or Connect
ChefTalk.com › ChefTalk Cooking Forums › Professional Food Service › Professional Catering › Looking for simple/delicious food ideas to serve crew
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Looking for simple/delicious food ideas to serve crew

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 
I work with film crews. A good part of my service is a well stocked snack table, the other is "walk arounds". I scour all the magazines and regularly pick up cookbooks, looking for new ideas, but right now I'm in a rut and looking for some suggestions for food that is "hand friendly", ie. can be eaten while working and walking around. I want to "kick it up a notch" and make things memorable and stand out. Please post if you have some fresh ideas. For cooking I am usually limited to an electric griddle or small convection oven and my panini press, but I do have butane burners for soups, etc.

Here are some of the current items I serve:

Grilled cheese w/sundried tomato, asiago & smoked gouda
Hot Pastrami
Turkey, pesto, tomato, pepper jack panini
Deli Wraps
Tarragon Chicken w/dried cranberry wraps
Chicken Quesadillas
Toasted Tuna Sandwiches
Chinese Chicken Salads
Soups/Chili for night shoots

post #2 of 18
Well...I'm not sure about the demographic of the film crews, or the budget, but....Here are some thoughts on things that are fairly "hand-friendly":

-Empanadas (with assorted fillings)
-Mini calzones
-Eggrolls/Spring Rolls/Lumpia
-Siu Bao (with assorted fillings)
-shu mai, gyoza, other Asian-style dumplings
-Mini quiche or other savory tarts? (like, maybe an Alsace tart-type thing, with caramelized onions and bacon and a white sauce?)
-Mini pizzas? You can get fancy with the toppings or just keep it simple...
-Rumaki-type skewers with assorted dipping sauces (beef, chicken, shrimp, or other meats)
-Sliders with do-it-yourself toppings
-A Torta rustica type thing
-Sausage in brioche (i.e. a trumped-up version of pig-in-a-blanket cocktail franks)

Most of these are things you could cook off-site and warm up in the convection oven, a chafer, or a chafer with a steamer insert.

What about cocktail-style finger foods? Would these be too fancy/pricey? I'm thinking of things you could just serve out of chafers buffet-style:
-bacon-wrapped dates
-bacon-wrapped scallops or shrimp
-little crab cakes
-little asian-style meatballs (or other meatballs, maybe served "lollipop" style?)
-prosciutto-wrapped asparagus....
that kind of thing. But maybe that's not really what you're going for.

Still...if you want to make things more memorable...maybe play with your basics a little?...Like, in addition to the chicken quesadilla, you could do a quesadilla with caramelized onion and brie, or something along those lines.

My favorite book for general culinary inspiration these days is Michel Richard's Happy In the Kitchen. He often takes very simple, humble ingredients and treats them in such an innovative, whimsical way that they become extraordinary. There are even a few recipes in there that might work for this kind of catering. Among them:

-Cremini Cigars with Ginger Remoulade (the catering company I work for does a version of this recipe. Delicious!)
-Spuddies (they're like high-end Tater Tots! you could serve them alongside sliders)
-Potato Bites? (without the potato baskets, in your case)
-Tomato Tartare (it sounds kind of dull, but I ate it at Citronelle and it's unbelievably tasty!)
-Corn nugget Crab Cakes
-Yellow tomato tart
-Several different soups
-Crisp & Creamy Bacon-Onion Tart
-Bell pepper Wellington (kind of like a vegetarian torta rustica)
...and maybe a few others. Most of the above are fairly labor-intensive, but you can do everything ahead of time and then just hold and reheat (in some cases you can even freeze). Anyway, his approach is so interesting, you might get some new ideas just from reading these recipes.

I hope that was kind of helpful!
post #3 of 18
Great post Indigo.. some really good ideas there!

I couldn't help to notice that everything pretty much seems deep fried or pressed. Is there any chance of you serving some cold items?

Funky salads, salad rolls, what about some japanese noodle boxes filled with some chicken/shrimp, noodles and lime lives?

