Catering in the New Era of Dietary Diversity

A couple of months ago, I discovered a major collateral benefit of the FLAVORS culinary orientation. When we initially launched FLAVORS on its trajectory of world cuisine, we adopted three main guidelines:

  • Seek out cuisines that are spice and flavor intensive.
  • Offer menus that are lighter, less meat, butter and cream intensive and generally healthier.
  • Offer Catering that can be more financially accessible with menu choices featuring less costly ingredients, where the keys to great flavor are in the green sourcing, regional spicing and sauces.

Welcome to the Era of Dietary Diversity

Processed by: Helicon Filter; OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALast August FLAVORS provided the catering for the Loving Our Earth Symposium, an excellent event produced by the Starr King School for the Ministry.   Dee Ward, the event coordinator, thoughtfully polled registrants  for food sensitivities and dietary preferences as part of the registration process.  Registration skyrocketed at the last minute (to 200), so we never got a precise total. But at 150 guests it was trending that 30 – 35 per cent of registrants had indicated one or more concerns including gluten, lactose, soy and/or nut free dishes as well as vegan or vegetarian meals.

So we set out to design a menu, well actually 8 menus, six meals and two substantial snack breaks, that accommodated this full spectrum of needs and preferences, offered engaging variety from meal to meal and also fit within the conference’s non-profit catering budget.

What I realized, as we executed each meal successfully, is that FLAVORS diverse world cuisine menus very naturally lend themselves to the this new era of dietary diversity. It was quite touching when, during the conference’s final general session, the entire FLAVORS staff was summoned out of the kitchen to the stage and acknowledged with a standing ovation.

Beyond Just a Vegetarian Alternative

When I started catering professionally at the beginning of the 1990s, it was still a bit novel to offer a vegetarian entrée.  I remember working with a bride early on who was going to be very satisfied if her vegetarian guests could get double helpings of the salad and the vegetable side dish from the entrée course.  I thought,  ‘we can do much better than that.’  In short order, we developed some distinctive vegetarian and vegan entrée selections which were often as well received by all the guests as their meaty counterparts.

Top 10 Dietary Preferences

That era is long gone.  Flash forward 20 some years and the era of diversity and expanded awareness in which we live now encompasses dietary orientation as much as any other aspect of our lives.  Here are top 10 preferences we design for (not in a specific order):

  1. GMO free sourcing, including non GMO feed for meat and poultry.
  2. Gluten and wheat free.
  3. Organic, local, and sustainably grown.
  4. Dairy and egg free.
  5. Vegetarian.
  6. No soy bean products.
  7. Peanut, tree-nut, and seed free
  8. Vegan.
  9. Low glycemic.
  10. Low fat, heart healthy.

The culinary traditions of Latin America, the Mediterranean, North Africa and the Middle East, India and Asia offer a wealth of vegetable, legume and diverse grain based choices as well as exotic and familiar spicing and sauces. These serve as invaluable building blocks for deliciously satisfying the palates of FLAVORS diverse clientele.