Wedding Food Tasting
Chef Celeste Gordon completes the Assiette de Fromages dishes with toppings of mesclun salad. (Photo: Naphtali Junior)

You’ve asked and we’ve answered! Welcome to your weekly column ‘Planning Your Happily Ever After’ with wedding consultant Shikima Hinds.

It’s foodie season and the Jamaica Observer Table Talk Food Awards went off in spectacular style last Thursday. Looking around the venue, watching the artisans at work, got me thinking about catering a wedding and the importance of choosing a good menu and caterer.

Whether you opt for plated service or stations, there are plenty of reasons to carve out some time in your wedding planning process to attend a food tasting. One of the most important details, when it comes to a wedding, is the food. Even if your menu is curated by your dream caterer, attending a food tasting is a decision you won’t regret.

What is a wedding tasting?

A wedding tasting is when you taste the menu items, or proposed menu items, from your potential caterer for your wedding reception. When you attend a food tasting, you can sample the dishes — from the hors d’oeuvres, soups, salads, entrees, to the desserts — which will be served for your event.

The tasting typically takes place weeks or, more often, months before your big day to allow sufficient time for any adjustments or changes to the final menu.

Participating in a wedding tasting session will also allow you to actually see and experience the food that will be served on your wedding day. All caterers cook food differently, so you might want to ensure everything tastes the way you expect and the food tasting will ensure everything is just right, so there are no regrets later.

Who should attend a wedding tasting?

It’s best if the tasters are just the bride and the groom, with maybe one or two trustworthy critics. I usually suggest including the person bearing the cost, in full or in part, especially if it’s a parent. If you plan to bring friends or family, don’t forget to ask the caterer if you can invite them, and how many would be allowed.

Ashebre Modern Caribbean Cuisine executive culinary Artist Oji Jaja adds micro basil to his smoked marlin salad. (Photo: Garfield Robinson)

Benefits of doing a wedding food tasting

1. This is a great chance to make personal connections with the catering vendor.

2. It helps you to narrow down choices and priorities.

3. You’ll get a chance to discuss the presentation of the food, especially if you have been inspired by the latest trends. This will allow you to learn more about how to incorporate some of them into your wedding food presentation.

4. It’s an interactive experience — you can see, feel, touch, and taste.

5. This is a great way to get the groom involved in some of the decisions related to the wedding, and it’s something he will likely enjoy.

Things to know

• While some caterers offer complimentary tastings, most charge you for it. Some caterers offer complimentary tasting if you sign the contract and make a deposit first. The charge is generally because it can end up being very expensive for the vendor. After all, they are purchasing food items and need to recover the costs associated with this.

• Full-size portions are usually served, so you can see and experience the serving size of how the wedding meal will be if you are going with a plated style service.

• Limit your entourage. Many caterers offer tasting sessions for a maximum of four guests. As I’ve previously mentioned with bridal dress shopping, it is not only good food tasting etiquette but it’s also ideal to achieve the best results if you keep the entourage to a minimum. You can easily lose focus with too many people, and this isn’t favourable for either you or your caterer.

• Do not eat a heavy meal prior to your food tasting session, but neither should you starve yourself. You should be hungry enough to enjoy the session, but not too hungry to gobble it down without realising if it is actually as tasty as you’d like.

• Be discrete when you discuss things. There may be things that you want to draw the attention of the other individuals accompanying you at the tasting session. If these are negative things, don’t be loud or overly critical when discussing them. If it’s something that bothers you, discuss it with the caterer, and keep it brief.

• Naturally, most of your questions will be related to the food, and the caterer should be more than willing to answer all the questions you may have about the menu, as well as give recommendations for substitutions if necessary. Your caterer will be happy to discuss the menu and what you are being served; however, it may open discussion for other wedding-related topics. You will also know about how the tables, flatware, glassware, and dinnerware will be set up, and perhaps how the centrepieces may affect service.

• Feel free to let the caterer know if you’d like to make any changes to the dishes; however, as a note, you should be aware that any changes to the menu could increase the pricing. Make sure you double-check with the caterer.

The purpose of the tasting is to make sure you are happy with the food and get even more excited about your wedding!

Shikima Hinds

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