I just woke up, thats all I have for right now :lol:
post #4 of 18

Crew food

Several ideas come to mind:
Fresh thai spring rolls
Sweet potato quesadillas
Salad wraps
Veggie sushi maki
post #5 of 18

crew food

Oh yeah:
Mini-Cashew Burgers served with a dollop of either hot sauce or a yogurt sauce
falafel bar
Mini- salmon corquettes with wasabi mayo
spinach patties with lemon
Love the soup idea
post #6 of 18
Thanks! :)

I had fun thinking about it. (I'm not really a caterer myself, but I do work as a cook and server for a pretty big catering company. Does this mean it's okay for me to post here? I was a little worried about that...)

A few more ideas:

-Maybe a croque-monsieur/croque madame panini? There are different definitions of this, but I'm thinking of sandwiches on a sturdy bread, with ham and gruyere, dipped briefly in an egg-and-milk mixture, maybe sprinkled with a little parmigiano-reggiano, then finished on electric griddle or panini press. yum.

-Make your own pitas: Offer falafel, hummus, tahini, and assorted fresh vegetables. This is tasty for everyone, and vegetarians/vegans will especially appreciate it.

-Make your own gyros: Offer gyro-style meat and veggies, with tzatziki sauce. (Of course, you could also have servers do the assembly if that works better.)

-I don't know if this would work...but maybe you could do some kind of southern-style po'boy...like, maybe a fried catfish sandwich or wrap, served with hush puppies....Fish is so hard to hold successfully, though. I'm trying to think of something to honor the flavors of the southeast U.S, something in kind of a soul food or cajun tradition....I don't know. Anyone else have any ideas? Fried mac-and-cheese bites?

-I really do like the idea of the siu bao (I'm pretty sure that's what they're called: the steamed chinese buns, usually filled with barbecued pork). Have you ever had these? They're hearty, super-delicious, easy to carry around, and yet kind of unusual. You wouldn't even have to make them yourself if you didn't want to; I'm sure you could buy them in bulk and just heat them up on site in a chafer with a steamer insert. They're available with a variety of fillings, including vegetarian. (When I was in Japan, you could get vegetarian siu bao from a hot case at 7-11. soooo good!!)

Well, the OP mentioned a chinese chicken salad; I'm guessing it's served in cardboard takeout containers so that people can walk around with it more easily. So yes, I'm thinking you could get creative with the salads, but serve them in the same way...Maybe a Thai Beef salad, or a simple butter lettuce salad with bacon-wrapped cipollini (another Michel Richard idea)...there's a million different salads you could do.

Also, a lettuce wrap or lettuce cup thing might work...though these might be kind of labor-intensive. But the company I work for does lettuce cups buffet-style, with little cocktail plates, and these seem to work pretty well as walking-around cocktail-party food.

You could also do a Vietnamese-style spring roll in rice paper wrapping, and fill it with a delicious salad. Traditionally, they include shrimp, of course, and you could do that, too. Michel Richard has a recipe called "Romaine on Romaine" that might inspire you. Also, in Tyler Florence's Real Kitchen, there's a recipe for Vietnamese Shrimp rolls that are filled with a mixture of beets, carrots, bean sprouts, red chile, cilantro, peanuts, shrimp, and mint. If you left out the shrimp, these would still be very pretty, and they would also be vegan. (Whatever you may think of Tyler Florence, I do find that his recipes are consistently easy-to-follow, successful, and delicious.)

I'm interested to know more about the film crews you are working with. Are you just working with the tech crews--the gaffers and grips and whatnot? Or are you also serving the directors, PAs, and actors? Are these small productions or big ones?

I'm asking because the demographic might influence your menu. You say you're in California, so I'm guessing that it's a fairly ethnically diverse bunch. As such, they'd probably appreciate a range of international flavors & cuisines.

But...from the menu items you listed, it sounds like you are going for hearty and approachable, as opposed to sophisticated or unusual. Is there a reason for that?

