ACE Finalist 2017: Forklift Catering, Part 2

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, has been profiling the winners and nominees of the 2017 ACE awards. In the next installation of our series, we are placing a keen eye on Forklift Catering, a finalist in the category of catering in the east region under $2 million.

Photo Kelly Benvenuto

A Family-Style Wedding

How to create a menu that incorporates respective cultures but is also approachable for a variety of guests? The team at Forklift Catering found a delicious way! Here’s a look:

“The bride was Jewish and the groom was Indian—Goan to be specific,” said Deborah Menasha, Event Sales Planning for Forklift. “They wanted to incorporate their respective cultures into their wedding menu but also wanted it to be family style, so that the meal was interactive and engaging.”

The bridal couple, avid home cooks, exchanged recipes with Forklift Catering throughout the menu design process, honing on the best fit and flavor balance for the day.

“When they came in for the tasting, they were blown away,” said Menasha. “They knew they could trust that their wedding menu was everything they had dreamed of. And on their wedding day, it was!”

A people-pleasing family-style menu. Photo Kelly Benvenuto


Despite the forecast leading up to the day, it (fortunately) didn't rain on the wedding day. “We were keeping an eye on it and when we ran the weather plan by the bride she said she hadn't even thought about it!” said Menasha. “Based on the trust we'd built throughout the planning and tasting process, she felt comfortable letting us make the plan and the decision.”

The Forklift team felt fortunate it didn't rain as the venue offered a lot of challenges—and the venue manager, Menasha mentioned, amplified them. “She has been there forever and has a set way that all events must be done. The bar must always be placed in the same location (despite the terrible flow), high tops are forbidden, and, as we found out on-site, breakdown could not begin until the guests had all departed.”

This meant that the staff couldn't consolidate rentals while the guests were dancing elsewhere. “Had we been notified of this in advance, we could have budgeted for it, but instead the staff was frustrated and then rushed to get it done in time.” It was a disappointing experience with a new venue, but luckily the staff managed so Forklift didn't have to bill the client extra hours.

Stuffed grape leaves from the stationary hors d’oeuvre mezze platter. Photo Kelly Benvenuto

Salad course. Photo Kelly Benvenuto

The salad was comprised of mixed baby greens with early summer cherries, Great Hill blue cheese, sesame candied walnuts, and maple-sherry vinaigrette. Photo Kelly Benvenuto

Favorite aspects

One of the favorite aspects of the wedding was working so closely with the couple on the exact recipes, Menasha said. “They cared so deeply about the menu development and getting the balance right for their guests that they were recipe testing at home while we were recipe testing in our kitchen. We exchanged feedback and together created the perfect food for them.”

Chicken Cafreal. Photo Kelly Benvenuto

Cookie assortment included Molasses Clove, Fennel Shortbread, and Chocolate Chip. Photo Kelly Benvenuto

Tea assortment. Photo Kelly Benvenuto

Another highlight, according to Forklift, was the way the family style service was conceptualized and then executed. It was intended as a way to bring together the couple's two cultures and encouraged conversation. By featuring a dish from each culture and then complementing them both with light, seasonal dishes, Forklift Catering created a service that was engaging without being overwhelming.

Next week, we will look at Crave Catering’s Star 54 Awards. 

The ACE Awards are Now Open for Your Best Moments!

Enter your best catering and events into the ACE awards, now open to accept your entries! Click here for more details.


Kathleen Stoehr

Kathleen Stoehr is the Director of Community & Content Strategy for Catersource, which includes print and digital content, as well as live education at both Catersource, the Art of Catering Food, and Leading Caterers of America Executive Summit.