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Art of Catering Food: For Chefs, By Chefs

With Art of Catering Food (AOCF) fast approaching, I think about the first one I ever attended. It was back in 2016 in Washington D.C., and I was a little over a year into my position as executive chef with The JDK Group. I honestly had never heard of the conference, but I was told we were going, and it would be a great experience. I was excited! I saw it as an opportunity to travel, gain inspiration, and hopefully learn a new thing or two while I was there. As I look back now, I didn’t truly understand the value and education I would receive from attending that conference. 

For those of you not familiar with AOCF, this conference specifically focuses on all aspects of the culinary world. It covers everything about food, presentation, logistics, and management. It is a conference designed specifically for chefs or anyone that has a role in culinary operations. 

Art of Catering Food provides so many different types of education when you really look at it. First and foremost, there are so many different sessions available to attend. Maybe you need some inspiration on how to make your stations more interactive or you really could use some fresh ideas on hors d’oeuvres development. Perhaps you have some questions on the management side that you are looking for help with. No matter what it is you are looking for, there is going to be something or someone there that will help you find the inspiration or information you are seeking. 

See Jay Varga LIVE!  

You can see Jay Varga live and in-person during Art of Catering Food (March 26–27) and at Catersource + The Special Event, March 27–30 in Orlando, FL during the following sessions:

Salads…Who Needs Lettuce? (AOCF) Sunday, March 26th
at 10:45 a.m. 

Culinary Theatrics: How to Get the Most Action Out of Your Station, (CS) Tuesday, March 28th
at 11:15 a.m.

Building your Culinary Depth Chart, (CS) Wednesday, March 29th at 1:00 p.m.

Visit for all the details

Additionally, another incomparable part of attending this conference is the people. It’s the chefs and the connections you will make that, to me, are an immeasurable value and opportunity. I personally remember meeting so many chefs back in D.C. and getting to talk with all of them. Learning where they are located, how many events they do, how many staff they have, what type of food they produce, the struggles they face—we all spoke the same culinary language, and we had an innate understanding of where we’re coming from. 

Specifically, I remember meeting Robin Selden of Marcia Selden Catering & Events; she was probably one of the first chefs I met at AOCF. Now, those of you who know Robin also know she is one of the coolest people in the world, but in that first interaction I had with her, she made sure I knew that if there was ever anything I needed help with or had questions about, I should just reach out to her and she would love to help. As I continued to meet more chefs, this same sentiment was shared by every single one of them. That’s the greatest thing about Art of Catering Food—the education, the mentoring, and the connections you make—it’s limitless. 

When I look back to that first conference I attended in D.C., I am very thankful for what it has provided for me as a chef. It truly is an unmatched culinary experience, and I am so excited for its return in Orlando! I hope to see you there.

Jay Varga

Executive Chef, The JDK Group

Jay Varga is the Executive Chef of The JDK Group. In 2022, Varga was honored as Chef of the Year by the International Caterers Association (ICA). He serves as the Culinary Council Chair for the ICA’s Education and Culinary Council.