May 2017 Culinary Depot Blog Posts

    Becoming a BBQ Caterer for Events, Parties, and Celebrations

    Written by: J. Vigotsky


    bbq catering


    With Memorial Day Weekend only days away, the official start of barbecue season is upon us. While many people savor the opportunity to fire up a grill and cook for their friends or family, others aren’t quite as eager. Consequently, catering BBQs is a great way to expand your restaurant’s scope while attracting new customers. With summer holidays and graduation parties fast approaching, many people will be looking to have their events catered for optimal convenience. Keep reading for an idea of how to properly run a BBQ catering business.


    The Menu


    bbq menu


    What foods do you plan to offer on your BBQ catering menu? The staples of a barbecue include but are not limited to chicken, pork, beef, sausage, turkey, fish, hot dogs, beans, corn, peppers, and onions. Between the sauces, marinades, preparation styles, and cooking methods, there is no shortage of unique ways to express your culinary mastery through barbecue.


    Cooking Methods


    cooking method


    Barbecue is an all-encompassing term that includes cooking methods like smoking, roasting, and braising. Smoking—the classic way to barbecue—consists of cooking food at low temperatures (240°F-280°F) for extended periods of time. Utilizing burning wood or other materials to flavor, cook, brown, or preserve food, smoking can take several hours to properly cook meat. Another popular cooking technique is roasting, which can be done in a convection oven or smoke pit. Braising is the third type of barbecuing method. While a braising pan will do a great job at braising meat and giving it at an extra juicy taste, a charbroiler grill is your best bet for barbecue-braising. These grills allow you to lightly grill the meat with dry heat before braising it in a pot at low heat for several hours.


    Barbecue Styles by Region


    kansas city style barbecue


    Before one decides to enter the realm of professional barbecuing, it’s important to learn about the most popular barbecue styles throughout the United States. Depending on the location of your restaurant, you’ll want to customize your cooking according to local preferences. The four types of regional barbecue styles are Carolina, Memphis, Texas, and Kansas City. Each style features different meats, cooking methods, and sauces. Carolina-style barbecue emphasizes smoked pork that’s topped with peppery vinegar sauce or a “Carolina Gold” sauce that’s made with mustard. Often times, the pork will be seasoned with spicy rub prior to being cooked.

    Memphis barbecue focuses on ribs and barbecue sandwiches. Memphis ribs are prepared ‘dry’ or ‘wet’. While dry ribs are seasoned with dry rub, wet ribs are coated with mouth-watering sauce both before and after cooking. Featuring chopped or pulled pork, Memphis-style barbecue sandwiches are simple yet delicious creations that only require buns, cole slaw, and flavorful sauce.

    Don’t mess with Texas! Texas barbecue is so serious that the style has four unique sub-styles: East Texas, Central Texas, West Texas, and South Texas. Common Texas barbecue meals include beef, ribs, and sausage that are flavored with mesquite and topped with a thick, tomato-based sauce.

    Finally, Kansas City barbecue places an emphasis on a wide range of meats—including beef, pork, and lamb—that are traditionally smoked for long periods of time. But Kansas City barbecue is perhaps best known for its thick sauce that is usually served on the side. Incorporating vinegar as well as spicy and sweet flavors, Kansas City barbecue sauce also sometimes includes molasses that makes it extra thick and tasty.


    Equipment and Accessories are Key


    bbq equipment


    You won’t get far as a caterer without the proper equipment. Outdoor grills are the traditional choice, but they may not provide enough cooking surface area. Something like a Mongolian BBQ range is much larger and ideal for Asian restaurants. Other cooking options include charbroilers, braising pans, rotisserie ovens, smokehouses / pig roasters, and smoker ovens.

    Accessories are also necessary to ensure your equipment functions properly. Be sure to stock up on items like grill cleaners and scrapers. Turners make it easy to flip burgers, while tongs enable you to grab nearly any type of food. Commercial meat tenderizers help improve food prep efficiency, and probe thermometers enable you to confirm the inside of your meat is an ideal temperature.

