We were sitting around the SMP offices the other day loving on our lovely LBBers and a thought struck us. We have this book filled with the best of the best. You guys are hiring them to make your weddings the most beautiful, yummy, fun, well lit weddings imaginable. But why aren’t we sharing their expertise with the masses? Well, today that ends. For those of you who aren’t in the San Fran area, you’re in luck, because we have expert Hayley Seed of Taste Catering & Event Planning here answering your catering questions. And for those of you in the SF area, you may just want to take note of Hayley’s number. Because she’s phenomenal.

We’ve got a ridiculously delicious recipe of Hayley’s on SMP Living right now. Don’t miss it! And now, here’s Hayley…

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We’re thinking of having a buffet style dinner to keep costs low. What suggestions do you have for avoiding pile-ups at a buffet or standing stations?

To avoid pile up at the buffet, keep the menu simple (no more than five items). The more items the guests have to serve themselves, the longer the buffet will take. Also, make sure you have enough buffet lines. I recommend one line per 50 guests. So if you have 100 guests, you will have two buffets.

What is an ideal timeline for dinner courses?

My ideal timeline would allow for two hours for three courses with four toasts, so:
7:00pm – Guests are invited to take their seats for dinner.
7:15pm – Welcome Toast (usually by the Father of the Bride or the hosts; this toast is generally fairly brief, try to keep it under three minutes!).
7:18pm – The First Course is served.
7:35pm – More toasts, this time from the Best Man and Maid of Honor (try to limit to five minutes each).
7:45pm – Staff will clear your First course; and get ready for the entrée.
8:00pm – The Entrée is served!
8:25pm – Time for the Cake Cutting.
8:30pm – The Entrée is cleared, and we get readt for cake.
8:45pm – Let them eat cake!
8:55pm – It’s Final Toast time, or invite guests for the first dances.

Should I offer a vegetarian and/or vegan option alongside meat entrees?

Short answer: Yes. If you are taking entrée orders in your RSVP card, you should include vegetarian as an option. If you are not taking orders and plan to just offer one entrée on-site, just make sure your caterer is prepared with a vegetarian option available by request. We are typically prepared with 10% vegetarian options on-site to accommodate guest requests at the event. In terms of vegan, to keep things simple, I like to offer a vegan entrée over a vegetarian entrée such as: Roasted Piquillo Peppers stuffed with Artichoke & Farro Caponata, Summer Succotash of Iacopi Butter Beans, Brentwood Sweet Corn, Star Route Favas, Toy Box Squash & Bloomsdale Spinach. Offering a vegan entrée will also take care of anyone who has a lactose allergy.

What should I plan on my caterer being responsible for when it comes to set up, break down, etc?

Taste is a full-service catering company so we typically handle the rental of, set-up and breakdown of tables, linens, chairs and tabletop settings. We also handle clean up (sweeping, mopping, ect) of the venue and ensure that the venue rules are followed per your contract. Taste also has a liquor license and we will handle the bar service and set-up (such as all of the glassware, ice, bar equipment, bartenders, garnishes, ect).

What are stylish and tasty options to serve guests for appetizers and entrees what won’t break the bank?

I think chicken entrees are really underrated. Chicken prepared well can be the most satisfying and delicious meal (and the most cost effective entrée option). One of my favorites is a Chicken Saltimbocca. We use Mary’s Organic Chicken and stuff it with a Sundried Tomato Pesto & Baby Spinach and serve it on a bed Farro-Sunflower Pilaf, Baby Zucchini & Carrots with a Basil Jus. It is colorful, artful and delicious!

Should I plan on everyone wanting a piece of cake?

If you are serving cake as a plated course at the dining table, then yes you definitely want to make sure there is a piece for everyone. If cake is being served on a buffet and there are other desserts available, then I would assume cake for 80%.

What’s a reasonably small add-on that has the biggest impact on making my guests feel spoiled?

If you are having a sit-down dinner, I think starting the meal off with a lovely Amuse Bouche (just a little bite of something special). Something like a Champagne Gelee with Page Mandarin Consommé and Pomegranate Seeds served on a porcelain spoon or a Demitasse of chilled Frog Hollow Peach Soup with Champagne Float & Tarragon Cream. If you are planning a buffet dinner, I would add beverage service at the table (so your guests only have to get up to go through the buffet), it’s always nice to be waited on.

Thank you SO much Hayley! Such great insight from such a talented chef. Is it dinner time yet? If you’ve got more questions for Hayley, please leave them in the comments. And keep an eye out for our next expert… we’ll be asking for your questions on our LBB Facebook and LBB Twitter!

Photography: Kate Webber Photography | Food, Flowers and event design: Taste Catering & Event Planning

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