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, Catersource.com 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 Minneapolis’ Crave Catering, an ACE finalist.
Studio 54 Star Awards Gala
All photos courtesy of Crave Catering, Minneapolis, MN
This yearly event—the ILEA Minneapolis chapter Star Awards—is designed to celebrate the best and brightest in their fields. For the 2016 event, Crave Catering’s client gave them the opportunity to showcase what New York City’s Studio 54 was like in its heyday. “We asked to keep the cards ‘close to the vest’ so there would be as much shock and awe as possible on the night of the event,” said Crave executive chef John Chesnut. “Most of the menu, food presentation, and certainly the live goldfish were a complete surprise as guests entered and took their first glimpse. We were also lucky to partner with national award-winning friends and vendors that helped to take our vision and the space to create a look and feel just like the club of the late 1970s.”
One of the first challenges faced was the space itself: it was built with an art deco interior, and warm wood flowed from floor to ceiling. Luckily, shag carpet, beaded curtains, and gold—lots of gold—allowed the prominent decor to be overcome with glitz and glam. “Not forgetting to mention the theme-appropriate half-naked male servers that kept everyone's eyes on the passed hors d’oeuvres instead of the floral print carpet,” said Chesnut.
The second, larger challenge was feeding the guests as they gathered in a very tight space for a cocktail hour and then transitioned to a different part of the building for the award presentation. “Trying to stay true to our theme we used the aforementioned half-naked, painted male servers to pass classic bites like tomato bisque with a thematic gold twist. The bisque was served in golden egg shells and was accompanied by gold fish crackers; the crackers were a nod to the real thing yet to come,” said Chesnut.
“Our hurdle wasn't overcome yet, however, as we knew there was no possible way to effectively feed the entire group enough to hold them through the presentation. We designed a tongue-in-cheek approach to ‘party favors’ that we pre-set on the tables. We placed ashtrays with spanakopita ‘joints,’ pill bottles filled with pomegranate ‘quaaludes’ and martini glasses mounded with bacon ‘cocaine.’”
The entire team inclusive of sales, operations, and culinary put their heads together for menu collaboration and creativity to create the awesome edible outcome. Drawing on the elements that were prominent in the late 1970s from the infamous club, the menu began to take shape with fun nods to how the team would have thought Andy Warhol may have spent a late night. Creating edible narcotics wasn't as easy as they first thought. Trial and error took the culinary team the better part of a month until they landed on recipes and presentations that evoked the thematic message they were trying to convey.
“Normal presentation methods would not work for this event, so what we couldn't find for displays or delivery we made in house,” said Chesnut. “Painting the food item names on the servers was one and then there were the goldfish—lots of live goldfish. Using ashtrays as actual guest plates, having martini glasses brimming with our ‘cocaine’ while being circled by a happy go lucky goldfish over a disco light were just a few of the items that had the guests’ jaws dropping as they filed into the gala room.”
Next week, we will look at Crave Catering’s second ACE entry, the American Lung Association’s Inaugural Oxygen Ball.
Want to be part of the 2018 ACE awards consideration?
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