The Dish

Looking for someone to handle the hors d’oeuvres for your next party? If you’ve already got too much on your plate, there are a range of caterers ready and able to meet your noshing needs. Whether it’s for a party of six or 600, you can relax knowing that there’s plenty of talent around to handle the heavy lifting.

For boutique catering, consider NOLA Bean. Chef and Owner Kristen Essig has a resume that includes stints at Emeril’s, Bayona and Peristyle, where she worked closely with mentor Anne Kearney for four years. Kristen’s events usually cap out at around 125 guests for passed items and her seated dinners at 35. “I don’t typically do a lot of big events,” she says. “Think of me as more of a personal chef.” 

For her menus, she draws on her close relationship with the Crescent City Farmers Market to ensure that her clients get the best and freshest of what the season has to offer with the added benefit of supporting local businesses. Smaller functions and in-home cooking services are her niche. Her In-Home Cooking Program is also popular; she provides two to three full days worth of meals – breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert and snacks – leaving clients with a full fridge and the feeling of having been pampered by a pro. “Many of my clients have many civic responsibilities, children in school and soccer practice,” Kristen says. “This allows them to come home and still be able to put a homemade meal on the table, because dining with your family is important.”

Her Boutique Catering service offers, among other things, boxed lunches that are great for office workers. Sandwiches might include a rare roast beef on homemade Foccacia with red onion marmalade and garlic-horseradish aioli. All lunch boxes come with house-made sweet potato chips and fresh pickles from the Farmers Market, along with a sweet finale.

For her full-service catering, passed menu items might include dishes such as Seared Tuna Bruschetta with Sun-dried Tomato Tapenade and Rosemary Sultana Jam. “Every event that we do, no matter how small, we create a custom-designed menu,” Kristen says. “We work with customers to create something new for each person that hires us.”

Regular clients include Saks Fifth Avenue, for whom Kristen caters small
fashion shows where the menu draws inspiration from the ideas and influences
of the designer. “Those are a lot of fun to do.”

If NOLA Bean skews more to the “personal chef” end of the caterer’s spectrum, than Palate New Orleans swings the other way. Owner and Executive Chef Glenn Vatshell’s company focuses more on high-end, large-function catering. Palate can gear up for passed parties of up to 1,300 people and seated dinners for over 600. Despite its capacity for volume, Glenn maintains a firm grasp on quality and
presentation that helps his company to stand out.

“Our typical clients tend to be sophisticated and interested in a lot of different types of cuisine,” Glenn says. “They have traveled well and they appreciate a lot of different global influences.”

Glenn honed his skills in San Francisco and New York, where he worked with Taste, the in-house caterers for Gourmet and Vogue magazines (among other high-profile clients). Along the way Vatshell has worked with such notables as Thomas Keller and Daniel Boulud. He knew from the get-go that catering was the direction in which he wanted to head. “I like the challenge of producing an event. Being able to produce a high-quality meal for 620 people to me is more appealing than working in a restaurant. It is just a different mindset.”

Glenn’s functions are distinguished by a lot of visual appeal. “We put a lot of time and effort into pleasing to the eye as well as palate. When we are designing menus we put a lot of time into what the buffets are going to look like and what kind of décor we can use on the table to pull it all together. We work together with other designers and florists as well.”

Some recent assignments included the first-ever wedding at the French Market. “Our client actually rented out half the French Market and we turned it into a ‘market of the past’ where a lot of the ingredients doubled as decorations. We had a mini-Café Du Monde with beignets and did authentic cochon de lait along with a lot of other neat, locally-inspired stuff.”

Look for a wide range of influences in Vatshell’s cuisine, including South American dishes like Achiote Roasted Pork along with regionally inspired options, such as Creole Charcuterie carved tableside. Asian influences prevail as well. But however you set up the menu, know that your guests will take note. “When people come to one of our events, they know that it is one of our events.

We do things a little bit differently and it just stands out.”

On a balmy night in mid-April a group of nationally renowned chefs put down their knives and picked up their instruments to show off their musical chops. It was all part of Chef Jam!, a fundraiser by The Culinary Trust, the philanthropic arm of the International Association of Culinary Professionals. A portion of the proceeds went to benefit the Menu Project, an initiative by the Southern Food and Beverage Museum and the University of New Orleans to catalog menus, both past and present from restaurants throughout the South. This collection  will serve as an invaluable archive of our region’s culinary and cultural history.

At the event, Emeril Lagasse riffed his way through an entertaining cooking demo which was followed by a live auction featuring great items including an original watercolor by celebrated Chef and Honorary Chair Jacques Pépin. An assemblage of musically inclined culinary professionals then kicked the party into high gear, augmented with food from Emeril’s, NOLA and Delmonico’s, along with selections from Joel’s Catering.

TRY THIS
The new Absinthe Truffle at Sucré is made with the Lucid brand of its namesake liquor. I don’t know how many you need to eat before hallucinating but I aim to find out.
NOLA Bean | 251-3248 |www.nolabean.com

Palate New Orleans |864-2990 | www.palateneworleans.com/aboutus.html

Southern Food and Beverage Museum | 578-8280 | www.southernfood.orgSucré | 3025 Magazine St. | 520-8311

Categories: Restaurants, The Dish