With spring approaching, now is a great time to start considering how to build out a seasonal menu that incorporates fresh flavors. Chef Wolfgang Puck, for example, has believed since day one that seasonal ingredients look and taste better. Want to start building your own spring menu? Here’s some advice on how to incorporate more seasonal menu planning into your catering business.
Photo courtesy wolfgangpuck.com
Rotate your menus. Make seasonal menu changes par for the course when you’re planning and proposing menus. “Our chefs change menus according to what’s in season,” says Lauren Twichell, Wolfgang Puck Catering’s Senior Catering Sales Manager at Union Station in Dallas, TX. “In the fall, our dishes might feel a little more savory or stick-to-your ribs, with heartier food. Then when we come into spring, we start visualizing all these brighter colors, with more juicy, fresh, crisp flavors. We change our ingredients accordingly, depending on what’s coming back to life and re-growing. It’s a nice transition to go from earthy root vegetables to beautifully colored produce when it starts warming up.”
Educate your customers. A big part of successfully encouraging your seasonal business revolves around clueing prospective clients into what’s in season when, and why it’s worth it. “We do try to educate clients about what’s in season during their event,” says Twichell. “I do some research to double-check ingredients every time I send a proposal, because I don’t want to suggest things that are out of season. I like to keep seasonality in mind even before I put together a proposal, so it feels natural from the get-go.” Talk to your clients about how seasonal ingredients look and taste better.
Juicy, fresh and crisp flavors are a hallmark of spring.
Be flexible. When you’re working with seasonal menus, expect the unexpected. Supply of fruits, vegetables, and proteins like fish can fluctuate according to weather and other unpredictable factors. “You never know when you’ll get a spike or a shortage of one ingredient,” says Brittney Reyer, WPC’s Catering Sales Manager at the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta. “I remember at one point we had a hard time getting bass in—it’s a wild product—so we worked very closely with our purchasing director to suggest viable alternatives. We want food to be as fresh possible, so sometimes that means being willing to be a little flexible.”
Shop smart. Familiarize yourself with what’s seasonal in your area, and adjust your ordering habits accordingly. “We do get a lot of our produce from local farmer’s markets, and having that resource helps us keep our ingredients really fresh during every season,” says Alecia Thomas, WPC’s Senior Catering Sales Manager at the Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta. It doesn't hurt that local ingredients are typically more cost-effective than flying in produce from thousands of miles away. And bringing chefs and clients in to the process is another way to keep things chef. “Our chefs get very creative with different ingredients as they come in to season, says Thomas, noting that clients—especially repeat clients—often enjoy brainstorming new seasonal menu ideas as well.
Tips and tricks provided from the pros at Wolfgang Puck Catering to the National Association for Catering and Events.
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