Catering professionals across the country agree that travel and experience with cuisines around the world bring new dimensions to their menus and events. It’s their reinterpretation of these experiences that keeps things fresh and guests intrigued.
The catering community also credits international conferences and design fairs for inspiration when it comes to building upon their international menus and knowledge to suit their market’s desires and demands.
This year, we reached out to many top culinary artists, owners and designers across the country, seeking international trends they’ve experienced. Here’s what they came up with:
Latin and Asian cuisines: Simplicity paired with bold flavors
You don’t have to look far for good Latin or Asian food. The Southern California markets are heavily influenced by the Southeast Asian and Hispanic communities. “I love the simplicity of this food paired with big, aggressive flavors,” says Nicholas Weber, executive chef of 24 Carrots.
Opening photo and this photo: 24 Carrots / Villa Visuals
Regional cuisines inspire accurate menus
In many ways, travel helps to affirm or adjust a caterer’s current perspective on a cuisine. The more one travels, the more one realizes that there isn’t one food or style that speaks for an entire country or culture.
“When you travel,” Weber says, “it’s made clearer that food is regional, no matter where you go. Italian food is regional. Mexican food is regional. It’s not just the general perceptions that we know, and that makes us able to offer more accurate and inspired menus.”
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Mediterranean flavors: organic and true
Mediterranean food hit the catering world hard this year. Thanks to such bold flavors introduced to a lot of menus, guests may have found themselves momentarily teleporting to a Greek island seaside. Freshly caught octopus char-grilled and drizzled with authentic olive oil and zest lemons—yum!
Complex African cuisines
African cuisine, sometimes called “rainbow cuisine,” has continued to inspire caterer Karen Short, owner of By Word of Mouth. Southern African foods are known for their influences from indigenous tribes, European and Asian cuisines. “Our traditional braais or ‘satay braais’ are everyone’s favorite,” Short says.
Fruit and flowers make for sweet, whimsical party tricks
Incorporating fruits or floral is enough to make any party come alive. Genevieve Farry, culinary designer and event manager at Vicky Crease Catering + Events, advises us on how to keep up to date with all things botanical, floral, bright and bold. Here are some of her go-to tips:
• Everyone loves jelly. Try cranberry- and champagne-flavored jelly set in cute jars with edible flowers.
• Elegantly hollowed out pineapples make for a fun spin on a vase and can be filled with bright summer blooms.
• Embellish your cocktails this summer with fruit-filled ice cubes and fresh flowers foraged from your garden.
• Tired of the usual tablecloths? Switch over to a more organic and tropical feel by using palm leaves and monster leaves as place mats.
Photo courtesy Vicky Crease
Design for the soul and imagination
Whether you’re having a corporate lunch, intimate dinner party or beach wedding, it’s important to feed more than your clients’ stomachs—feed their souls and imaginations too!
“We recently turned our offices into an ‘Atelier Fleur’ venue,” recalls Farry. “We totally transformed the space with gorgeous blooms, curated feminine culinary delights, fabulous fashion, a whimsical gin bicycle mobile bar and trendsetting guests. The food was so pretty, all our guests were taking snapshots before indulging.”
A shift toward health-conscious attitudes
This year, many caterers have noticed a higher demand towards health-conscious catering. Adventurous veggie and vegan cuisines, harvest tables and hummus stations were in high demand. Bowl foods, Middle Eastern and plant-based cuisine are the trends that have continued to make a mark on 2018 catering. Street food is still a big trend, but with a strong focus on being healthy.
Photo courtesy: Word of Mouth
“Focus on high-quality, locally sourced ingredients [and] lighter, colorful and fragrant dishes (hummus, stir fry and ramen food stations),” Short advises fellow caterers.
We hope this article has inspired you to take your international menus to the next level. To keep on top of all the latest catering trends, visit internationalscaterers.org.