Another thing I notice is how heavy it is on the bread--which makes sense, because you're looking for things that are easy to carry around.

But one thing I think a catering company can do to stand out is to consider possible dietary restrictions when planning this kind of buffet-style menu. Not just vegetarian options, but other special diets as well. So many people are modifying their diets for different reasons these days: vegan, wheat-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, low-carb, low fat, low sugar/diabetic...etc. (Even I, food geek that I am, have become part of this annoying trend: Though I will eat anything if I'm curious and/or hungry enough, I do try to avoid processed foods and wheat in my every day diet. So I am always very appreciative of wheat-free options.)

Maybe you are dealing with a group of people who don't appear concerned about dietary restrictions? That's why I asked who you're feeding: I'm guessing that your typical actor might be more likely to follow a restricted diet than your average key grip, but you never know! Especially if you're in SoCal!

So, I'm thinking you might consider:

For Wheat-Free, Gluten-Free, and Low Carb folks:
-Rice paper rolls
-Lettuce cups with a ground meat or chopped chicken filling (a lot of room for variations here).
Just make sure you use wheat-free tamari instead of regular soy sauce in these recipes. (These could also work for the dairy-free and vegan folks, if you modify the recipes accordingly.)

For the Vegetarian/Vegan Folks
-Falafel, hummus & tahini, served with pitas
-vegetarian/vegan chili (this can actually be pretty tasty).

For diabetics and dieters:
-Maybe a special low-sugar dessert (I don't believe in artificial sweeteners, but I've tasted some pretty delicious chocolate tortes and cheese cakes that were sweetened with a mixture of agave syrup and splenda).

Flourless chocolate brownies, assorted chocolate truffles, or a triple chocolate terrine made with layers of white, dark and milk chocolate ganache would work for the wheat-free folks. So would cakes made with almond meal instead of flour (I have a Nigella Lawson recipe for a white-chocolate almond cake that would fit the bill, but I haven't tried it yet.)

Okay. This is a fantastic way to procrastinate, but I better go get some work done!
post #7 of 18
Wow! Thank you so much. I didn't ask the question, but I cater shoots too and do craft services in my area. I am in the process of updating my menu and looking for new ideas and foods to market to my clientele, so this is great! Things have been slow, hence the job interview gone bad (see interview frustration). So I decided the heck with someone else's business, I just need to rededicate myself to my own.
Keep those ideas coming! thanx
post #8 of 18
They're just simply called Bao which is Chinese for Buns. Tar Sui is the BBQ pork and there are many variations of these buns and you can buy them frozen, they're still simple to make but a lot of work with the filling. Fillings will vary,
Choy Bao - Vegetarian
Gai Bao - Chicken
Gah Lai Gnow Yook - Curry Beef
they're the typical common ones you'll find at Dim Sum and Chinese bakeries but you can play around with them, I know at some celebratory dinners, mini versions are filled with lotus paste and the bun is coloured red.
Best way to heat them up from frozen or cook fresh is in a steamer, uncovered on a parchment paper lined perforated pan. You can always cut the paper later for each individual bun.

Cater diva, Have you thought of theming your meals on a daily basis? Looking at what some of Indigo_Swale suggested, you can almost do a dim sum lunch and the food would be all finger food and walk around friendly.
Do a small variety of the buns with shrimp dumplings, pork and vegetarian pot stickers, a variety of mini rice noodle rolls filled with shrimp, beef, BBQ pork, or savory Chinese doughnut (dah lerng), spring rolls, a congee bar as your soup option, finish with small Chinese egg tarts, almond cookies, sweet toasted sesame seed paste rolls (I have no idea what to call them, they're made by adding gelatin to this dessert soup made from toasted sesame seed, letting it set in a long sheet pan, rolled, and cut). I currently can't find it but I have a book full of dim sum items but at least half of these items can be bought premade.
post #9 of 18
Naan bread split and filled with various savories - curries, dhal, chicken schnitzel, salads
Cornish pasties
Meat pies
sausage rolls
Spinach & Feta pastries
Baked potatoes with variety of fillings (need a box for this one)
Roullade sandwiches (slice loaf long-ways, fill and roll, then slice)
Hot dogs
Kebabs - chicken, beef, lamb, onions, tomatoes, prawns, fruit - food on a stick
Rice balls, stuffed with savoury fillings
Crumbed chicken pieces (hot or cold)
Stuffed mushroom caps
Fritters - corn, zucchini, chicken, ham
Meatloaf in pastry, sliced (hot or cold)
Scotch eggs (hot or cold)
Curried eggs
Not exactly cutting edge stuff, and I'm no caterer so I hope you don't mind me posting. But we're just back from a very hectic holiday where we hardly sat down to eat, and these things came to mind.
 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

