Plan an Unforgettable Menu for Your Next Event | Jackie Pailthorp | Skillshare

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Plan an Unforgettable Menu for Your Next Event

teacher avatar Jackie Pailthorp, Professional chef and catering owner

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

9 Lessons (23m)
    • 1. Welcome to Menu Planning!

    • 2. Formality and Tone

    • 3. Guest Preferences

    • 4. Seasonality and Weather

    • 5. Introduction to Flavor Profiles

    • 6. The 'Weight' of Food

    • 7. Calling in your Culinary Team

    • 8. The Basics of Quantities and Portion Sizes

    • 9. Summary and Class Project

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About This Class

  • This class walks students through the process of planning a memorable menu for their next dinner party, game day event, birthday party, or another occasion where they will be serving food.
  • A few of the skills students will learn:
    • How to pick food to serve based on your guest preferences, the time of year, and the tone of your event. 
    • How much food to prepare or purchase for your event.
    • How to call upon your culinary resources so you can enjoy your time more with guests.
    • An introduction into food pairing. 
  • The class project allows students to create custom menu for their next real or imaginary event.
  • The class is geared toward any passionate cook or entertainer, who is looking for insight into choosing food for their next event that comes across as sincere and thoughtfully curated. 
  • No prior knowledge into menu planning or food pairing is required!

Meet Your Teacher

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Jackie Pailthorp

Professional chef and catering owner


Hello!  I'm so glad you're here.  I'm Jackie and I own Simmer Down Catering in Portland, Oregon.   I'm excited to be teaching courses in catering and cooking to the Skillshare community. 