    If you’re cooking food in a commercial kitchen rather than on-site, invest in quality storage & transport equipment. Items like insulated food carriers are especially important when traveling long distances to cater events because they can help ensure the quality of your food does not suffer during transportation. Food holding and warming equipment is ideal if you’re hosting a large event. Holding cabinets and drawer warmers keep food hot while it’s waiting to be served, and induction buffet tables provide an elegant way to keep food hot after it’s been served.


    Commonly Catered Events


    catered party


    If you want to attract catering opportunities, it’s important to market yourself to the right clientele. This means identifying who is likely to have a party or event catered and letting them know your business can do the job. For starters, it’s not uncommon for school events and graduation parties to be catered. Appeal to the people who are involved in the planning of these events by advertising in school yearbooks and sponsoring school activities.

    Other catering opportunities include tailgates before professional and college sporting events, weddings, business events, little league celebrations, and more. There’s no shortage of large events that need catering, so identify a few local options and appeal to the people in charge.




    catering marketing


    Utilize social media as well as your restaurant to inform the public that you’re now offering catering services. It takes time for word to spread, so don’t expect business to boom right away. Stay patient and leverage whatever catering jobs you’re given by doing an A+ job. This will not only ensure repeat business down the line, but it can also convince people attending the party to use your restaurant for their own catering.


    Delivering on Time




    Nobody is less accepting of tardiness than hungry paying customers, so make sure that you always serve food on time. This idea becomes even more important as the crowd you’re catering for grows in size. You do not want to incur the wrath of 100+ hungry people. By getting on their bad sides, you run the risk of them badmouthing your business to their friends and family—who will then avoid your restaurant and catering business at all costs. So always deliver on time!


    Catering barbecues isn’t easy, and it can certainly complicate a business plan. But if your restaurant has room to grow and you feel it’s up to the task, catering throughout the summer is a great way to bring in more business and attract new customers. Just make sure you have the proper menu and equipment before you start offering to cater events.



    bbq catering finale


    America’s Best Summer Food Festivals

    Written by: J. Vigotsky


    summer food festival


    As a heat wave sets record temperatures in the North East, we’re reminded that summer has nearly arrived. With only about a month until the summer solstice, it’s time for travelers and food enthusiasts to start planning their vacations. Food festivals are great options for people who crave fun, excitement, and delicious food. The following is a list that includes some of America’s favorite summer food festivals.


    Taste of Chicago – Chicago, Illinois – July 5-9


    taste of chicago


    Touted as the nation’s premier outdoor food festival, Taste of Chicago is a 5-day spectacle that takes place at the famed Millennium Park in downtown Chicago. But the best part about the festival: entry is free! Many of Chicago’s top restaurants set up booths where they offer mouth-watering dishes. Some booths are of the pop-up variety and feature new restaurants each day. Since the Taste of Chicago’s inception in 1980, the festival has grown significantly and attracted over 1-million festival-goers to last year’s summer celebration. Featuring some of the most popular stars in music, the “Taste” has acts like Alessia Cara, Ben Harper, and Passion Pit scheduled for this year. Lesser-known local performers are also on the bill. For festival-goers who are willing to pay for a more premium experience, sit-down three-course meals prepared by renowned chefs are also available. The Kitchen with Mariano’s gives attendees the opportunity to watch local and celebrity chefs show off their skills and offer cooking tips.


    Austin Ice Cream Festival – Austin, TX – August 12


    austin ice cream festival


    This one-day ice cream extravaganza provides Texans with a much-needed respite from the summer heat. A place where adults, kids, and even dogs are encouraged to indulge in ice cream, the Austin Ice Cream Festival features contests that are fun to watch and even more fun to participate in. A popsicle stick sculpture contest lets attendees flex their creative muscles and build something completely unique. Sculptures can be built at home or on site. Like to make ice cream at home? Submit your most delicious homemade creation and let the festivals’ esteemed judges decide if it stands above the competition.  But this festival’s main event is the ice cream eating contest. Once won by legendary competitive eater and reigning Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Champion Joey Chestnut, the contest requires participants to eat a half-gallon of vanilla ice cream. Whoever finishes first wins!


