There are few things we love more at Our Edit than a party. We both adore hosting bashes for our family and friends, from regular dinner parties and birthday celebrations to annual Christmas cocktail soirees and special events such as Christenings. Between us we have both organised countless great dos at our homes.
But one thing very definitely don’t like doing is spending hours in the kitchen shovelling sausage rolls and mini pizzas in and out of the oven while everyone else enjoys the fruits of our labour. We want to enjoy our parties as much as our guests.
Therefore we hire caterers to provide gorgeous food that frankly we don’t have the time or the skill to make ourselves. This also ensures that we escape from the kitchen to mingle with our friends.
With the festive season just around the corner we are now turning our thoughts to all things party and we know you probably are too. So here we are going to share our experience and top tips on how to find and hire the perfect caterer for your party so you can have as much fun as we do.
Spend time doing your research
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 hostess if she 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 company you like the look of then ask them if they can supply samples of the type of food you are planning so you can taste it first. Or else ask for references and call their clients to ask about not just the quality of their cooking but also their service. Did they arrive on time with all the necessary equipment?
Was the food well presented and did they clear up properly afterwards?
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 hostess. 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.
We have had parties where the kitchen looked better at the end of the evening than before anyone arrived. Glasses and serving dishes will be washed and any leftover food packed away in the fridge.
At a cocktail do waitresses will top up drinks and hand round canapés and at a dinner party having a chef in the kitchen cooking, while waiting staff serve will mean you can relax and ensure you 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. The requirements of a children’s Halloween party will be very different from a Christmas drinks evening or a sit down dinner for 12.
People expect certain types of food at different times of year. A hog roast served with pims is such a lovely summery option but in the winter just doesn’t work so well. A seasonal feel is fine in our opinion – strawberry tarts in summer and mince pies in December.
Always look at your buffet or meal as a whole. Consider what starters and deserts will compliment your main course. No one dish should stand alone.
Also crucially remember dietary requirements to ensure all your guest enjoy themselves. If you have vegetarian or a gluten free friend coming then either tell them what works for them on the buffet or 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 really come in handy. Whether you are planning on selection of canapés or a four-course meal, you have to think carefully about combinations. Canapés need to be varied – not to much of any one type – it is possible to have too many little sausages on sticks in our opinion even though the chaps seem to hoover them up at every party.
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 space to serve the food – maybe a buffet laid out on you kitchen island or a hog roast set up in the garden – you also need an area to clear it away to and somewhere to store the next course.
We tend to make the most of our utility rooms for this, storing food in our second fridge and drinks in large plastic buckets filled with ice. Then we take all plates and platters back in there when they are finished with.
This allows the kitchen, dining and living rooms to stay clear of mess.
Our top tips
Anna Wintour banned parsley from the canapés at the Met Ball in case the nasty little green stuff got stuck in anyone’s teeth and we couldn’t agree more. Keep canapés bite size and avoid anything that could drip down someone’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 be talked into 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!