Cookbook Profile

Introduction to Catering

by Bruce Mattel and The Culinary Institute of America

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Whenever people gather together for several hours, they're going to require food and beverages. At business meetings, coffee, tea, and bottled water—at the very least—are made available for attendees. Celebratory occasions such as weddings, christenings, birthday parties, bar and bat mitzvahs, and anniversaries call for special food and drink to complete the festivities. These are all prime occasions for catering.

From a meal in a prestigious stadium skybox to a mobile lunch wagon on a movie set, catering can be bone-china elegant or paper-plate casual, but it always means serving good-quality food and drink to many people.

Several things distinguish a catering operation from a restaurant.

Catering is usually done by prearranged contract—food and drink provided at a certain cost to a specific number of people. The menu at a catered event is usually more limited than a restaurant menu and is chosen in advance by the client. The way the food is prepared is different, too. Although both restaurant and catering chefs do the mise en place, or prepare the food ahead of time to a certain extent, catering chefs prepare their food so that it only needs brief final cooking, reheating, or assembly prior to service.

There are two main categories of catering.

Institutional: These caterers at hospitals, universities, airlines, large hotels, and retirement centers provide a wide variety of food and drink to a large number of people on an ongoing basis—usually at the institution itself. The institution usually contracts with a catering company to have this service provided.

Social: These caterers provide food and beverage services to civic groups, charities, corporations, businesses, and individuals onpremise at a catering or banquet hall or off-premise at a selected location.

The opportunities for a catering business multiply every year, given the right demographics—individuals, groups, or businesses who are able to pay for the service.


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Chapter One Excerpts

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This page created October 2008