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Keeping Catering Innovation Alive: The 2021 ICA CATIE Awards Are Here!

After a whirlwind year like 2020, we believe everyone in the catering and events industry deserves an award for keeping their heads up, getting creative and passionately supporting the industry we all love. That’s why the International Caterers Association is so excited to announce that the applications for the 2021 CATIE Awards are now open! The awards acronym stands for Catered Arts Through Innovative Excellence Awards, and this year, that title rings even more true after months of innovation, creativity, grit and perseverance throughout our industry. This year, you’ll recognize some old favorites and discover some new additions that will highlight some of the catering heroes of this wild year.

Let’s take a peek at what’s in store….

New 2021 CATIE Categories

We all know this year has looked a little different, so the awards are going to look a little different too. First up are the new award categories that have been crafted to honor excellence in what became our “new normal” in the midst of the pandemic.

Best at Home Celebration: Just because we were quarantined doesn’t mean families from the same household weren’t able to celebrate special occasions and milestone moments together!

Best Catering for a Virtual Event: Whether you put on a conference for thousands with meal boxes delivered to each door or carefully curated VIP theme boxes for a donor event, we want to hear about what you dreamed up!

Best Catering for a Micro Event: For many caterers in 2020, micro events—defined as events with less than 25 guests—became the new norm. How did you make the most of it?

Best Social Distancing Innovation or Solution: CDC guidelines for food service forced many to come up with creative alternatives to previously popular service styles like self-serve buffets. What did you dream up that delighted guests?

Front Line Hero Program or Effort: Our front line heroes during the pandemic like first responders, nurses, doctors and essential workers were the reason many of us were able to remain open; how did you serve them and say thanks?

You can visit the site to learn more about the specifications for each individual award. We know that these categories will provide some serious inspiration for events as we move forward into the new year.

2021 Oldies but Goodies CATIE Categories

At the end of the day, it all comes back to the delicious cuisine we serve up. That’s why you’ll see these fan favorites returning… with some sparks of inspiration from last year’s awards to get you brainstorming what you will submit!

Best Appetizer: Catering by Michaels’ “Citrus Scallop” packed some seriously complex, delectable flavors into one tiny bite.

Best Catered Event: Creative cuisine is intrinsically based upon colors and design, which Catering by Design’s “Color Bash” brought to life in this boldly shaded affair.

Catering by Design’s “Color Bash" won for Best Catered Event. Photo courtesy Catering by Design.

Best Catered Wedding: By Word of Mouth Catering’s “Under the African Sky” showcased how events can transport us to another land—a concept we all deeply desired in 2020, right?

Best Dessert: Let’s be honest, adults shouldn’t have to give up those desserts we loved as kids, and Culinary Crafts took our childhood favorite up a notch with “Popsicles for Grownups.”

Best Food or Beverage Trend Incorporation: Interactive dining experiences are all the rage, and Thomas Caterers of Distinction’s “Pentagon to Star” wowed guests in a way they didn’t expect.

Best Hors d’oeuvre: There’s nothing more exciting in catering than unanticipated flavor combinations, and The Ginger Grape’s “Candyfloss Squid” took the cake on that.

JDK Group was Best Main Course for its “Flaming Sous Vide Chicken Osso Bucco.” Photo courtesy JDK Group.

Best Main Course: The JDK Group’s “Flaming Sous Vide Chicken Osso Bucco” was a mouthwatering showstopper last year that kept with the 2019 trend of everything sous vide!

Best Small Plate: Marcia Selden Catering’s “Valentine Treat Box” had us feeling the love last year with impeccable presentation and creative light bites that offered a savory take on this sweet holiday.

Marcia Selden Catering won Best Small Plate for its "Valentine's Treat Box." Photo courtesy Marcia Selden Catering.

And of course, the big categories of Chef of the Year and Caterer of the Year, which we know are going to be difficult to judge this year with so many incredibly talented and driven professionals who led the way for the industry this year. For the full rundown of last year’s winners and even more creative inspiration, check out our roundup feature!

CATIE Categories Taking a Break in 2021

To even the playing field, we’re going to hold off on some of the awards we’ve traditionally given in the past that are geared a little more towards large, in-person events. We also think everyone was a star this year rising up above the perils our industry faced, so it doesn’t feel right to single out any one person in a year like 2020!

But hopefully, we’ll see some of these categories back for 2022: Best Buffet or Action Station, Best Catered Multi-Day Event, Culinary Rising Star (because let’s be honest, everyone was a star this year!), Rising Star of the Year (FOH or BOH) and Innovative Mixology.

How to Apply & Rules for CATIE 2021 Awards

Now is the time to prep for your application and review the requirements, because they will be accepted starting in January, but you’ll only have a few quick weeks to submit your entries, as judging for finalists will take place in March. All events and creative catering ideas submitted must have taken place between January 1 – December 31, 2020, so keep that in mind when you’re brainstorming your submissions. The ICA can’t wait to see the imaginative creativity and bold perseverance of all the caterers out there this year, so bring your best because the competition is sure to be fierce!

Celebrating CATIE Awards 2021

Now, let’s talk how we’re going to be celebrating those winners! Finalists chosen will all be featured and announced at a Virtual ICA Annual General Meeting. And then, drumroll please…. The awards will be presented LIVE at the 2021 Catersource & The Special Event Conference in Miami, Florida in July 2021.

It’s time to put your best foot forward and highlight the magical things you and your team have made happen this year. Who else is excited?

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International Caterers Association

For motivated caterers, International Caterers Association is a resource that provides Education, encourages peer to peer Relationships and Inspires creativity while embracing all segments of the catering industry. For more information, visit