Interview with Meryl & Andy

Feastivities Events, the Visionary Caterers of Philadelphia

written by:

Feastivities Green Initiatives

Transportation and distribution
Food & equipment procurement
Chemical reduction
Preventive maintenance
Facility construction
Energy & water conservation
Own washing machines to reuse towels vs. disposable
Automatic sensor lights
Automatic HVAC controls
We employ a team of classically trained chefs, committed to serving only the highest quality food, using the best ingredients. We strive to celebrate local farmers, sustainable seafood, and provide the freshest natural and organic ingredients. In addition to being conscious of our clients’ needs, OffShoots is globally aware. We choose to use floral distributors that adhere to fair trade practice standards.

Meryl and Andy Snow, owners of Feastivities Events, the Visionary Caterers of Philadelphia, show us the possibilities of passion, dedication and creativity. Like great performers, great caterers are known for their versatility. The most talented have the ability to portray a range of roles with ease: director, producer, confident, problem solver, and at times, even therapist.

Passion, dedication and creativity are the spiritual holy trinity for every true chef and, as with exceptional recipes, each ingredient is essential. The Chefs of Feastivities embodies this recipe. 28 years ago, you launched Feastivities, during a time when caterers were only doing banquet food. What inspired your decision to attempt to pioneer new ideas and standards in a stagnant industry?

Meryl: When we started in 1987, we had our eyes wide open and knew we could change the evolution of catering.

Andy: No more steam table food. We would cook on-site- period. Meryl & I were both in the restaurant business and we knew that in order for this to work we would need to bring the restaurant to a location. Renting stoves and convection ovens were available but not reliable. I worked on different cooking methods to make sure that the food quality is where I wanted it to be. It was an exciting time.   (reference ‘Get the Food Out’ DVD)

Chef Andy Snow – On Track, On Purpose, and On Fire! What milestone allowed you to realize that you were on the right track and headed towards success?

Meryl: Andy & I were at a restaurant with our 3 year old daughter Kelly. She looks out the window toward the street & points- ‘look Mommy, there goes the Feastivities truck.’ Andy & I looked at each other, smiled and we knew at that moment that we were on the right track. Can you share some industry secrets on delivering a high impact event on a modest budget?

Meryl: Ahhh, we’ve become very versed on modest budgets since the recession in 2008. We have devised distinct methods of service; Performance Stations, Chef Bar and Cart Service that produces a unique and creative format for the event that assists on bringing labor costs down. Lighting is very important; it sets the mood- and gives a high impact look with low costs. Feastivities is known for their high quality and creative events. What’s the first event that comes to mind as an example of pushing the edge of creativity and delivering that “Wow” factor?

Andy: For me it has to be the Mozzarella Balloon we did for Living Beyond Breast Cancer years ago. I’ve had been working on the technique for quite some time and was ready to present it. It was a cool event. I’m sure Meryl has a few.

Meryl: I do but it’s so hard for me to choose. I love that you and your team are so conscience of your responsibility to reduce your carbon footprint. What are some ways that you carry out your mission of sustainability and encourage your clients to do the same?

Andy: Feastivities embraces today’s efforts to conserve natural resources and minimize the impact of human activity on the environment. Operating in a sustainable manner is practiced by all departments of the company where the selection, preparation, delivery, and disposal of food and beverages affect the environment in so many ways. The company faces a multiple decisions as to how to satisfy their clients and generate a financial return with minimal environmental impact. It’s a daunting challenge made more difficult by the fact that virtually every aspect of catering contains a sustainability challenge. Practicing sustainable operations not only benefits the environment, it helps foster positive relationships with the venues where we cater. Because sustainability is such a critical component in modern catering, Feastivities supports our team with an increasing number of resources to help effectively integrate “green” initiatives in their departments, including professional development programs and educational resources. What’s a Chef Cart and how can they serve as an asset at larger events?

Meryl: Instead of the guests finding the food- the food finds them. Great food means nothing if the guests can’t get to it. Chef Carts roam from room to room, floor to floor & group to group wheeling contemporary stainless steel carts loaded with all of the ingredients on board to compose fork friendly small plates. Each cart supports 50 plates in one sweep. For us, this is the most creative and efficient way to bring food to the guests. You’re heavily involved in producing the Catersource Conference each year. What are some of the biggest insights you’ve gained while producing an event for your specific industry? Can you share a favorite highlight from the last one that you attended?

Meryl: I have been involved with Catersource for over 25 years and the biggest insight that I’ve gained is that the entire event industry are passionate people – not just about food but business, sales and all aspects of events.

The conference in March was a fun, exciting and informative experience for thousands of catering and event professionals from around the world. It is so thrilling to be a part of an amazing group that share their knowledge, exchange ideas, learn new things and make lifelong friendships and common connections that we’ll refer back to for years to come.

The education is the latest and most pertinent issues facing our industry today- and to walk away with winning strategies, invaluable tools, new ideas, the latest trends and proven techniques for the event industry today. Another highlight is The Art of Catering Food- (held in Utah this August) this is all about culinary where chefs, cooks, owners and just about anyone who wants to make cuisine the main event, The Art of Catering Food teaches trends and techniques used by successful chefs throughout the industry.

This must sound like a commercial but what better way to be with people that think like me, act like me, and dream like me. What trends are you looking forward to setting in 2015?

Meryl: The mantra at Feastivities is…We set trends, not follow them.

Andy: A feast for the senses – Culinary trends:

Farm to table is holding strong. Fresh, wholesome ingredients direct from a local farm – food doesn’t get much tastier or better than that. Over the past five years, the farm to table concept has held strong, and brides should be gleeful to take advantage of local farmers producing the finest in produce, grains, meat and fowl. Vegetarian guests have long been an afterthought of the bride and groom – caterers often provided a token veggie option. Not anymore – happy couples, both vegan and omnivorous, are increasingly opting for the freshness, color and diversity that a fully vegan menu can provide.
On the vegetable note, many brides are saying no way to a wan pile of green beans or a veggie sauté in favor of vibrant, robust and colorful options such as kale, chard and root vegetables.
Pork belly is a huge trend in the culinary world, and this flavorful, sumptuously fatty cut is a huge hit amongst brides this season. Prepared in a French style with white wine and thyme, or with a sticky, anise flavored Chinese marinade, pork belly’s crispy skin is ambrosia for meat eaters.
Long gone is the boring wedding buffet staple, Chicken is back with a vengeance – but say goodbye to a simple grilled or sautéed preparation. Chicken served in various styles such as sous vide, covered in crackling, a roulade stuffed with black pudding or shredded a la pulled pork are all increasing in popularity – and deliciousness.
Bacon no longer reigning supreme. The early part of the 21st century will long be remembered for its voracious bacon mania. While we can’t deny that bacon is delicious, you’re less likely to see ‘bacon aioli dipped bacon bombs covered in a bacon reduction’ this season.
Bacon may be on the way out, but other smoked foods are on the way in. Whether a lightly smoked ling cod served with clams and a smoked dashi broth, or a tea smoked duck breast, unique and interesting methods of smoking meat, fish and vegetables are on the rise.
Lentils and peas galore. It’s important to remember that you are not limited to potatoes, polenta and pasta to give your guests a carb side. Lentils of all types can be prepared in sophisticated and delicious ways that will give diners a boost of protein and keep their bellies fuller for longer without a carb crash.