With an array of different cultures and cuisines, Vancouver is a cornucopia of foodies, and if you’re anything like us, this month’s Featured Supplier will get your taste buds salivating.
We recently had the opportunity to partner with Drew’s Catering & Events for an Open House at our office and all the bellies and eyes in the room were impressed. On top of that, the service we received from the team during the planning process was second to none. Quick response times, diligent follow-through and customized offerings are every planner’s dream come true.
Allow us to introduce you to Drew Munro, Executive Chef and Owner of Drew’s Catering & Events. Here’s what he had to say in this month’s Featured Supplier Q&A.
Eventsage (ES): Tell us a bit about your company and what you specialize in.
Drew (DM): We’re a full service event catering company passionate about creating memorable event experiences for our clients. We can handle food, rentals, staffing, liquor service – you name it! We specialize in Pacific Northwest cuisine and style and love working with the bounty of BC’s farmers and foragers.
ES: What inspired you to start the business?
DM: It’s definitely not a traditional “start up story”, that’s for sure! I was a recent graduate from culinary school and began working at various restaurants around the city. After some time I had a friend refer me to a better-paying office job, which I accepted with the intention of saving some money and eventually going to Europe to continue my culinary training. I was totally miserable at that office job and missed the kitchen. Eventually word got around that I was a trained chef and one day a co-worker approached me and asked if he could pay me to prepare him a healthy lunch each day. I agreed and shortly thereafter I started to get more and more requests from my colleagues. After a few weeks, I had a “client” list of 50+ people I was cooking for each day after working my 9-5! It was crazy. I decided to quit the office job and begin working as a personal chef full-time. I had no intention of doing event catering at that time. I wanted to cater private dinners and cook for busy families. Slowly, I started to get requests to cater events like BBQs, weddings, and corporate events. I turned these away in the early days as I was a one-man show and simply not set up to handle them. One day, I just said “yes”! I found a tiny kitchen space in Burnaby shared with 3 other caterers and artisans, and hired my first employee. We catered our first wedding in early 2009 and began to take on corporate business and slowly hire more staff. Eventually, we overtook the tiny kitchen in Burnaby, and then outgrew it, moving to our current facility. Now almost 8 years later, we have a team of 20+ kitchen staff and 50+ in-house event staff. It’s been a crazy journey and I’ve loved every minute of it.
ES: In a city with tons of great caterers to choose from, what sets you apart from others?
DM: Even though we’re a catering company and food is of course our main product, our team focuses on the “experience” of the event before even discussing food or a menu. We ask questions like “What is your vision for this event?” “What are your goals for this meeting or conference?” “How do you envision your guests enjoying food service at your wedding?”
We want to make recommendations that add value to our clients’ events to help them realize whatever their vision and goals are. We want our service to ultimately become a reflection of our clients. That’s how we know we’ve done our job well.
In short, we listen. That’s what sets us apart.
ES: So you’ve recently undergone a rebranding of the company. What was the ultimate goal behind that decision?
DM: Our rebranding was designed to showcase the growth and changes we’ve undergone over the last 8 years. Our previous company name “Drew Cooks” certainly made sense as a one-man show, but now there are many more people than just me cooking, and much more to our business than just preparing food. We felt as though our old branding simply wasn’t conveying how much we could do for our clients, so it was time for a change.
Our shift to “Drew’s Catering & Events” better reflects the hard work of a collective of individuals all committed to providing memorable service from the first email to the final cleanup.
ES: What’s your take on the whole certified humane beef debate that has recently shot into the spotlight?
DM: I feel that any time discussions are happening about more ethical and sustainable food choices, it’s a good thing. In the last 4-5 years we’ve noticed a major shift in the way people think about food sourcing, which is amazing. During the booking process and at events, we’re constantly fielding questions about our ingredient sourcing and the sustainability of our seafood choices which is great, because our chefs are passionate about this and love to share this info.
