If you love nothing more than throwing a party, but hate spending hours cooking? The solution is to hire caterers

Words Morag Turner

Caterers provide gorgeous food that most hosts don’t have the time or skill to make. With their help, you can escape from the kitchen and mingle with your friends. So here are some top tips on how to find and hire the perfect caterer.

SPEND TIME LOOKING FOR THE IDEAL CATERER

People find their caterers in a different ways. Word of mouth is often best. Ask friends for recommendations. Or if you are at a great party where there are catering staff ask the host if they can give you their details at a later date. Google caterers in your area and you’ll find hundreds of them popping up. If you find a catering company you like, then ask for samples of the type of food you want so you can taste it first. Or you can call their clients and ask for references. This way you can find out if their service is as good as the quality of their cooking.

A few questions to bear in mind are, did they arrive on time with all the necessary equipment? Was the food well presented and did they clear up well afterwards? Finally, ask to see photos of previous events so you can see what they do for yourself.

DO YOU NEED THE HELP OF STAFF?

Staff at a party are a godsend for the host. Not only do they lay out and serve the food, they also tidy up as they go along and do a final clean up at the end of the night. Glasses and serving dishes are washed and any leftover food packed away in the fridge. At a cocktail party waitresses will top up drinks and hand round canapés. Having a chef to cook and staff to serve the food means you can relax and ensure your guests are having fun.

WHAT TYPE OF PARTY ARE YOU THROWING AND WHO ARE YOUR GUESTS?

This will determine the type of food you need. What is necessary for a children’s Halloween party will differ from a Christmas party or a sit down dinner for 12.

People expect certain types of food at different times of year. A hog roast served with Pimms is a lovely summery option but in the winter it doesn’t work so well. A seasonal feel is a good idea such as strawberry tarts in summer and mince pies in December.

Also remember dietary requirements to ensure all your guests enjoy themselves. If you have vegetarian or a gluten-free guest attending then tell them what works for them on the menu. You can write ‘veggie’ and the like on some cute little paper flags on cocktails sticks and stick them on the dish.

PLAN YOUR MENU CAREFULLY

This is where the advice of an experienced caterer will come in handy. Whether serving canapés or planning a four-course meal, it is important to think about flavour combinations. A balanced menu that caters for all tastes is what you are aiming for.

WHERE IS THE EVENT BEING HELD?

If you are throwing a party at home then you have to consider the restrictions of your own house. Not only do you need to choose the space in which to serve the food – whether its a buffet laid out on your kitchen island or a BBQ in the garden, you also need an area to clear the food away to and somewhere to store the next course. Use the space in your house to separate your buffet into different zones. Tell the caterers what should go where, such as where the bar should be, or where the dishes should go. This will make everything more streamlined on the day.

TOP TIPS

Anna Wintour banned parsley from the canapés at the Met Ball. This was to stop the nasty little green getting stuck in anyone’s teeth, and no doubt her guests were grateful, so here are our top tips for any foodie event:

– It is important to keep canapés bitesize. This prevents anything dripping down anyone’s evening dress – no runny sauces allowed.

– Remember that you are in charge of the menu. While it’s great to try new things, don’t choose dishes you don’t like the sound or taste of.

– No matter how great the caterers are it’s the hosts who really make a party a success. So relax and enjoy the bash you’ve put so much effort into organising!

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