    Gilroy Garlic Festival – Gilroy, CA – July 28-30


    great garlic cook off


    Founded in 1979, the Gilroy Garlic Festival takes place in Gilroy, California—the garlic capital of the world. Delicious foods like shrimp, calamari, steak, sausage, pasta, mushrooms, bread, and fries are all available with fresh garlic flavoring. The Great Garlic Cook-Off selects the most delicious-sounding garlic-based recipes from some of the best amateur chefs in the United States and Canada. After each recipe is prepared by the finalists, the meals are tasted by celebrity judges. The contestant with the best dish takes home a cool $5,000! In addition to awarding cooking skills, the festival also holds eaters in high esteem. For the first time ever, the festival will feature The Great Gilroy Garlic Eating Contest. Ten garlic-loving contestants will attempt to eat as many garlic cloves as they can stomach in a one-minute span—all with Guinness World Records in attendance to verify any new world record. The winner receives VIP tickets to the 2018 Garlic Festival, bragging rights, and possible immortality in the Guinness Book of World Records. Other entertainment includes live music, arts & crafts, and the Miss Gilroy Garlic Festival Queen Pageant—open to local women between the ages of 18-24.


    Maine Lobster Festival – Rockland, ME – August 2-6


    maine lobster festival


    Celebrating its 70th birthday this year, the Maine Lobster Festival was founded in 1947 and has been a New England tradition ever since. Operated by local volunteers, the nationally renowned food festival is a non-profit event that donates its proceeds to local programs and charities. Receiving international attention from media outlets, the Maine Lobster Festival has also been featured on the Food Network and other programs. The site of the festival is right along the Penobscot Bay, which provides beautiful scenery by which to consume massive amounts of clams, shrimp, mussels, and most of all—lobster! An amateur chef contest awards a total of $525 to its winners and is judged by a panel that weighs creativity, suitability of seafood to the recipe, and simplicity. The contest’s only rule is each dish must contain seafood that’s native to Maine waters. Also featuring live music, the festival has attracted artists like Willie Nelson, Don Mclean, and Smashmouth. A Steins & Wines event is a relatively new addition to the Maine Lobster Festival and allows attendees to try a variety of beers, wines, and spirits—all made in Maine. But the most popular event is The Big Parade, which always draws the largest crowd and is a spectacle that’s not to be missed. 


    National Buffalo Wing Festival – Buffalo, NY – September 2-3


    national buffalo wing festival


    Taking place over Labor Day Weekend, the National Buffalo Wing Festival is a perfect farewell to summer. 2017 marks the 16th year in the festival’s storied history. After the 5K Chicken Wing 5K Run debuted last year and attracted 500 chicken wing-loving runners, the race will make a much-anticipated return to the festival schedule. Another popular event is the Buffalo Ninja Warrior Challenge—an intense obstacle course that tests participants’ mind, body, and will. Each day of this weekend festival is accompanied by live music and mass consumption of chicken wings. In total, 2.4 million wings have been eaten at the festival throughout its 16-year history. The National Chicken Wing Festival also features pageants and cooking contests. And of course—no chicken wing celebration would be complete without a variety of competitive eating contests. The Triple Atomic Hot Wing Eating contest pits teams of 8 against each other to see who can consume the most wings that have been tossed in ridiculously hot sauce. But it’s every man for himself in the festival’s main event—the U.S. Chicken Wing Eating Championship. With 12 minutes on the clock, each contestant needs to consume as many wings as possible. Famed eater Joey Chestnut is the contest’s three-time defending champ.


    Georgia Peach Festival – Peach County, GA – June 3rd and June 10th


    worlds largest peach cobbler


    Although not technically taking place during summer, any Georgian will attest to the sweltering summer temperatures that accompany the arrival of June in the south. Taking place in Byron, GA on June 3rd and in Fort Valley, GA on June 10, the Georgia Peach Festival attracts upwards of 10,000 visitors. Celebrating the same delicious peaches that its state is known for, the festival features pageants, concerts, parades, and the World’s Largest Peach Cobbler—which measures 11 by 5 feet and is about eight inches deep. Festival-goers are encouraged to bring their own containers and take as much cobbler as they can handle.