I do believe that at times there are a few too many “buzz words” floating around when it comes to ingredient sourcing. Companies have become very clever at marketing their products towards this growing client base of people who care about how their food is raised and where it comes from. It’s very easy to get caught up or confused by all the packaging we see at the supermarket today (hormone free, antibiotic free, free-run, free-range, organic, humanely raised, ethically raised, pasture-raised – I could keep going). In our business, our chefs and I actually visit and meet with farms to view their operation, learn, and get as much information as possible about their products so we can inform our clients. We understand most consumers aren’t going to go to that length, but one thing I like to suggest is to simply choose to shop at places that go to those lengths for you. A knowledgeable butcher, produce specialist or cheese monger can help you sort through all the buzz and noise and make the choices that are right for you. That’s their responsibility.
ES: Tell us about the coolest corporate project you’ve ever had the pleasure of working with.
DM: We’ve done so many amazing projects over the years but one that really sticks out is the Warrior Dash Obstacle Race on top of Mt Seymour. We worked with the race group to create a customized menu of “warrior food” (smoked turkey legs, house made sausages, grilled corn on the cob with poblano and honey butter, and more) and then had to execute that ambitious menu for 3500 hungry participants on top of a mountain with no running water, electricity, or kitchen area. It was a true feat of both planning and logistics for us to nail the event and it was a huge accomplishment to see the client so happy with the end result. We still talk about that event!
Now let’s talk about corporate catering…
ES: What are the most important details a planner should share with a caterer for them to put together the best proposal and quote?
DM: In my opinion, the most important thing to share with any catering provider when planning a corporate event is your vision and objective for the event. Every event has a goal or desired outcome, and once your caterer knows that, they can make the best possible recommendations to help you achieve those goals. Whether it’s an open house, a product launch, a grand opening or a staff appreciation party, your caterer is the expert and odds are they’ve handled many of these types events in the past. They know what’s going to work and what isn’t, so trust in their ability. If you feel like the caterer isn’t on the same page as you, find someone who is!
Too often people get caught up in the minutia; guest counts can always be adjusted, start times can always be shifted, but what’s really important is to get on the same page with your goals and vision for what you’re trying to achieve, communicate your approximate budget and then let your caterer make recommendations based on their experience. People often forget, a caterer’s job is to make your life easier – trust them to do that!
ES: What tips do you have for clients who are tired of the same old catering experience? We like to call these people ‘catering trailblazers’.
DM: More and more clients are moving away from traditional catering experiences. People have been to a million buffets and eaten many a slice of vanilla wedding cake. People are wanting menus that reflect their own story, interesting service styles to help their brand stand out, and fun, interactive ways to eat. It’s very exciting to see those requests pouring in. If you’re searching for a caterer to partner with who cares about these things, it should be evident in their website, social media channels and most importantly from their first interaction with you. Trust your instincts and find the trailblazing catering company that speaks to you.
ES: Since we’re heading into corporate BBQ season, let’s get your creative vision on outdoor events.
DM: We absolutely love BBQs, they’re such a great way to celebrate an occasion whether its corporate or private. Many clients are even opting to do BBQ food for their weddings! Our philosophy on BBQ catering is to provide casual elegance. BBQ food doesn’t need to be fancy, it just makes people feel good, especially when it’s made with care and love. When that care and attention to detail with the food combines with amazing service and a beautiful set up, its no surprise to us that BBQ inspired menus have become popular for all types of events.
To wrap up…
ES: What’s next for Drew’s Catering & Events? Are there any culinary trends that you’re setting your sights on?
DM: We’re excited to continue building on our vision to become a company that creates experiences for our clients that go beyond just providing delicious food. We strongly believe here in the idea of being memorable and we have some very exciting new developments in the works we can’t wait to roll out this year. We don’t feel it’s good enough to just have great food and service, we aim to provide a start-to-finish event experience for our clients that both they and their guests will remember – and talk about – well after the event is over!
Interested in becoming a catering trailblazer and using Drew’s Catering & Events for your next corporate function? Book this #sagesupplier now on Eventsage.com and receive a $5 Starbucks Gift Card (offer ends on May 31, 2016).