There wasn’t any shortage of education or inspiration throughout Catersource + The Special Event: everything from new cuisines, cooking demonstrations, how to break into new markets, and plenty of perspectives from the professionals could be found in every classroom, and on every stage during the week.
Perennial favorite David Merrell Presents: Current Trends in the Events Industry brought audiences out in droves (as evidenced by the line of attendees just waiting to get into the room. Photo courtesy WASIO Faces
Trends, trends, and more trends
Year after year, Catersource + The Special Event’s trend sessions have remained some of the most popular, and there certainly wasn’t a shortage of options this year: Perennial favorite David Merrell Presents: Current Trends in the Events Industry brought audiences out in droves (as evidenced by the line of attendees just waiting to get into the room); Andrea Correale (Culinary Inspiration & Trends with Andrea Correale) and Michael Stavros (Caterers Assemble! - Tantalizing Trends, Captivating Concepts, Interactivity) shared plenty of inspiring examples of what they’re seeing in today’s catering market, and the team at Rosedale Events (Christian Hernandez, Rich Rosendale, and Jean Claude Etienne) took a deep dive into Embracing the Future: Food, Inspiration & Adventure. Catering trends weren’t the only thing that got some time in the spotlight however, Justina Pasha and Jeff Selden put the focus on the bar (Cocktail Trends with Pasha & Jeff), Liza Roeser and Darin Bahl talked all things floral (2023 Floral Design & Trends), and Kristin Banta rounded out this year’s offering with Kristin Banta’s Design to Impact in 2023.
Over on the culinary side of things, this year’s lineup of culinary focused sessions ranged from the visual (Culinary Theatrics: How to Get the Most Action from your Station [Jason Sutton and Jay Varga], Seven Crazy Creative Stations [Todd Annis, Alicia Smith, and Ross Bock], and A Chef’s Approach to Mixology [Ryan Manning]) to the educational (Sous Vide in the Field Kitchen [Mark Ellis, Maria Phillips, and John McLallen], Designing Allergy Friendly Menus Everyone Will Love [Joanne Purnell and Karen O’Connor], and Veg-"Abilities”: Curating Plant-Forward Menu Items that Are Craveable, Flexible & Forgivable [Pam Smith]), and even the new (Misconceptions & History: An Exploration of Indian Cuisine with Chef and Cookbook Author Chef Keith Sarasin and Pan African Cuisines: A Fine Fusion Approach [Grace Odogbili]).
Pam Smith took a deep dive into plant-based cuisine with her session Veg-"Abilities”: Curating Plant-Forward Menu Items that Are Craveable, Flexible & Forgivable. Photo courtesy WASIO Faces
The exhibit hall floor also featured plenty of tasty samples to inspire attendees (and keep them fed) including the Idaho Potato Commission, Gastro Garage, Gourmet Food International, and Heartisan Foods.
While there isn’t anything wrong with finding your market niche and staying within your lane, there’s also something to be said for diversifying, and plenty of this year’s sessions touched on the topic of expanding into new marketings including: Planning South Asian Weddings (Rajan Mistry), Bringing Your Popular Product to Market (Boris Seymore), How to Crush Your Next Pop Up Dinner (Keith Sarasin), Generating Additional Revenue via Outdoor Festivals & Special Events (Winston Williams), and How to How to Break into the Luxury Wedding Market (Sarah Hall).
Joining forces: A stellar lineup of event and catering professionals teamed up to present You Did What?: The Real Reason Your Referrals Have Dried Up. From left to right: (David Hanscom, Fausto Pifferrer, Brian Green, Christopher Taylor, Tamara Gibson, and Terrica. Photo courtesy WASIO Faces
Perspectives from the pros
No two caterers will approach an event the same way, and that’s a good thing. Imagine how boring everything would be if everything looked and tasted the same? This is why hearing different perspectives is so essential to having a successful catering business, and many of this year’s lineup of educational offerings brought on panelists (with differing backgrounds) to share their unique perspectives on a number of unique topics, including: Catering Shark Take: To Taste or Not to Taste? (Margaret BrRoy Porter, Suzi McMerty Shands, Jonathan Jennings, and Lisa Ware); You Did What?: The Real Reason Your Referrals Have Dried Up (Terrica, Brian Green, Christopher Taylor, Tamara Gibson, David Hanscom, and Fausto Pifferrer); Check Your Ego: Chefs & Mental Health – A Discussion (Jeffrey Schlissel and Peter McCaffrey); Event Industry Advocacy; What’s Next? (Alicia Falango, Julia Kendrick Conway, Jamie Adams, Bobbi Brinkman, Marcie Booth, and Sarah Roshan); and The Stars Aligned: Creating Cohesiveness between Culinary & Event Design (Kristin Banta, David Merrell, Clint Upchurch, Darrin Roberts, Rob Pausmith, and Michael Stavros).
Getting Their Hands Dirty
Sitting in a classroom and listening to a lecture can only get you so far, which is why this year's conference also offered plenty of opportunities for attendees to get their hands a little dirty with interactive, hands-on opportunities.
Lee Anderson delivered on a hands-on session on Creating Cooking Competitions for Corporate Team Building Experiences. Photo courtesy WASIO Faces.
First up, attendees proved that they were up to the challenge with Lee Anderson's (Sugar Beach Events) Creating Cooking Competitions for Corporate Team Building Experiences. Next, attendees were able to get in on the competition with the Hands On: Floral Tablescaping Design Competition. And last (but certainly not least), Roy Porter put attendees into the heart of the action with his Hands On: Plates from the Pass to Tables session.
Walking the tradeshow floor
There’s always something new and exciting to experience on the tradeshow floor during Catersource + The Special Event. From technology to rentals, this year’s tradeshow floor offered plenty of inspiration to get the creative juices flowing for the year ahead. There were also plenty of samples to boot from such exhibitors as Gourmet Foods International, Gastro Garage, the Idaho Potato Commission and Heartisan Foods. The mixed tradeshow floor (which combined both catering and event booths together) allowed attendees to mingle through FOH and BOH inspiration all at once.
There were plenty of samples at the Gourmet Foods International booth on the Tradeshow floor.
New this year, the tradeshow was packed on Wednesday afternoon (following the day’s sessions) for a happy hour featuring libations, snacks, and plenty of entertainment.
Rounding out the Tradeshow Floor was the Ignite Stage, which offered a great lineup of business-forward sessions including The Rise of a New Industry Standard: How to Adjust Your Staffing Strategy (Andreina Morales, Jamie Adams, and Bill Hansen); The Benefits of Rental Equipment in the Catering Industry (David Kelty); and Google and Your Online Reputation: How it Can Make or Break Your Business (Tyler McQueen).
See more from this year's Catersource + Special Event in the summer issue of Catersource magazine!