From stand-up buffets and eclectic hors d’oeuvres to elegant seated dining, catered events tend to follow trends.

And, for everything from corporate events to wedding receptions, the trend is simple, yet sophisticated. Fresh and healthy.

“There’s definitely a trend for what I call ‘urban chic,’” says Elegant Fare marketing guru Nigel Chalkley.
 
“The business tends to follow the trends of the top restaurants, and that’s what’s popular now. Everyone’s looking for that simpler, healthy, yet sophisticated fare.

“Overly elegant or extravagant? That’s out at the moment, especially for our corporate clients.”

Far From Basic

But simpler doesn’t necessarily mean “basic” — from spicy chicken samosa wontons, to smoked salmon salads and pan-seared beef tournedo, the menu options are far from basic, Chalkley says.

“It’s about sophisticated tastes, not expense and extravagance,” he adds.

Catering consultants work with the client to customize the menu with options ranging from salmon tartar spoon hors d’oeuvres to a cucumber cup with wasabi lime crab salad. Flank steak roulade with sun dried tomato tapenade? Roasted zucchini with herbs de Provence? So many choices.

It’s also about presentation. Casual seated meals are popular with both the wedding and corporate crowds, but that doesn’t eliminate the need for a little elegance in the table setting, or the presentation of the food.

Founded in 1981 by Anne Lisbon, Cincinnati-based Elegant Fare has grown from offering home-delivered gourmet individual meals to one of the area’s largest caterers, with a clientele list that includes Procter & Gamble, American Financial and celebrities.

Right now the company is gearing up for its largest event of the year — the Western & Southern Financial Masters and Women’s Open tennis tournaments in Mason.

Handling the tournaments’ hospitality suites, press food and concessions, they’ll feed more than 200,000 people over the span of two weeks in August. It will take a virtual army to do it, too. Elegant Fare employs several hundred staffers to prepare and serve food at the event.

The range of foods will run from lobster and steak dinners to healthy fare (chicken and carb-boosting pastas and potatoes) specially requested by athletes to be served in their suites.

“It’s a very big deal,” says Chef Tsvika “Vik” Silberberg. “It’s something we work on year-round. As soon as this year’s tournament ends, we’ll start planning for next year.”

While they are preparing for yet another August onslaught, Elegant Fare continues to be a special part of Cincinnati’s private affairs throughout the year. The weddings, Chalkley says, are the most fun because they’ll be remembered long after the wedding day. “For most people, it’s the only large event that they’ll ever host in their lifetime. It’s very important to them, so we have to get it right,” he explains.

Paris-Trained Chef

To ensure the food is memorable, Elegant Fare relies on the award-winning talents of Silberberg. Paris-trained, he’s worked with famous chefs such as Georges Blanc and Regis Marcon in restaurants from St. Tropez and Cannes. Formerly the executive chef at the Celestial, he joined the Elegant Fare team four years ago.

“We’re very fortunate to have (Silberberg). It’s not easy to translate, going from 30-40 seat restaurants where you do wonderful dishes to 500 or 1,000-people events, and keeping it at a five-star level. He does that wonderfully, says Chalkley.

 “Even last year, everyone was hesitant to spend money, but I think we’ve come all the way back this year. Brides, especially, are planning to spend like they were before the economy slowed.

“They’re getting back to elegant events, with great food.”