It’s fun to think about what has changed in food trends in the 20 years since I opened my company.
When I started, menus were simpler. There were very few special requests and the food itself was very basic too. Lunch was deli sandwiches on sliced bread with potato salad, a brownie, and soda, and cost $5-6 per person. Today that lunch includes wraps as well as sandwiches, and little or no red meat. It is high protein and low carb, at least 25 percent of the entrees are vegetarian, and it features gluten-free items as well. It’s accompanied by caprese pasta salad and a mixed greens salad with goat cheese, and to drink, bottled water of course, for $10-15 per guest. I could never have imagined selling water to guests 20 years ago. Now we sell more water than any other beverage.
Twenty years ago there was very little international flair, while today our menus often feature Mexican, Mediterranean, and Asian items side by side. There were very few requests for organic, locally grown, or antibiotic-free ingredients—today the majority of our clients want to know about these options.
Today our clients are very sensitive to dietary restrictions. Our menus feature foods from around the world, and we include vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free items on every menu we create. No peanuts, no dairy, no problem.
Chefs used to be behind the scenes. Today we host a few cooking classes every month, and we have top chef competitions and corporate team-building events. Being a chef is glamorous and exciting—everyone watches the Food Channel, and culinary schools are filled with kids who want to be famous TV chefs.
Today people ask where their food came from, and how their paper plates were made and if they can be recycled after the event. Organic food used to be kind of weird. Now we all shop at Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. International foods used to be for special nights out and theme parties; now everyone cooks Mediterranean foods at home. Cupcakes were a treat your mom baked and sent to school for your birthday; now gourmet cupcakes cost $50 a dozen. Macaroni and cheese was a go-to family dinner on a busy school night. Now it is dressed up with lobster and sold out of a food truck on a street corner.
Catering is more challenging today with the increased knowledge and awareness around so many food issues, but that same knowledge has also made it a lot more fun and creative. Great service and attention to detail is expected and appreciated more than ever.
I’m looking forward to seeing what we will be serving in 2025!
Andrea Herrera ’85 is the owner of Amazing Edibles, a full-service catering company in Chicago.