What Makes One New York Event Better Than The Next, Part 2: Food

Whether it’s a Bar Mitzvah, Bat Mitzvah, Cocktail Reception, Gala Dinner or Wedding in New York, there are certain elements that ensure that your event will stand out from the rest. Herbert Rose has over 40 years of experience as Director of Catering at New York’s finest venues, and is now Director Emeritus at Guastavino’s and 583 Park Avenue. Over the next few weeks the patriarch of The Rose Family will share his commentary on the factors that make an event stand out from the crowd. This week: Food

When it comes time to discuss event menus with a client, I like to make three recommendations perfectly clear:

1. No one is coming to your Bar or Bat Mitzvah, Wedding, Charity Dinner or Cocktail Reception because they are hungry.

2. No guest is expecting a culinary epiphany, just a quality meal.

3. An overly elaborate spread is (usually) a waste of money put out by hosts who feel a need to show that they have money to waste.

What event cuisine should be is high quality, freshly prepared and properly cooked. It should be recognizable dishes that can stand the test of a large-scale preparation. What event guests want is a familiar meal created with premium raw materials and served in a timely fashion. Practically nothing that you can serve at a large event will be deemed waiting for, even if the chef has assured you that it is worth the wait.

At 583 Park Avenue and Guastavino’s we aim to keep our event cuisine simple by buying only the best. We serve high-quality filet of beef because years of experience have shown that no other beef stands up to rigors of a large-scale cooking as well as a filet. We only use American Colorado Lamb because we feel that it’s the finest on earth. Everything is fresh and we use absolutely no frozen or pre-prepared items.

This attention to quality should be a given when paying hundreds of dollars a head, but believe me it is not. Many venues, especially large hotels, have turned to convenience over quality.

An example:

Every year I am invited to a very large and prestigious dinner at what is arguably the most famous hotel in the world. The service is notoriously slipshod but efficient; dinner is always served in a timely fashion. The event features excellent speeches, an entertainer, and interesting and often famous attendees. Sadly, the food is atrocious.

The first course, inevitably smoked salmon, is preset on the table. This is something I abhor and will only agree to under duress, and then for only very specific selections. Naturally the room reeks of fish as soon as you walk in. By the time guests are seated the salmon has been sitting on the table for at least an hour and has begun turning dark around the edges. Nothing could be more unappealing. The main course alternates from year to year between filet of beef and rack of lamb. The filet is the lowest quality obtainable (but is still edible). The rack of lamb is disgusting and covered with fat, definitely frozen and shipped from New Zealand, which is know in the industry for it’s bargain basement prices and even lower quality. The vegetables and potatoes are the best thing on the menu. No roll or butter is provided at this hotel as clever way of increasing profitability. Desserts are best left untouched.

The point of all this is that year after year guests of this event know that they will have a lousy meal. This expectation of mediocrity greatly lessens the experience of what would otherwise be an exceptional event.

It is not impossible to serve exquisite food at a banquet, but it requires a willingness to seek out only the best ingredients.  When it comes to delicate items like shellfish, serving the freshest, highest quality possible is more than just a luxury; it is essential to the success of your event. At Rose Group venues we serve only under-ten-count shrimp cooked in our kitchen. Joe’s Stone Crab in Miami sources our stone crabs, while lobsters are delivered fresh from Maine. Only fresh fish is ever served.

Producing an enjoyable meal isn’t difficult, it just takes a bit of care, know how, and the willingness to put quality over profit margins. The best ingredients combined with careful on premises preparation will produce a meal that is exceptionally enjoyable every time.

Herbert Rose is Director Emeritus at Guastavino’s and 583 Park Avenue. He has over 40 years of experience as Director of Catering at New York’s finest venues. Future commentaries will include temperature, music, décor, and timeline.

Have a question for Herbert? CONTACT US today and he will be happy to address it in a future post.