    These are just a few of the many great summer food festivals that are scheduled to take place across the United States during the next few months. Since each festival offers such a unique experience, there’s nothing wrong with attending multiple events. If you don’t see a festival close to where you live, just google your state and “summer food festivals.” There are sure to be at least a couple options.


    summer food festival night

    7 Celebrity Chef Restaurants Where You Need to Eat

    ramsay vegas


    Between seeing celebrity chefs star in TV shows, teach classes, write cook books, and give interviews, it’s easy to forget how these culinary masters got their starts. Truth is—all the famous chefs we know and love only achieved their monumental success after years of laboring away in restaurant kitchens. The true output of these culinary artists is not their TV shows or books—but it’s the meals their restaurants serve.  This is a list of world-renowned chefs, and the restaurants they call their own.


    Bobby Flay – Mesa Grill – Las Vegas, NV


    mesa grill vegas


    A star on the Food Network, Bobby Flay is mostly known for his appearances on Boy Meets Grill and Iron Chef America. Educated at the French Culinary Institute—where he has also taught classes, the ambitious chef currently serves as owner and executive chef for over two dozen restaurants. The Mesa Grill in NYC is where Flay got his start back in 1991. After quickly making a name for himself, the successful chef went on to open another Mesa Grill in 2004 at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, NV. Offering bold Southwestern flavor and delicious, high-quality meats, the Mesa Grill boasts a stylish décor that combines dim lighting with vivid colors. Exotic meals like red chile barbecue duck and cascabel chile crusted rabbit enable diners to indulge in dishes they won’t find just anywhere. For those who prefer to stick with what they know, the Mesa Grill carries plenty of steaks, salads, and other more traditional meals.  


    Jamie Oliver – Jamie’s Italian – London, England


     jamie's italian


    After creating the hit TV show The Naked Chef in 1999, Jamie Oliver promptly capitalized on his success by releasing a cook book and becoming a bestselling author. In 2008, the England-born chef opened Jamie’s Italian in Oxford, England—right next to the famed University. Since then, the Jamie’s Italian chain has grown to include over 60 restaurants throughout the world. Offering classic—you guessed it—Italian food, the restaurant carries a wide range of unique pizza and pasta dishes. Appetizers like bruschetta and gnocchi will get you started, while entrees such as Sicilian chicken and roasted eggplant ensure you’ll leave satisfied. The Jamie’s Italian located in Covent Garden, London is particularly spectacular. Boasting high ceilings and impressive wooden walls, the restaurant features a wine selection that is second to none.


    Emeril Lagasse – Emeril’s Delmonico – New Orleans, LA




    When he’s not dropping signature catch phrases like “Bam” and “Kick it up a notch” on TV shows like Emeril, Essence of Emeril, and Eat the World with Emeril Lagasse, this beloved chef is publishing cook books or endorsing cooking products. But Emeril’s true passion is cooking a distinctive take on Creole cuisine that’s been dubbed “New New Orleans.”  His distinctly flavorful dishes are influenced by Asian, Portugese, and Southwestern cuisines. The proud owner of over a dozen restaurants, Emeril runs two Creole-based establishments in the heart of New Orleans. One of these restaurants is Emeril’s Delmonico. Located in a building that has been used for high-end restaurants since the 1800s, Emeril’s Delmonico provides diners with an elegant setting where they can feast on delicious dishes like shrimp gulf a la creole and pecan glazed Colorado lamb loin.


    Ming Tsai – Blue Ginger – Boston, MA


    blue ginger


    Specializing in East-West fusion cuisine, Ming Tsai previously hosted the Food Network’s East Meets West—for which he won a daytime Emmy—and currently hosts Simply Ming on PBS. The revered chef currently owns two restaurants—Blue Ginger and Blue Dragon.  Both restaurants carry Ming’s trademark East-West fusion dishes and are located in the Boston area. Blue Ginger—the first restaurant Ming opened—will unfortunately be closing on June 3rd after 19 years of winning awards and giving diners what they crave. To compensate, Tsai plans to launch ChowStirs—a fast-casual stir-fry restaurant. But if you want to experience the restaurant that launched this chef’s career, be sure to stop by Blue Ginger before it closes.    


