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A caterer is someone who arranges the delivery, preparation and presentation of food for clients. If you've ever attended a bridal shower, fund raiser, rehearsal dinner, wedding reception or a bar mitzvah that had beautifully prepared and presented food, chances are that event was catered. Their responsibilities include not only the food and drinks, but the decorations, tables, chairs, music and lighting. Catering is one of the fastest growing careers in the culinary arts field.
A Caterer is a specialized type of Culinary Chef.
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There are three main types of caterers which include:
Caterers of each type meet a variety of needs for their clients. Note that in some cases, dietary and religious needs may play a part in the event being catered and need to be carefully observed.
- will often be found at a fair, a street corner, a food and drink trailer at a construction site, in a shopping mall kiosk or food court, and sometimes in the lobbies of some businesses. These types of caterers offer pre-packaged items ranging from sandwiches to salads and may even deliver meals for business clientele too busy to leave their office for lunch.
- are often liaisons between the client and the kitchen staff for planning an event. Their responsibilities include menu preparation, banquet arrangement, table set-up, delivery of decorations, as well as arranging for extra service personnel as needed.
- own their own businesses, contracting vendors as needed. These caterers are often hired for wedding receptions, birthday parties, business and personal anniversaries, business holiday events, retirement parties, as well as many other events. They are responsible for all aspects of the occasion including menus, plate and dinnerware rentals, and arranging for the appropriate wait staff. They are often responsible for arranging a clean-up crew to come in after the event has ended.
A caterer can work in a variety of locations, both indoors and outdoors. Some examples are construction sites, business lobbies, hotels, banquet and wedding receptions, and people's private homes.
Gil and Janet Roberge are the husband and wife team behind Zest Café and Catering, a business they started in their house doing a few orders here and there for friends. Now in their fourth year of operation, the catering business grew simply by word of mouth.
Catering is a good way to put a culinary education to good use, especially if you like the idea of setting your own hours and getting away from the fast pace and high intensity of the restaurant world. If you’re a self-starter and are interested in this type of work, you can choose between starting a catering business and starting a personal chef business.
Catering is often the gateway to the restaurant business. Because of the low startup costs of self-catering, a catering business is an ideal way to get a taste of what it is like to be a restaurant owner.
Like many careers, catering takes a combination of training, hard work, and carefully honed skills to succeed. While there is much in common with being a chef, caterers face many additional challenges.
While teaching a restaurant program at a community college, I repeatedly would have students who thought it would be great idea to open a catering business. Some were returning to school, loved to cook and thought it would be an easy way to make quick money.