would be the ultimate heartbreak.  Dexter Foreman of Dish with Dex, allows his clients to do a tasting before taking one of his dishes home. He suggests asking the chef or caterer if they offer taste testing before hiring.

Dont’s

1. Order at the last minute. The more time chefs have to prepare and plan, the better they are able to accommodate your request. This would also ensure time for taste testing.

2. Change an order the day before.  Make sure you’ve got your head count and menu figured out before placing your order.  Due to the slow pace in the supply chain, food and other items are scarce and caterers may not be able to accommodate last minute adjustments. It also may impact their ability to provide the best possible quality and service.

3. Be surprised if there is an additional fee. A rush fee is common if a caterer allows you to book or make changes at the last minute.

4. Treat them as anything less than artists and professionals. Earlier this year, Black Restaurant Week spoke to esteemed chef Nick Wallace, who talked about how, for many caterers and private chefs, their dreams can turn into a nightmare when people don’t value their artistry. “You can go into people’s house and cook for them and you start feeling like the help,” he said, noting that people have asked him to perform other chores like taking out the trash or cleaning their kitchen. “I came too far for you not to treat me like you have a great chef that’s in your home right now.”  

 

Shanelle Fisher is a Dallas based food and lifestyle blogger. She is an attorney, wife, and mom of two, who enjoys cooking, trying new restaurants, and hosting brunches with her brunch club. You can follow Shanelle’s foodie adventures on her blog, Mochas and Mimosas and on Instagram.

Black Restaurant Week
Author: Black Restaurant Week

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