Well… I’m officially starving after looking at the photos Forklift Catering sent our way for this blog post, but since I’m still on this seemingly never ending Whole30, I guess I’ll just dream about eating something delicious instead of actually doing it.
ANYWAY – let’s talk wedding catering! First of all: if you know me, you know I. Love. Food. I love cooking it, I love eating it, I love reading about it, I love trying new restaurants and dishes, I love dreaming about going to Italy for a couple weeks to take cooking classes, drink wine, and eat obscene amounts of pasta… you get the picture. (Now you also know why I have to do the Whole30 a few times a year.) With that being said, I believe that food is a super important part of a wedding day. It doesn’t have to be fancy (we’ve thrown a wedding with a pig roast and plastic silverware, and it was awesome), but it does need to be good. More importantly, it needs to represent the bride and groom’s tastes and entertaining style. There are a hundred ways couples can go with wedding food, and I’m pumped that they’re getting super creative with what they want to serve, and that many caterers are following suit and thinking outside the box, creating custom dishes and menus, and delivering an unforgettable experience for couples and their guests.
One of the caterers who’s doing this best is Forklift Catering. These people eat, sleep, and breathe sustainable, inventive, and delicious food. If it could come out of their pores, it would. Their passion for what they’re doing is so refreshing, so inspirational, and it comes through so clearly in their food. It. Is. Outstanding.
We were lucky enough to work with Kristen, Dennis, and the team at Forklift for one of our 2015 weddings, and let me tell you, these people absolutely threw down the entire time we were working together, but especially on the wedding day. When our Canadian groom wanted to treat guests to late-night poutine, though they’d never made or served it before, Forklift created, tested, and refined their recipe and the Canadians were hailing the poutine as some of the best they’d had. We also worked together to create a first course that included four different bites of food, each of which was significant to the couple – the bride’s mother’s famous corn casserole, their favorite dish from their favorite Boston restaurant, a mini lobster roll representing Maine, where they met and fell in love, and a tomato mozzarella salad, a staple of the groom’s summer dining at his cottage in Canada. Needless to say, this concept was a huge hit, and it played a big part in helping us to achieve what we always strive for – to have the couple’s guests know them better when they leave the wedding than they did when they came.
Last little nugget of info before we get into pricing stuff: I was legitimately trying to recreate the meal they served to my vegetarian intern for weeks after this wedding. Yes, you just heard me correctly – the vegetarian meal. If that doesn’t speak to the deliciousness of what they’re putting out, I don’t know what does!
Tell me a little bit about Forklift!
Forklift Catering specializes in customized menus designed to complement your event! Our goal is to feature items that you’ll love and fondly remember as part of your wedding. Our mission is strongly rooted in sustainability; we strive to use locally sourced products whenever possible. In season, we walk down to the Union Square Farmers Market to pick up our event produce – fresh ingredients are our bread and butter. We always make sure to pickle and preserve product during peak season so we can share these delicious flavors with our clients year round!
What made you want to become a caterer?
The team at Forklift is composed of Chefs and Event Coordinators brought together by a love for high-end service paired with delicious, beautifully presented, sustainably produced food. Working in catering means every day is different and we all get to be creative in our own ways.
What types of weddings do you love to work on/what types of clients do you love to work with?
We love clients who love good food! When a couple introduces us to foods that they want to feature it gives us the opportunity to really play and see how we can make it center-stage ready (Hello late night poutine! Yum!).
A lot of thought and care goes into our food. Knowing that our guests can see and taste the difference makes our day!
What’s your all-time favorite dish from Forklift?
It’s too hard to choose just one! Any opportunity to make the menu special for the couple makes it more fun. (See Tory and Joe’s first course photo below.) I love passed hors d’oeuvre because it allows for creative tastes and presentations; it’s an opportunity to showcase each couple’s personality. It’s also a chance for guests to try new foods that seem more approachable in small bites.
If we’re talking about what I personally like to eat, I’m currently obsessed with our smoked duck and anything pickled, but I’m looking forward to the heart of our local season when it’s all about fresh tomatoes and corn!
Cyndi Stevens for Hitched Studios
Take me through everything that goes into delivering your amazing wedding food, from initial contact with the client until the event is over?
We aim to start planning every wedding menu with a conversation. Whether it’s on the phone or in person, so much information comes out during this first contact! We want to hear about the flow of the day, the couple’s priorities, what and where they love to eat, anything they dislike, and, of course, any dietary restrictions they have so they can eat everything served at their wedding! Whenever possible, we like to write the menu up right away since that’s when the ideas are fresh. The menus are customized to create a unique dining experience for the couple and their guests. From there we go through a review process with our team, taking care to go over any special menu requests or restrictions with the kitchen.
After the review process, we send the proposal off to the client, making sure to highlight anything we think will really knock their wedding out of the park! Then we wait. We love receiving feedback from our clients. Our job is to take that feedback to the initial menu and help make sure the selection is balanced – different presentations, options for an array of tastes, etc.
