By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
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Party flow: Every party is different, and all clients want their party to have their particular brand of style or taste. We spend a lot of time with our clients understanding what they want. What kinds of food do they like? What is their taste? We go to their homes or event sites and carefully assess what is possible. Where will people park? How will they enter? What will they see when they first enter? How will they be greeted? How will we make the space flow so that guests move easily through the venue sampling all the differing foods and participating in any of the activities that we may also be providing? With corporate clients we spend a lot of time understanding what they intend to accomplish. With movie premieres we need to really know exactly what the studio wants. But the questions you ask in assessing a small party’s needs are very much the same questions you have to ask for a party of 2,000.
Small vs. large parties: There is very little difference, actually. Financially, generally speaking, the larger the function the lower the overall cost per person is. As the event size grows, we can more cost-effectively purchase foods, etc. This in turn brings down the price per person. As far as “feel” goes, an intimate smaller event feels very different from a larger function. But one can still make an event for fewer than 100 guests feel intimate. The trick with the really big events, say 500 to 2,000 people, is to make them have a quality of intimacy as well.
Menu du jour: Food is always evolving. But the trend is still very cross-cultural, with the Euro-Asian fusion still very fashionable. But good, hearty comfort food is also still very popular. Some of the more current trends are boutique and imported cheeses and beautiful heirloom vegetables. A lot of the basics are really in right now, very natural, basic unfettered foods. Seasonal food always plays a role whenever we plan parties: lighter food in the spring and summer and heartier comfort food in the fall and winter months. Cuisine served in interesting new ways is also very popular: desserts in a sherry glass, shrimp cocktails in a shot glass with a spicy cocktail sauce.
Food to be avoided: We always try to make sure that our larger food-station parties have food served in such a way that you can eat it with a fork only, that you don’t need to sit and carve up something with a knife. When you’re in tight spaces, it’s best to serve easy-to-eat passed hors d’oeuvres.
DIY catering: In your mind, take the time to create your own vision. Certainly prepare ahead with guest lists, invitations and a deadline for RSVPs. If it is within your budget, try to hire a person or two (high school student or responsible teenage neighbor) to help set up and assist with serving and cleanup. If you are doing most of your own food, making food ahead of time and freezing will save countless hours the day before and the day of the party. Flowers and candles always add special warmth to any event. Burn a CD of your favorite music or music that will work for your party. Planning ahead is the key. The art of throwing your own party is in being there to enjoy it yourself with your guests. That’s why they’re there in the first place, so enjoy!
Food-to-person ratio: If it’s a cocktail party, 14 to 16 individual hors d’oeuvres per person. If it’s a dinner, approximately 6 to 8 ounces of protein, 4 to 6 ounces of a starch, 4 ounces of vegetables, 2 ounces of salad, and either one fun dessert or two to four smaller pickup desserts per person that you can get at any bakery.
Tips on tipping: For our large events there is no tipping. Our servers are not paid like waiters in a restaurant. We do not accept tips at large parties (no tip jars at the bars, etc.). At smaller private parties, clients sometimes insist on offering a gratuity, which is always appreciated by our staff, but it is neither expected nor requested.
Strange moment:We get asked this question a lot, and, believe it or not, we have been free of disasters for over 28 years. I suppose one of the strangest moments was the first time we did an event for 10,000 guests. When we opened the doors for the party — it was the first of five annual Universal Studios holiday parties that we did — literally thousands of guests all walked through our entrance at the same time. It was like a wall of party coming down the road. It was strange, overwhelming, but also one of the most exciting moments of our career.
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