    Gordon Ramsay – Restaurant Gordon Ramsay – London, England


    restaurant gordon ramsay


    The contentious personality behind the TV show Hell’s Kitchen, Gordon Ramsay has churned out 250 episodes of the successful show. Owner of over a dozen restaurants throughout world, Ramsay considers his first restaurant—Restaurant Gordon Ramsay—the crown jewel in his portfolio. Founded in 1998 and located in London, England, Restaurant Gordon Ramsay offers classic French cuisine and has earned three Michelin stars for its consistent excellence. Whether you’re in the mood for classic roasted Herdwick lamb or want to try roasted pigeon done right, Restaurant Gordon Ramsay provides a sophisticated dining area and a distinctly unique experience.


    Rick Bayless – Frontera Grill – Chicago, IL


    frontera grill


    Blending traditional Mexican cuisine with a modern approach, Rick Bayless is known for his PBS TV show Mexico: One Plate at a Time. After performing six years of culinary research in Mexico during the 1980s, Bayless detailed his findings in the book Authentic Mexican: Regional Cooking from the Heat of Mexico. Today, the accomplished chef owns over ten restaurants throughout the United States. His Frontera Grill restaurant in Chicago serves the chef’s signature Mexican dishes by way of locally farmed vegetables, meats, and poultry. Furthermore, any fish served at the restaurant is farmed from sustainable fisheries.


    Tom Colicchio – Riverpark – New York, NY




    Winner of the James Baard Foundation’s 2010 Outstanding Chef award, Tom Colicchio also serves as the head judge on Top Chef—a TV show for which he received an Emmy Award in 2010 for his role as executive producer. Colicchio owns ten restaurants throughout the United States, including five in New York City. One of those New York City restaurants—Riverpark—provides a unique dining experience that not many other places can match. Situated on the edge of the East River, Riverpark has a changing menu that features seasonal ingredients from local farms and markets. This ensures patrons always get the freshest and most delicious food available.



    Keep in mind this list only includes a small portion of the restaurants owned and operated by these celebrity chefs. If you don’t see a restaurant in your area, check out these chefs’ official web pages for a more comprehensive listing of their establishments. You’ll find that many of the chefs own restaurants that specialize in different types of cuisine altogether.


    bobby flay pizza

    Cinco de Mayo Restaurant Celebration

    Written by: J. Vigotsky


    cinco de mayo parade


    Taking place every year on May 5th, Cinco de Mayo is a cultural celebration that gives restaurants a unique opportunity to transform themselves for the day. By catering to those observing the holiday, you can bring in diners who otherwise would have celebrated elsewhere. If you can impress them enough with your holiday atmosphere, there’s a good chance these patrons return in the future and possibly even become regular customers.


    What Is Cinco de Mayo?


    Cinco de Mayo commemorates the Battle of Puebla—which saw the Mexican Army emerge victorious against the French on May 5, 1862. Since then, the day has evolved into a celebration of Mexican culture. Observed by both Mexico and the United States, the holiday is sometimes mistakenly referred to as “Mexican’s Independence Day”—which it is not. Traditional celebrations of Cinco de Mayo include parades, feasts, music, and dancing. And just like St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated by more than just the Irish, Cinco de Mayo is also observed by those who aren’t of Mexican origin.


    Mexican Food


     mexican food


    If your restaurant does not usually offer Mexican food, considering making a special menu for Cinco de Mayo. If your restaurant does serve Mexico food, maybe offer some dishes at special discounted prices. Make sure to include not just entrees, but also delicious appetizers, side dishes, and desserts.



