Catering industry veteran and Chef/Owner of K2 Edibles and Events, Kristin Karam lends us her helpful advice in regards to wedding catering...it must be Ask the Expert Wednesday! This woman is a pro and as a caterer myself, I really enjoyed interviewing her about the craft. Enjoy!
How long have you been cooking and what got you into the wedding industry in the first place?
I have been cooking for well over 12 years. I was initially introduced to the wedding business as an innkeeper at a beautiful venue. Weddings fit very naturally in the space and I began selling the Inn as a wedding venue. The experience was priceless. I learned every avenue of the party from planning through execution and clean up. I did find myself most drawn to the kitchen, and knew eventually I would be in the heart of the house.
What are some of your favorite items to serve at a wedding?
I like to see the couple take a chance with ethnic food. Wedding menus are often very alike, I think it add to the social aspect of a wedding when the guests are tempted to try something they may not have had before. It brings a conversation and guests usually walk away with a new favorite. Bringing in the couples couples ethnicity to the menu puts a personal stamp on their menus.
How do you help engaged couples navigate through the process of writing a menu that will fit their event?
There is always some volleying back and forth until they are happy with the offerings. During this process, I must remind couples of the logistics of getting the correct food that fits with the venue where the event is being held. Some things might not work and there is always an option to fit their theme and budget.
What are some must-do's or must must-have's in regards to catering at a wedding? Don'ts?
You must overstaff. Having plenty of hands on deck allows the night to run smoothly. A caterer must hire a staff that is experienced and open to performing tasks which might not include a "normal" service routine. Organization is the key to a good production. Lists, lists...and more lists!
One big "don't" that comes to mind as a caterer is making promises that can not be kept. Couples provide many ideas...and as a caterer I must be honest and straight forward when I get a request for something that logistically will not work. Usually this happens when there is a strict budget involved in which we are unable to hire the additional people, equipment, etc... to carry out the task. For a simple example, a wedding in August in the summer heat, outdoors in the middle of a vineyard, would not be conducive for an ice cream cake that was to be delivered before the ceremony with no where to freeze before cutting. The logistics of this request would have to be considered, and more likely than not, the cake maker would have to deliver that cake right before service. The couple would have to recognize that there would be no cake on display, and also the extra charge for this service.
If you could give engaged couples one piece of advice in regards to catering on the big day, what would it be?
My best advice is to hire a caterer with a good reputation, and also one that you trust. Just because a chef has a successful restaurant, does not mean that they will be a successful caterer. Catering is a another animal. Hire a professional with experience, and then let them do their thing. I have found with experience in my "planning" years, that if you give the vendor some space in management after your vision was agreed upon, they will do a much better job for you than if you micromanage their every detail. Some freedom in creativity leads to great surprises for you and your family on this special day. It also alleviates the stress for the couple! Let it go and have a great time! You have spent a lot of time and energy in the planning process. Your wedding day can now be an enjoyable experience.
K2's baklava, photo: Cammie Buehler