{Showy} Food Presentation

I have been looking forward to writing this post, because it’s the subject that I know most about and have the most professional experience with.  I love reading about it, experimenting with it, watching it come together like art work with all it’s many colors, flavors, textures and glory….and of course, enjoying it.  I have worked in the catering industry for more than half of my life, and I have seen a lot (a LOT) of things, and although you sometimes hear from people that people don’t often remember the food, (take it from me) they remember the food…especially if it’s not good.  I was raised in a family that enjoys the communal and social aspects of eating; mostly simple foods done well.   Which, no doubt, explains my preference for family style service.  It always brings back memories of my childhood, but also creates this wonderful feeling of intimacy, love, warmth and security.  It feels like being at home, and that level of comfort in a new environment is soothing, inviting and pleasurable.  I am also a big proponent of thinking carefully about guest comfort when it comes to food service, and I’m completely crazy about coming up with creative ways to display food.  Well presented food sells it, which we absolutely want!  There is nothing worse than knowing you’ve spent half of your budget on catering only to have lots of waste.

Food presentation is something that many people don’t consider talking with their caterer about, but it’s an important question to ask-before booking them.  You don’t want to find out half way through the planning, or worse, on the day of your event that your caterer uses chafing dishes for every food item, or unattractive plastic service ware and passing trays.  Ask to see examples of food displays.  If you don’t like what they provide, ask if platters can be rented from a local company or if you can provide specific props or display items you may want to incorporate.  Keep in mind that this and many of the ideas presented below may cost additional on your catering bill-make sure to ask.

Here’s some examples of what we did for a recent wedding at Broadturn Farm, working closely with Jennifer Banis at 111 Maine.  A big thank you to Sharyn Peavey for sharing these images with us.


A hot, summery day outdoors needs plenty of shade for food and beverage, obviously!  These market umbrellas worked great, on either side of these gorgeous farmer’s tables.  One table would contain various soft and hard cheeses, aioli based dips and blanched vegetables (best enjoyed crisp and cool), and the other would display a raw bar-full sun not an option!  Always have a plan A and plan B in place if you’re planning an outdoor event for food as well as the ceremony.


Food signs are an important element too!  With the number of dietary sensitivities out there, it’s more than just a kind gesture-it’s a necessity.  What’s truly thoughtful (and gives back to our community) is to ask your caterer which local farm or purveyor they have acquired the food item from, and list that as well.  You can truly raise the bar with even casual signs such as this one, or having beautiful card stock embellished by a local calligrapher.  To continue a theme established by your stationer, ask if they offer this service when you order your invitations.


Although this image doesn’t give you the full effect (showing the food) it’s a clear indication of how quickly the food went when the picture was taken!  We carefully covered the wood table with sheets of plastic and covered it with fabric we used throughout the wedding displays.  We used three old dresser drawers and lined them with plastic bags which were filled with ice.  Wire baskets contained clam shells, and on top of the ice sat oysters on the half shell.  We added bowls of lemon wedges and caviar.  The iron shelves that mirrored one another housed shot glasses of jumbo shrimp, lemon slices and cocktail sauce.  This presentation not only provided height and visual appeal, it made service easy for guests to grab and provided a vessel for the tails.

The Bride and her Italian family had sincere love and appreciation for fabulous food and drink.  Her father and uncle are major contributors in the fishing industry throughout New England, and because of the location, the farm grown potted herb centerpieces and the rustic design aesthetic, we decided to create a design centered around cooking for the cheese display.  We brought in some vintage cookbooks I had collected over the years and scouted a few that added color and whimsy.  By the way, ‘She Cooks To Conquer’ is a great read before you tie the knot, ladies!


We brought in some copper pots and pans that were strategically placed, and some we strung with jute rope and hung from the umbrella-it looked great!


A large white utensil holder crock held wooden spoons, rolling pins and other kitchen necessities, and baby birch trees added just the right height and color.



Mixed in with more herb plants, cutting boards, olive branches and oil cruets with baskets of crusty bread…this table is just waiting for some cheese, fruit and veggies!


Tune in for examples of dessert displays…this wedding couple knows how to do dessert right!



Published by Paula Cano

I am a passionate mother, a grateful and loving wife, an appreciative daughter, a stupendously lucky granddaughter, a very proud sister, a fortunate friend and a constant desire to live creatively, be inspired and share the love. I am also the owner and Creative Director of an event planning and prop rental business, A Family Affair of Maine. Here I aspire to share my professional experience as a party producer, host, designer, coordinator, promoter, craftsman, chef, Mom and partner in crime, not in that specific order.

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