If the couple is interested in doing something imaginative, the second revision is typically when we iterate these ideas. Sometimes couples have special items they want featured that aren’t inherently cater-friendly, so we chat about how we can make a version that will work. For the custom first course we did for or wedding with The Little Things, we took a list of favorite foods from the couple and made recommendations as to what selection would be visually interesting and best for catering. It took a few calls back and forth, plus testing new recipes, but in the end I don’t know who loved it more – us or the couple!
Once the couple is happy with the proposal and ready to move forward, we go to contract. This can happen as early as before the proposal to after a few months of revisions. The contract allows us to officially book the date for the client and start securing staff.
For all weddings, we make sure to do a walk-thru of the space with the couple. This gets us all on the same page about the flow of and vision for the event. We may also visit the rental showroom together and work on the design for the tables. We’ll reserve the china, flatware, glassware and any other needs for the wedding day. We also coordinate the delivery and pickup of the rentals so your day can be stress free!
Some couples opt to do a tasting. This is a chance for the couple to confirm that our vision for the wedding menu matches theirs. We discuss palate adjustments and presentations to make sure it’s just right! We present the food in the same format it will be for the wedding day – passed, buffet, family style and/or plated.
About a month out, we like to get an update on where numbers are so we can update staffing and rentals if necessary. Two to three weeks out we get the final numbers so we can set orders and get everything ready. We review the entire event together to make sure all of the details are covered. This information then goes into our Master Planning Folder used by the on-site management team.
Take me through a typical wedding day for Forklift from start to finish.
Our core operations team meets with the Head Chef and Manager at our shop to review the Master Planning Folder, this includes a breakdown of all the event details along with a separate menu breakdown and any specialty items. From there, they start packing the job. This involves making sure all of the food, beverage, garnish, platters, and any specialty items are safely stored and loaded into our vans. When everything’s ready to go, they head to the job!
The staff arrives on-site no less than two hours before the first guest arrives, usually more for bigger weddings. Once everything is on-site, the front of house staff gets to work setting tables, folding napkins, and arranging bars. The back of house staff gets started on cocktail food while also laying out first course plates and making sure that everything was received as expected from the rental company.
Before guests arrive, the whole team comes together for staff meal. This gives our manager an opportunity to review the event with everyone – go over assignments, any dietary restrictions and additional special details. Staff meal food is different from what is served to guests, but still features delicious items made in-house by our Chefs. Events are typically over a mealtime and we think it’s important for our staff to go into your event well fed and happy. (Happy staff = happy guests!)
Once guests arrive, we put all of that planning and set-up into action. The needs of an event often change as the party progresses, so the details and priorities outlined to the staff gives them the ability to successfully make adjustments on the fly that we know you’ll love. The number of things that are happening concurrently in the back of house while guests are partying is amazing! Months of planning and communicating combined with a little “go with the flow” makes for a smooth event.
Once it’s all said and done, the van comes back and the team loads it all back in. The Manager and Head Chef then drive the van back to the shop and unload any perishable product to the walk-in – extra bar fruit, food for donations, untouched garnishes, etc. Luckily we have a fantastic team who comes in and unloads the rest of it the next morning, allowing our hard working Manager and Chef to head home and get off their feet! They’re often 12+ hour days on the go!
What sets Forklift apart from other wedding caterers?
Forklift’s sustainability mission sets us apart from other green caterers. We highlight local products whenever possible and we also make sure to partner with likeminded companies. We encourage sustainable actions within our own company – double-siding print outs, minimizing print marketing, using eco-friendly cleaning products, etc. Our sustainability mission extends to supporting our local community through food donations and providing our staff with living wages. Being a sustainably responsible company is the foundation on which all of our events are built. Catering is often thought of as a wasteful business; we’re working to change that image.
Additionally, what sets Forklift apart from other wedding caterers is a shared love of food and service that starts with the initial menu development and extends through the event execution. Our events coordinators work closely with our couples, offering additional consulting regarding venues, vendors and the overall set-up of the event. Each menu is thoughtfully designed and then crafted by our talented chefs with the best food. The whole team puts a lot of heart into making sure each menu is both beautifully presented and delicious — this is the difference you can see and taste!
I always tell my clients to select two or three main priorities for their wedding and focus their resources on those items. If a couple is prioritizing food and wants their guests to experience an incredible meal and unforgettable cocktail hour, how much should they plan to spend on catering?
An incredible meal and unforgettable cocktail hour doesn’t have to mean the most expensive food, just your favorites! Most of our wedding menus start around $65 per person. Inclusive of menu, labor, and rentals they usually end up between $150-200 per person, but it depends a lot on the set-up and needs of your event.
What are some ways couples who are on a strict budget can still give their guests awesome food and beverages?
We encourage couples to communicate and be up-front about their budgets. We want you to have the best value, and there are lots of different ways to approach that. Our goal is to work with you to craft your dream event. We want to learn what your priorities are for the wedding menu and help you achieve them. We can take that information and make recommendations as to how to save in other places. If lobster or lamb is the thing that will MAKE your wedding, we want to help you figure out how to make that happen. We have tricks up our sleeves and if you give us a call we’ll share them with you!