We love our food in the South, don’t we? (It’s easy to love when we’re known for so many delicious specialties!) If you’re like most couples, catering will take up a large chunk of your budget (and make a big impression on your guests), so it’s worth spending time to craft a menu that suits the two of you and pleases your loved ones. Chef Marc Therrien, the new Executive Chef of Keeneland Hospitality, is here today to share some tips for customizing and incorporating your personality into your wedding menu, while still serving a meal that accommodates all of your guests!
Vet your chef. If your venue has an on-site caterer, be sure to meet with him in the venue decision-making process. Tell him a bit about your vision and see whether he seems excited about it. “It’s not about his favorite dishes or what he wants to do,” says Chef Marc, “It’s about him creating something unique that reflects you as a couple.” Ask whether he or another chef will be on-site for your event.
Consider an in-house caterer. Working with an in-house caterer, like Chef Marc at Keeneland, has its advantages. He is familiar with the venue, and should have creative ideas about how to reinvent the space (either based on things he’s seen other couples try, or ideas for things he’s never seen anyone try!). He also has a “home field” advantage from working with the same staff for every event, which can lead to a more confident execution.
Schedule a tasting. Besides being delicious (hopefully!), this is your chance to reaffirm the direction of your meal, or make any necessary tweaks. It can also be one of the most fun parts of the planning process, as you imagine sitting down with your loved ones in the months to come!
Base your menu around your favorite foods. Creating a menu from scratch is not for the faint of heart, so to utilize your chef’s expertise while also incorporating your personality into the day, Chef Marc suggests couples brainstorm their ten favorite ingredients, then turn them over to their chef to create a menu incorporating as many as possible.
Another fun idea that will keep your guests talking: base each station around a story from your shared history: say, roasted oysters for your Charleston alma mater. “Come to your chef with ideas, but let your chef create,” encourages Chef Marc. “If you box someone into a corner, they can’t be creative for you. Find a good chef, then let him run with it.”
Always opt for local, seasonal, and sustainable. Chef Marc, like so many chefs these days, is passionate about local ingredients, believing they should ideally only change hands four times (farmer, farm hand, truck, his door!). Local ingredients tend to be more flavorful, healthy, and beautiful, so find a chef who is skilled at sourcing and cooking with them.
Make it memorable. There are so many (really fun!) ways to make a wedding meal exciting for guests, as well as delicious. Some of Chef Marc’s include:
— synchronized service, when every plate is set down at once
— presenting familiar food in creative ways (like the Caesar salad skewers he created for one Caesar-loving bride!)
— mixing up the presentation (like the time his team served a seated salad course then released guests to a variety of stations for their entrees)
— and preparing food directly in front of guests (no chafing dishes here, but he did recently torch salmon on Himalayan salt blocks while guests looked on).
Graciously accommodate dietary restrictions. Chef Marc recommends incorporating dietary preferences across your entire menu instead of singling individual guests out (for example, he says going gluten free is easier than ever these days). He also recommends that if alternatives (such as vegetarian or vegan dishes) are available, they be offered up to the entire table as part of the main meal, instead of something that guests have to ask for specifically.
Chef Marc is the new Executive Chef of Keeneland Hospitality, with 25 years of culinary experience under his belt. He believes in simple food with good technique while using locally sourced product. Learn more about him and all of Keeneland’s offerings here!
This post is brought to you by Keeneland. Thank you for your support of the brands who make Southern Weddings possible!