Vendor Highlight | Chowgirls Killer Catering
When it comes to wedding planning, your food and drink will be the most expensive piece of your budget. (#truth) Make sure you are spending it on a company who not only provides the tastiest meals with the freshest ingredients set to any style or size of party but also provides an experience from start to finish that is specifically catered to YOU. This company right here does it all, plus some.
Drool over their food photos and see what they have to say when it comes to the changes they are seeing in the catering business and learn about every single thing they can do to take care of you on your wedding day.
Tell us a little bit about Chowgirls and how it came to be.
Chowgirls began over 14 years ago, just shortly after we met. We’d both recently gotten married, and had noticed a glut in creative, well-marketed, and, mainly, organic, clean catering here in the Twin Cities. We both had professional backgrounds in marketing, not food, but really loved entertaining for crowds, and, frankly, were good cooks. We were looking for second careers, maybe without even knowing it, and realized we’d each met the right person to push forward our dreams of a place in the culinary scene here. Neither of us wanted to start from scratch—we were already in our ‘30’s and were, in our minds, already too old to be working the line in someone else’s kitchen. Neither of us wanted to take the risk involved with starting a restaurant, nor were we prepared to come up with the overhead; but catering, with its fairly low-risk start-up costs (you take a deposit, buy the ingredients, make the food, serve the food, take the second payment, put some cash away, and move on) seemed like a great place for us. We brainstormed, chose a name and a logo, and within a couple of weeks had a live website. Then we had a big party, declaring ourselves professional caterers (it seemed crazy!) and the rest is history.
What is the Chowgirls mission or focus when it comes to food?
As one of the Twin Cities’ first sustainable catering companies, our commitment to good, clean, food is more important to us than ever, now that we’re heading into our 15th year. While we’ve been “green from the get-go,” the industry has adapted to a point where such trends are the norm, rather than the exception to rule. Sticking to our guns means an ever-expanding dedication to locally-sourced ingredients and partnerships with farms, ranchers, and local makers. We try write recipes, create menus, and prepare food that’s unpretentious, approachable, and comforting, all the while staying one step ahead of industry trends.
Food tends to be the most expensive piece of any events, how do you work with clients on their budget, along with educating them on the cost of everything?
We try to break down costs with clients in terms where their priorities lie and in terms of what they want their guest to remember most. So, if food is the thing that is most important and the meal is where they want their guests to create memories, then focusing the budget and creativity on the meal is valuable. Once we’ve come to the conclusion that the meal time is important and that budget can be focused there, we may break down food costs by plate, or in terms of “per person” and emphasize that we work with many small vendors to get good whole food and that we pour love and creativity into to bring dishes like no one else.
What should a client need to know before booking with you? Is there anything they should bring/have figured out before making choices about their event?
It is most fun and productive when a client comes with ideas and stories that they want to see come together at their event. Because of the creativity, experience and attitude of our team we can make anything happen. An event really becomes something more when the guests have a chance to experience a part of the couple’s, or hosts, story through the food. Bringing in pieces like food that is always served at their home, or where they first met are good places to bring in some of those creative additions.
What are some trends you are seeing this year with food in the event world?
Healthier meals are on the rise—aside from food allergies, there is a general trend toward foods with a low glycemic index. Clients are trading in mashed potatoes for grain salads and regular lettuce and greens for kale.
Food trucks are still a major player in casual wedding fare. We collaborate with trucks to provide late-night snacks, or even to supplement the food stations we’ve created.
Folks of all generations and demographics love the experience of learning how to cook what they’re eating. We published a cookbook in 2016 and have had a really great time getting out and teaching clients and their friends to prepare appetizers and cocktails in an engaging party atmosphere.
What is the spectrum of services ChowGirls has to offer their clients?
Well, bar and food-service wise just about anything except wedding cakes and food trucks! We can serve food for crowds from 10 to 10,000 (probably literally!) in any service style, can set up a full-liquor, full-service bar anywhere in the state of Minnesota, can provide you with a full array of sexy table and glass-ware, bring a commercial cotton candy or popcorn maker for added fun, customize signature cocktails, recreate a family recipe, or put your company logo onto some fancy little desserts. We recently moved into an 11,000 square foot facility with a giant kitchen, so, culinary-wise, the sky’s the limit.
We do so much more than just food and bar for nearly all of our full-service clients; our solid team of event specialists is really skilled at building parties, meetings, etc. from the ground up.
With our own exclusive venue, Solar Arts by Chowgirls, and partnerships with over 70 others, we love it when we have the chance to collaborate with folks from the get-go to find the right space. We’ve got a LOT of friends in the industry and a rolodex full of insanely talented event professionals from linen and equipment rental, to A/V, floral, live music, whatever. We can either hook our clients up directly with the right professionals or coordinate these details on our end; we love being in an position to support other small businesses here in the Twin Cities.
Any suggestions to couples on how to accommodate with the ever growing food allergy/preference request when it comes to serving a large group of people?
Start this discussion as early as you can. We inquire about these needs upon first contact with any potential wedding client—on the website’s inquiry form. Ask around-get a good idea of your guests’ needs before finalizing your menu; this can guide you in the right direction when selecting what fare is right for the event. For instance, if you have an uncanny number of gluten-free eaters, opt for a potato-based side dish versus pasta. If a lot of vegetarians will be in attendance, choose your veggie options carefully—and definitely make sure there are enough of them. We take food allergies very seriously and have great systems in place to make sure wedding guests are safe.
What is the ultimate Chowgirls experience?
I like to think it starts with a warm welcome from one of our incredibly dedicated event specialists, who then work with the client to create a menu that represents the couple really well. We love seeing happy couples, sometimes joined by their families and sometimes with wine--in our cozy tasting room, picking the just-right dishes for their big day. From tasting to wedding day, our event specialists do their best to keep up with the details, not just of the food but timelines, other vendors, etc. we solicit feedback after every event, and nothing feels better than being told that the food was even better than expected and that our staff was insanely kind and generous!
What other important information should potential clients know when it comes to working with you and booking you?
Well, we HAVE won Minnesota Bride’s Best of Weddings award for 11 years in a row…and we haven’t rested on our laurels, either! If we seem like a ‘boutique caterer,’ that because we truly are. Despite our growth as a company over the past 10 years, our dedication to great experiences has only become more passionate. We’re a big, small catering company with the resources to pull off nearly anything, but the customer service standards of someone just getting started and eager to impress. Lastly, if food is important to you, spend the extra money for REAL food that’s handcrafted by people who care. We are those people, and we love it when couples and their families feel not only well-fed, but nurtured.
Where To Find Chowgirls