post #10 of 18
Thank you so much for the clarification and the little dim sum tutorial! I really appreciate it. This site rocks! :cool:
post #11 of 18
Super Ideas....thanks! it's great to bounce ideas off each other....
cooking with all your senses.....
cooking with all your senses.....
post #12 of 18
I agree with Indigo...this site does rock! You inspire me! thanx
post #13 of 18

Bahn Mi Vietnamese Sandwiches

I am not sure about what's up in the rest of the country, but here in NY, Vietnamese sandwiches (Bahn Mi) are all the rage. Imagine the gastronomic positive influence of France on Vietnam. Good, now put it on a crispy baguette. If you are not familiar with them, they come with a wide aray of fillings. Classically, they are pate, ham, mayonaise, butter, cilantro, daikon and carrots pickled in a mixture of rice vinegar, palm sugar, and fish sauce.You can add all sorts of fillings - roast pork, sardines, chicken, tofu, siracha hot sauce, jalapenos. I like mine super spicy.

Swiss Chard and Cotija Cheese Empanadas with Yellow Mole Dipping sauce is a great go to finger food.
post #14 of 18
Thread Starter 
I love Vietnamese sandwiches. When I lived in Toronto you could buy them all over the place for about $1.

Right now, the crews are loving Rueben Rollups: swiss, pastrami, sauerkraut, rolled up in a large flour tortilla and baked. Sliced up and served with fresh Russian dressing, they gobble them up like crazy.
post #15 of 18

Bahn Mi

Yeah, I totally should have had a vietnamese sandwich for lunch today. Oops, too late, maybe tomorrow
post #16 of 18

For research purposes...

Think about a country's cuisine you like or are interested in. Then google it with "street food". Et voila!

Also, people constantly on the road or otherwise working long hours also tend to crave comfort food. So the standard American comfort foods turned into hand-sized portions would go over well too.

- meatloaf, mashed potato and horseradish ketchup sandwich, hehehe
- meatball subs
- pork chop and roasted apple sandwich
- pot pies
- corn dogs (of all the family meals I've ever made in fine dining, these always went the fastest)
- roast beast
- roast chix parts and potato wedges
- seasonal fruit pie
- salad salad salad

And so on.

I also tend to think in terms of alternating comfort with other cuisines, to help keep things interesting on a day to day basis.
post #17 of 18
Thanx for all the tips. I have never had Bahn Mi...hey, I live in the midwest... but I do have a Vietnamese woman who has cooked for me on and off for a few years. Always just prepping my stuff. I have now enlisted her help to teach me her foods and how to cook some great Vietnamese cuisine. She took me to her market and "mall", where she introduced me to so many foods and ingredients that I am not familiar with. We had dim sum at the restaurant there. It's been great! I am so excited to explore this new cuisine. This site has definitely been an inspiration to me, and my clients are loving it!
post #18 of 18
Weird--I'd never heard of these before, but I came across a recipe for Bahn Mi wraps in some food magazine a few days ago (maybe it was the UK magazine called delicious?) and I totally thought about this thread!
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Professional Catering
ChefTalk.com › ChefTalk Cooking Forums › Professional Food Service › Professional Catering › Looking for simple/delicious food ideas to serve crew