ACE Inspiration: Tastebuds Custom Catering, part 1

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April 14, 2017

Mid-March, winners of the ACE awards took the stage at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans. To enter, each contender was asked to identify the two events the company completed that it felt best represented the company, as well as challenges and favorite aspects.

Throughout the year, will profile the winners and nominees of the 2017 ACE awards. In the third installation of our series, we will place a keen eye on Tastebuds Custom Catering, Naples, FL, who took the ACE award for Operations under $2 million in the East region.


Catering • East region • Operations under $2 million • Tastebuds Custom Catering, Naples, FL

Wu Wedding

The Wu family came to Tastebuds approximately 11 months before their wedding, through a great planner colleague, Jet Set Wed. The bride, Tiffany Wu, daughter of the owners of House of Wu, the largest importer of bridal gowns in the U.S., had grand dreams for her wedding and especially her wedding catering. She wanted Chinese, but not just any Chinese—elevated high-end Chinese. A self described foodie, Tiffany wanted her guests to have a dinner like no other, to blow their tastebuds away with a unique spin on the traditional food of her culture.

It was a spectacular night. “For a company that is primarily a corporate and social caterer,” said Tastebud’s Director of Operations, Heather Shapiro, “we do less than 10 weddings per year.” Shapiro noted that the event had also been featured recently in The Knot Florida, which was also great recognition.

“When a majority of the guests are Chinese, and don’t speak English, well, let’s just say things get a bit more complicated.”



“This event brought many challenges for our company,” Shapiro noted. “We needed to understand Asian food, and create original recipes with our spin—but also maintain ingredient and dish recognition and integrity for the traditional wedding guests. Additionally, our greatest challenge came between the tasting and the wedding. For our event tasting, we wowed the family with our interpretations of traditional Asian dishes. Long days and hours of testing and tasting resulted in a fabulous tasting! Unfortunately, our company lost our sous chef about three months prior to the wedding, and learned shortly thereafter that he had actually failed to document the Wu tasting recipes and notes. As the wedding approached in our busiest month of the year, we found ourselves having to try to recreate the tasting based off of memory and a little catering luck.

“Lastly, like many caterers, we were challenged during our plated dinner service when many of the guests switched spots from where they were supposed to sit with their menu selections. To compound the typical seat switch, the room was actually set in reverse of the diagram we were provided. Typically this would be something our staff could adapt to quickly, but when a majority of the guests are Chinese, and don’t speak English, well, let’s just say things get a bit more complicated.”

Butlered hors d’oeuvres included Lobster Five Spiced Congee, Duck Chicharrones Coronet, Hong Kong Street Noodle, Firecracker Prawns, and Pork Belly Cotton Candy. A dessert station offered jarred Mango Mousse and Ginger Tarts.

Fresh seasonal vegetables wrapped with lo mein noodles, finished in sticky ginger shoyu on chopsticks

Silky mango mousse, candied lemon, passion fruit creme

Velvety ginger custard tart with plum wine macerated local strawberries

During the progressive dinner, a black tea asparagus terrine (left) finished with pickled euro cucumber orb, heirloom tomato, onion pearls, pea tendrils and nori vinaigrette was served, followed with ham & egg ramen, which included pork shoulder, buckwheat noodle, ham dashi, 16 minute egg, forest mushroom, compressed carrot, and micro wasabi.

Favorite touches

Some of Tastebuds’ favorite aspects of the event “had to be working with this bride and delivering a beautifully planned and executed menu with some truly fun food!” said Shapiro. “When we were introduced to Tiffany, we knew her expectations were high. The venue she’d selected had an ‘exclusive’ caterer, but Tiffany, a Texas attorney, found a loophole and fought (and paid) for our company to be her caterer. Her sincere Thank You card remains one of the favorites to this day.”

Tastebuds points to a passed hors d’oeuvre of Pork Belly Cotton Candy as a favorite dish of both staff and guests was. The cotton candy, flavored with Chinese 5-spice, was passed in wheatgrass beds.

Savory spiced cotton candy encases a sticky glazed pork belly bite and passed on a bed of wheatgrass

A thank you from the bride



Be sure to follow all of the ACE award winners and nominees throughout the year for inspiration and ideas! The 2018 awards consideration will open in late fall with an announcement in our Attendee and Get Fresh e-newsletters. Click here to sign up!


Next week on Tastebuds Catering’s Partridge-Crall Welcome Party


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