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1. Welcome to Menu Planning!: lo there. Skill share community. I'm Jackie and the professional Chef, an owner of Nested Table, a postpartum meal delivery service company. And I have worked for years in restaurants and in catering, and I'm excited to be here today to share with you the essence of many planning. So you can create an unforgettable menu for your next event, whether it's a formal dinner party, casual summer gathering or another type of event, we're going to go over the elements of seasonality, weather, texture and many things that we often just don't think about when it comes to bringing food together so that you can create a menu that's cohesive and well thought out, we're going to start off by going over the elements of texture, flavor, understanding, your event, understanding your guests and we're gonna combine smother things such as the weight of food , weather, seasonality. We're also gonna go over some tips and tricks that I've learned along the way, some things that I've learned from good experiences I've had and mistakes that I've made, and we're gonna go over some great tips that will make your life a little bit easier when it comes to planning your next menu. You don't have to have experience with menu planning, and I'm gonna even venture. And to say that you don't have to consider yourself an experienced cook. I've got a really fun project set up for you at the end of this class where you're gonna be creating your own menu for either real or imaginary event. This project really allows you to get creative while still incorporating some of the elements that we've learned in this class. When you get a chance, Comet in the comments section below what type of event you want to be doing, Is it a baby shower? A formal dinner party holiday event of going away party? Let's get started on that element and then we can see from there where you want to go with your event. I'm so excited to see your projects and to see you grow and learn through this course. We've got a lot to cover here, so let's get started 2. Formality and Tone: Okay, so we're going to dive right in here. One of the first things you need to do when you're planning out your menu that will really give you an overview of the tone of your menu is to think about the desire formality of your event. What I mean by that. Is it a casual summer gathering? You're just having friends over to hang out? Or are you having in adults Onley Dinner party with high end wines? OK, One way to be able to tell the formality of your event, you're not sure is to think about what your guests will be wearing or what they may be bringing to the event. If you have specified that it's a dinner jacket and cocktail attire event, you probably want to serve more high end complex food. But if it's a come as you are type event where you don't specify a dress code, you can generally get away with simpler ingredients. Keep in mind that the same food can actually be dressed up or dressed down, depending on the formality of your event, And one example I love to think of is breakfast and eggs. If it's just a casual get together. You may just be scrambling eggs and happen with toast and bacon and sausage for your guests . But if it's a formal event, you might want to do poached eggs with Bearnaise sauce and hollandaise and Canadian bacon. As Julia Child once said, You don't have to cook complicated masterpieces, just good food with fresh ingredients. 3. Guest Preferences: All right, So now we're gonna be talking about guest preferences when it comes to your event. What type of food do you think your gifts prefer? The more adventurous when it comes to food, or do they prefer to stay closer to home? They're more adventurous than you can go all out and do any kind of menu you want. But if they're a little less adventurous when it comes to food, encourage you to include maybe one or two items that are still little new to them. People often don't realize what they like until they try it. So just because you have a guess, it isn't really very adventurous when it comes to food. Doesn't mean you could incorporate some new fund things on the menu for them. To your guests. Have any allergies or any food of versions? Thes air Obviously important when it comes to planning your menu, important things to keep in mind. One fun thing I like to think of. IHS what is the tone of your event and your How can you incorporate that in with your guests? For example, do you have a guest that is moving and you're hosting a going away. Party for them say that they live in the southern part of the United States, or that's where they're originally from and they're moving to France. Well, you might want your menu to focus around Southern American food, or you might want it to be French food or to highlight some special French pastry that they'll be enjoying in the future. That's a one way to incorporate your guests into your menu. 4. Seasonality and Weather: next, we're gonna talk about seasonality and weather. Now, if you live in the United States, I really recommend checking out this website w w w dot seasonal food guide dot org's. It's a really cool website because you can plug in your state and the time of year, and it will tell you what foods air in season right now for you. If you don't live in the United States or if you live in the US and you want to try another fund technique, I really recommend checking out your local farmers market or a specialty grocery store. They're People generally tend to highlight foods that are in season, and farmers tend to bring foods that are in season to the farmer's markets. People generally prefer cooling foods in warm weather and warming foods in cool weather. Think of warm weather and biting into a crisp, cool watermelon or enjoying a cold lemonade and in cool weather, enjoying a soup or a stew, something that really warms you from the inside out. No, I'm not saying you have to go 100% cooling foods on your menu. If you're serving the food in the summer or vice versa in the winter. But it's a good idea to keep. This is a general concept. If you're not sure what types of foods to include on your menu based on the seasonality and the weather, I really recommend you just take a walk outside. It doesn't have to be a long walk, but while you're out there, think to yourself. What kind of foods would I enjoy eating right now? And this will give you a good indication for whether you want to include more warming foods or more cooling foods on your menu. 5. Introduction to Flavor Profiles: So we're gonna talk about one of my favorite parts of menu creation here, and that is taste. Taste is simply defined as what is perceived by the taste buds in American cuisine. We have for very common taste that many of you may already know which are sweet, sour, bitter and salty. This is what I learned in culinary school from the traditional French cuisine. But we learned also that Mommy is becoming more and more well known as the fifth taste in the United States. Keep in mind that not all cultures recognized thes as the defiant taste. For example, in the Ara Vejic diet, traditional to India, there are actually six common tastes which are sweet, sour, salty, bitter, astringent and pungent. For the sake of time, I'm gonna focus on the taste that we know in modern American cuisine. The five tastes and I'm gonna go over those in more detail for you in the following slides . Something that's really fun is you'll get to see how these tastes play together, and you'll be surprised to learn that some tastes that you traditionally think may not work together actually go really well together. And I'll have some examples for you there, So I'm gonna go into further depth here for you around the five taste that I mentioned earlier, which are saltiness, sweetness, bitterness, sour nous and umami. So salt amplifies flavor. I never did a growing up, but my mom would always put salt on her tomatoes. And now I know why salt really enhances the flavor of things, so also enhances the appetite. Many appetizers or salty they get potato chips and how you just want to eat. More and more salt pairs really well with savory food, but it can also provide an interesting contrast to sweet. Think of salted caramel or chocolate dipped pretzels, both of which are salty and sweet sweetness. Now sweetness doesn't always have to be reserved for dessert. I think in the United States or in Western culture, we often think of desert when we think of sweetness. But in the culinary world, some vegetables or even considered sweet carrots, for example, when you peel them, the internal flesh of the carrot is often described as sweet. Corn can be described as sweet. If you've ever had corn on the cob, you can have a sweet salad dressing for example, if some sugar is placed into it, so sweetness isn't always