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Celebrating Catering's Creative Spirit with the CATIE Awards

If there’s one word that describes the spirit of those in the catering industry, it would be creative. For those caterers who are passionate about their trade, each plate they design, each immersive food concept they dream up—it’s all about creating art. That’s why one of our favorite occasions each year is the Spirit of the Catered Arts Through Innovative Excellence (CATIE) Awards. Each year, passionate and talented caterers from around the globe enter the CATIE awards, showcasing their creative spirit and submitting their most innovative plates in a variety of categories. Finalists are chosen, which is always a difficult feat, and then announced during the beloved Catersource + The Special Event Conference & Tradeshow.

Here’s a trip down memory lane honoring our 2020 finalists and winners! Who knows—maybe you’ll find a little inspiration for your menus as we approach reopening. Many of these items are easily adaptable to suit local regulations or are already perfectly designed for events in COVID times. 

Photo courtesy the International Caterers Association.

Best Appetizer Finalists 

Catering by Michaels - Winner, “Citrus Scallop” 

Seasonality, color, culinary perfection and a deep family tradition are the concepts Catering by Michaels used to bring their award-winning citrus scallop plated appetizer to life! For a client’s 65th birthday party, they were tasked to create a dish that embodied the family’s New England roots while celebrating in the Midwest. Their creative culinary team delivered a perfectly cooked Martha’s Vineyard sea scallop with a beautiful and balanced mix of flavors that was a feast for both the eyes and the taste buds. 

Butler’s Pantry, “Ravioli Doppi”

Many couples say they are “better together,” and in the catering world, the same can be said about food. Some foods just taste better together! As a caterer, when asked to serve a wedding, what better way to honor the couple than to craft a clever duo of bold flavors?! Butler’s Pantry chefs, who are notorious for reinventing culinary offerings, married the flavor of blue cheese with fig in a delicate pillow of hand-crafted ravioli pasta. Each flavor had its own pasta pocket, but were united through a crease in the middle. A power couple! 

The Ginger Grape, “Earth”

The Ginger Grape was tasked with designing a six-course tasting menu to lend to the launch of the Jaguar I-Pace, Jaguar’s first all-electric performance SUV. It, like all the vehicles produced by Jaguar, represents precision and incredible design—which The Ginger Grape impeccably executed with their menu. Building on the unique selling point of the car, which was that it was all-electric, contributing to a healthier earth, the chefs created an appetizer called “Earth.” “Going green never tasted so good” is how they opened the client's tasting menu with an interactive culinary experience no one saw coming. 

Photo courtesy the International Caterers Association.

For Culinary Capers Catering and Special Events Spring Menu Debut, all the local event industry decision-makers were on the guest list. There was no question they needed to be wowed with an evening featuring show-stopping dishes. Food stations featured an array of small plates showcasing the best offerings from the new spring menu—including the Roasted Sablefish Asparagus + Carrot plate. Stations for the event offered creative twists on urban foodie culture, showcasing the best of local and seasonal ingredients. Guests were entertained as they learned about the cooking techniques employed, along with the source of the ingredients. They also received recommendations on plate customization from the chefs! 

Marcia Selden Catering,“Valentine Treat Box” (Winner)

Marcia Selden Catering’s client wanted a Valentine’s Day-themed party with all food to be passed on small "plates." The caveat was that they didn’t want to use any actual plates or china of any kind. The team put their thinking caps on and decided to do a Valentine’s Day candy box to serve four precious bites that mimicked what you'd see in a box of the ever-popular Valentine’s Day candies, no plates required! 

The theme of this event, “confetti,” called for vibrant colors, intriguing designs and lively decor. As guests approached innovative slide walls that displayed the dish, the bright pink flare of the rosewater crisp and vivid passion fruit gel immediately drew them near, like a siren call for these creative-minded guests. As this event called for a lot of mingling, the Catering by Design chefs also kept functionality in mind when designing this dish, as the finished product allowed the guest to pick one up and tote the edible art around as they chatted with others. 

Photo courtesy International Caterers Association.

Best Hors d'oeuvre  

24 Carrots, “Caviar Potato Taco”

24 Carrots Caviar Potato Taco is a sophisticated twist on a street food favorite! Served at a client’s Trendsetter Gala, this multi-bite hors d’oeuvre won the hearts of both caviar aficionados and hesitant converts to the fish egg fandom. The soft and indulgent potato center is wrapped in a corn tortilla shell and fried to the perfect crunch. Topped with a dollop of koji crème fraiche, a sprinkle of chiffonade chopped chives and a generous serving of Tsar Nicoulai Reserve caviar, this hors d’oeuvre blended traditions with playful food pairings and presentation! 

24 Carrots, “Dungeness Crab Congee”

The 24 Carrots Dungeness Crab Congee triggered both nostalgia and curiosity as it was passed at a 250-person gala. Served in a Styrofoam cup labeled, “Cup O’ Congee: Dungeness Crab,” guests were welcomed to accept this hors d’oeuvre with two hands in traditional style. The creamy congee was traditionally prepared and topped with decadent Dungeness crab meat and crunchy Japanese chili garlic, noir rice crackers and toasted sesame seeds. Knowing most of the crowd would be less familiar with rice congee than the college dorm staple of a Nissin Cup Noodle, this hors d’oeuvre intrigued and delighted guests! 

The Ginger Grape, “Candyfloss Squid” (Winner)

For a retro-style event, The Ginger Grape's team looked to the menu favorites that they knew were already winners to combine a traditional and trendy snack, and the Candyfloss Squid was born! Their salt & pepper squid, a firm favorite among their clients, is paired with a non-traditional twist—cotton candy, aka candy floss. They wanted the guests to be bursting with curiosity but confident enough to try it. Toggling with flavor, they decided they couldn't serve the squid with a dipping sauce like they typically would, which posed a conundrum, as that's where all the flavor typically comes from with the salt and pepper squid dish. So, they found a way to incorporate flavor into the batter in order to create the perfect mouthful. It was obvious that sugar and spice are a match made in heaven, so the candy floss provided the sweetness associated with Asian dipping sauces and the squid the heat that tingled the tastebuds! 

2021 CATIE Finalists Announcement and Awards Presentation 

What do you think? Are you feeling inspired by all the innovative and interactive dishes submitted last year? We are so thrilled to be announcing this year’s CATIE Award finalists at a virtual ICA Annual General Meeting on March 30, 2021. After a difficult year for all caterers, we received more creativity and spirit than ever before, which we can’t wait to share and celebrate. 

Finally, all CATIE Award winners will be announced at the 2021 Catersource + The Special Event Conference & Tradeshow in Miami in July 2021. We hope you will join us!  

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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