Jackie Tan, from Neuman's Kitchen in new York, reveals the secrets of a good catering

Neuman’s Kitchen (NY) is in the business of helping our clients tell their stories. Every company, at every event, is trying to communicate a specific message to a particular audience and our job is to help. The questions we always ask are,’ What do you want a guest who is leaving the party to say about the event?’ and ‘How do you want them to feel about you when they are leaving the event’.

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Maya Angelou said it best, ‘ People will forget what you say, people will forget what you do but they will never forget how you make them feel’. We are in the business of making guests feel whatever it is our client is trying to convey.

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1. Can you give us 3 tips for an entrepreneur who wants to hire a catering?

  • Identify the message you want to convey and make sure the caterer you hire understands your goals.
  • Listen and collaborate. Most caterers want to do a great job. Trust that they are working with you because they get it and want to make you happy.
  • Be realistic about your budget. Don’t expect more than you can reasonably get for your money.

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2. Which info do you need to design a menu?

We need to know who will be attending, is there a specific theme for the event and what allergies, preferences or other requirements need to be taken into consideration. We know how to plan portions for your guests. However, if your guests are linebackers for the NY Giants or construction workers who haven’t eaten in a week, it would be a good idea to tell us.

3. How long it takes to design and close a menu? Exists certain creativity freedom?

It depends on what time of year you ask. Under normal conditions we turn around menus and proposals in one to four days. During holiday season and for more complex proposals that require a venue site-visit or other factors turnaround may require more time. Let the caterer know your proposal or menu is due and ask them to meet your deadline. There is nothing more infuriating then when someone calls and says a menu is due in a few hours and the event is a year away.

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4. Which is the best part of working for a trade show, compared for example on working on a wedding?

Trade shows are fun because they give vendors the chance to meet hundreds of prospective clients in a short period of time. As caterers they are fun because our food is seen and evaluated by the same large group of professionals. While we consider every wedding a try-out for all the guests who are prospective brides, the trade show is a more direct selling opportunity.

5. Working on event you meet people from different industries. There are preferences about the menu depending on the kind of industry (informal, elegant, etc.)

Menus vary by industry, event type and specific planner. Often fashion shows have very specific criteria for size of hors d’oeuvres (one bite - no toothpicks, spoons or skewers) and ingredients (no seeds or nuts and no dark colors for sauces that could stain clothing and carpeting). Other industries have similar particular requests.

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6. Which is your star dish?

Our star dish is the last one that made the client extremely happy. It is often an hors d’oeuvres that gets the attention of guests (we are doing a particularly wonderful Kobiyaki Chicken Wing hors d’oeuvres now) or a small plate, like our Hamachi Tuna Wrapped in Sliced Avocado.

The menu changes seasonally so there is never one star dish.

7. Which it has been, on your own opinion, the most memorable event you've been working for?

Our most memorable event is the one where the client is thrilled with our efforts and recognizes us for our unique blend of creativity and consistency. Recently we have catered a cocktail party for 1,000 guests at Lincoln Center for the second year in a row. We also recently catered, for the fifth year in a row, another cocktail party for 1,000 guests. What distinguishes each of these events is not the size but the nature of the challenges and the collaboration – in each case the client trusted us with their marquee event and in each case we outdid our own efforts from prior years.

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