    Delicious Mexican appetizers like nachos and chips with guacamole are essential to any Cinco de Mayo celebration. If you want to serve authentic Mexican guacamole that will leave customers refreshed and fulfilled, follow this recipe’s instructions.  It’s perhaps even more common to serve chips with a spicy bowl of salsa. Another delicious traditional Mexican appetizer is pico de gallo—a delicious mix of chopped tomatoes, onions, serrano peppers, cilantro, salt, and lime juice. Other items like shrimp are sometimes also added to pico de gallo to provide an extra kick. Finally—a mug, cup, or bowl of chicken tortilla soup is the perfect spicy treat get a Cinco de Mayo feast started.

    Side Dishes

    A Southwestern salad with black beans, corn, tomatoes, lettuce, avocados, and spices can really hit the spot for some customers. Make sure your restaurant has different-sized salad bowls—as this will enable you to offer both small and large salads. Instead of a salad, some patrons might prefer a rice-based dish that includes beans, tomatoes, onions, and whatever else you want to add! By equipping your kitchen with a commercial rice cooker, you’ll make it easy to produce large quantities of rice and keep these customers satisfied. Yet another great side dish option is corn on the cob topped with mouth-watering Mexican pesto. Usually made with pumpkin seeds, cilantro, cheese, garlic, and a serrano pepper, Mexican pesto is surprisingly easy to prepare. To make your own, just follow this simple recipe.


    Tacos are the obvious choice for a Cinco de Mayo meal’s main attraction, and taco holders are the perfect way to serve them. Whether you want to serve fish, beef, chicken, or steak tacos, you can count on customers ordering a large quantity of them. But meat alone doesn’t make a taco. Make sure to include seasoning and tasty toppings like cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, peppers, and guacamole. Also offer soft and hard shells to ensure each customer can get exactly what he or she wants. Another entrée option is the classic bean burrito. Perfect alternatives for meat-averse diners, bean burritos require only a few simple ingredients but are delicious all the same. Here’s a black bean and vegetable recipe that will have your customers ordering seconds and maybe even thirds!


    Send Cinco de Mayo patrons on their way only after they've delighted in the tastiness of an authentic Meixcan dessert. You can’t go wrong by offering classic Mexican crullers—also known as churros. These delicious fried treats are prepared can be prepared in a wide range of distinct ways. For diners who prefer a less heavy alternative to churros, flan or tres leches cake are great options.


    Song and Dance


     mariachi band


    No Cinco de Mayo celebration is complete without festive music and dancing. Make sure to tailor your playlist to the holiday. You can go all out and hire a Mariachi band or you can play it safe and feature some of Carlos Santana’s most well-known hits. Since dancing is such a popular form of self-expression and celebration on the special day, you might want to move a few tables aside to make room for a dance floor—if at all possible.


    Drink Specials




    Cinco de Mayo is the perfect holiday for promoting well-known Mexican beers like Corona and Dos Equis. While those beers should certainly see an uptick in sales, the margarita, was invented in Mexico and is sure be the true star of day. Prepare accordingly by equipping your restaurant with a quality bar blender and ice machine. Since margarita glasses have a unique shape, make sure your establishment is equipped with the proper barware.


    Dress Up for a Discount


    cinco de mayo


    It’s a well-known tradition for people to celebrate the Cinco de Mayo by dressing up in a soldier uniform or vibrant dress. Consider offering a discount or free drink to those willing to go this extra mile. By providing incentive for the most passionate Cinco de Mayo supporters to spend their day at your restaurant, you’ll quickly become known as the most festive restaurant in your community.




     cinco de mayo decorations


    Make your restaurant right for the occasion by adorning it with all things Mexico: flags, sombreros, blankets, maracas, balloons, and papel picado. Each decoration will add to the festive atmosphere, and items like the maraca can help make the experience more interactive for patrons. If you really want to impress your customers, feature a large piñata and offer a lottery to decide which lucky patron gets to bust it open.



    Like all holidays, Cinco de Mayo deserves special care and consideration from restaurants. With the right approach, your business stands to benefit from attracting new customers for the holiday and the future. Since Mother’s Day is right around the corner, you might want to tell patrons about your plans for that holiday as well. If they’re impressed with your Cinco de Mayo showing, they might be ready to make a reservation right then and there.


    cinco de mayo dancing