Parties on the cheap

Keeping costs down while entertaining at home with chefs – from the chef’s point of view.

There are several ways to keep costs down and control how much you spend on a catered party. Our goal is to work with you to keep the bottom line… well… in line. We have absolutely no problem helping you work on the party budget and are more than happy to have it be as cost effective as it can be. There’s no need for it to cost any more than you want it to.

The main factors effecting the cost for any catered party are the quantity of dishes prepared and the type of food you request. It should come as no surprise that seafood will drive food costs up in a hurry, but item count along with food type both determine the quantity of time and labor, which are the greatest factors in the overall cost of an event.

We’ve had events where the item count reached 25 to 30 individual plated items served as Hors d’oeuvres and in buffet style presentations, which is an astonishing amount of food and preparation. These parties are very detail oriented and take an incredible amount of time and preparation to pull off. Hence – they are some of the most expensive parties we’ve ever had.

Just last week we had a party for 4 people which consisted of 14 individual dishes all served in various courses and it took 2 people a full day of preparation, cooking and cleaning as well as all of the prior planning to pull the party off without a hitch. This party exceeded a thousand dollars including the cost of food.

For most people the two extreme examples above are a bit much to swallow and we understand that. That is why I’ll try to detail some of the ways we can make sure we don’t bust a budget button from our waistline.

First thing to remember – a menu doesn’t have to be big to be good.  Having somebody come by and fix a big family style bowl of Rigatoni ala Vodka and a Caesar salad for you and your guests might be just fine. And it’s cheap when you compare it to Halibut, Crab Cakes or Bacon Wrapped Sea Scallops.

Simply put, the fewer items you select for your meal and the shorter the cook times associated with them – the less the party will cost all around. At last check, a dinner like this for 6 to 8 people can be had for $90 plus the cost of food. If the cost was 150 in total you could feed 8 people for less than $20 a plate. A pretty good deal considering it happened in the comfort and privacy of your home.

What if we wanted to add soup and an appetizer to the menu? Then we start to add to the time and preparation, which will bump the cost by an hour at least – because depending on the type of appetizer and soup, they’ll take a little longer to cook. I’m not sure I’ve tasted too many really good soups that didn’t take 45 minutes or more to prepare and simmer. In the kitchen – 45 minutes is an hour.  It boils down to flavor. Flavor that doesn’t come from a can takes time. Period.

So what if we wanted to add a final entree course and make the meal a 5 course meal where the soup comes fist, then the appetizers, then the salad, then the pasta followed by a slow roasted pork shoulder topped with caraway apple cider reduction  and served with roasted garlic mash potatoes and green beans.  Well, then you’re looking at a whole new event. The pork will take between 4 and 6 hours to slow roast (at least the way we cook it). Then you have the cider reduction which doesn’t come quickly.

There’s time to roast the garlic, make the mash and other dishes and then the time involved in serving the various courses during the meal. Add to this all of the various planning and preparation and you are right back up in the stratosphere with the other high end parties with an event that at a bare minimum is going to take 6 hours to put together and that’s a conservative estimate depending on how many people are in attendance and how long it takes to serve.

So you see that things can add up very quickly in ways you might not have thought of when you were initially planning the event. We’re here to help guide you from the beginning and keep you out of trouble when it comes to planning quantities and prep times and explain to you fully,  the ways things can add up, how to keep them from getting out of hand and how to put together an event that fits your budget and planning in every way.

A big party or salad and an entree – we see them the same way and will treat your event just as we would any other, no matter the size.

Any questions? Just ask.

– The Chef