reserved for desserts. Sweetness can work really well with bitterness, sour nous and saltiness. Think of a sweet and sour beef or chicken. Pears and chocolate is a great example of bitterness and sweetness. Paris and a balsamic vinegar reduction is a great example of sweet and sour nous and pairs of blue cheese is an example of sweet and saltiness, or some people might describe blue cheese as umami, so it would be sweet and new. Mommy Sour nous Now sour nous is often overlooked by beginning cooks, and I want to really recommend that you pull some elements of sour nous into your menu. Sarah Anus is also seen as a flavor enhancer except unlike salt. It adds what we describe as a brightness to food, and it balances out of foods. Taste. Sarah Inness pairs really well with sweet and bitter foods. Bitterness. Now humans are the most sensitive to bitterness, and this, I like to think, is, um, survival mechanism. Back in the Cave man days, bitter foods were often harmful to us. Bitterness balances out sweetness and can really balance out rich food, for example, a bay leaf is considered bitter, and a bay leaf in a stuka really help balance it out. Legs, saltiness. Bitterness enhances the appetite. Some foods that are considered bidder or coffee and chocolate. I hope you're seeing now that you probably are incorporating a lot of these foods naturally into your menu without really thinking about OK. In my incorporating sweetness and saltiness and bitterness here, many foods already encompass these five tastes. Now you mommy is making its way into the Western world. Umami is the Japanese word for taste that often describes Ah, food that savory. Some foods that are described by many are as umami are mushrooms, tomato and asparagus. So again, you don't have to think long and hard about Am I incorporating new mommy into my menu? You may already be doing it naturally. 6. The 'Weight' of Food: next, we're gonna talk about weight. Wait is something that people often don't think about when their menu planning and I don't mean the physical weight of food. Watermelon, for example, can be a pretty heavy fruit to pick up, but it's actually a lighter weight food, meaning When you cut it and you put it on your tongue, it doesn't have a proceed. Heaviness to it. Ah, fruit that has a perceived heavy to witness to it is a banana. You generally want to serve lighter waited foods in the summer and heavier waited foods in the winter, or when it's cool outside wherever you live. So you may want to serve watermelon in the summer and bananas in the winter. Many foods have weights to them, not just fruit. Salad dressing is another example in the summer or when it's warmer outside and the days are longer and it's lighter. You wanna have a lighter weight salad dressing, such as a Citrus vinaigrette, for example. But in the winter or when it's cooler, you may wanna have heavier salad dressing such as, Ah, Caesar salad dressing. This isn't a hard and fast rule for everything that you served and I don't want you to feel confined by these rules, but they're good to keep in mind when you're just thinking of the overall building of your menu. So maybe try to incorporate some foods that have weights a correspond with season and the weather for you. 7. Calling in your Culinary Team: This next lesson really introduces some practicality into your menu creation, I want you to truly consider the ease and the difficulty of the foods that you're putting on your menu and preparing. Keep in mind that it's very rare for a catering company or a restaurant to prepare 100% of what they serve their guests from scratch. I want you to think of your local bakery or specialty shop as your sushi chef or your culinary team that you can call upon to help you outsource some of these items. Keep in mind what you enjoy, cooking or preparing and what you don't enjoy cooking or preparing. For example. I like cooking soups and stews, but I really don't prefer cooking bread. I've baked bread before, but for me it's not something I have a lot of experience with, and I don't consider myself particularly great at it. So if I was serving a group of guests for dinner, I might go and pick up some local bread that I really enjoy from a nearby bakery rather than preparing for myself. I think a lot of people think that when they go to a restaurant that that restaurant has prepared all of that food from scratch or is preparing it all at the time of the guests order. And from my experience, that is far from the truth. Restaurants often spend hours every single day before service even starts preparing for the dinner service by making mass batches of the food so that when an order is made, they can simply pull things out of the refrigerator and reheat them. This isn't the case for all restaurants, but you'd be surprised to see what amount of food has already been prepared. By the time you arrive there and place your order, I want you to also keep this in mind. You really want to be enjoying your event, and I speak from experience where tried to do too much in two little of time for my guests . And then I really lose sight of the experience of just enjoying my guests and enjoying the food and having fun. So I want you to really think about what can you outsource? What can you purchase from a shop that's already pre made, or what can you make ahead of time? I've got some great slides after this that talk about that. So now that you know that you're gonna call in your culinary team to help you execute this event, I want to go over what percentages of your menu You should use that for. I recommend that you keep less than 20% of your menu to food that's challenging or needs to be done the day of I speak from my own personal experience here that you do not want to be slaving away in the kitchen or working all day and then find that it's five minutes tells your guests arrive and you haven't even gotten yourself ready or had a minute to relax. 20 to 30% of your food should be food that needs just minimal manipulation from you that day. Maybe you've got a re toast some bread or reheat some soup that you've already made. 50 to 60% of your food should be food that you're preparing days before or food that you have already bought and is already ready. This really allows you to be able to enjoy your event if you keep these percentages in mind and just know that a large portion of your food can be prepared days before your event and reheated the day off and still tastes Justus Good, if not, sometimes better. Many people swear that some soups and stews actually enhance in flavor if they're allowed a few days to sit. 8. The Basics of Quantities and Portion Sizes: So in this next lesson, we're gonna talk about portion sizes him. So in this next lesson, we're going to talk about portion sizes. Many people are simply lost when it comes to understanding how much food to prepare for their event. I want you to set the tone your event right away on the invitation that you send to your guests. For example, you can specify that it's a cocktail party with appetizers or a wedding reception with a dinner or a four course lunch that will give your guests and understanding, or how much hunger to have when they arrive at your event. And they'll know whether they should save room for that four course dinner or, if they can already go ahead and have a little nibble or snack before they leave so that when they arrive, they can have some appetizers. One really great book that I recommend is Secrets from a Caterer's Kitchen. Find Nicole Aloni. This book, aside from having recipes and talking about event planning and catering in general, has some really great portion size charts. So, for example, say you want to serve Rutan's and you're not sure how many crew thons to prepare for 10 people. It will tell you how many crew thons repair for your guests based on 10 gets 25 guests. Whether you're having a buffet or sit down, dinner has some really great information there about that. Personally, I like to have leftovers so that I don't have to cook the next day, so I generally cook a little bit more than I would Or just my guess. Think about the average eater that you're having at your event. How much would they eat and multiply that by the number of guests and then add in a few more portions to cover, Say someone comes a little hungry of that day. It just helps give you peace of mind, knowing that you have enough food for everyone, but you don't need to over prepare unless you want to have leftovers yourself. 9. Summary and Class Project: I've really enjoyed teaching this class, and I'd love to see her projects. So when you get a chance, download my project sheet and create your own menu. This could be based on a riel or an imaginary event. It can be your Childs birthday party. Or you could have the Queen of England over for dinner. Doesn't matter. Just pick an event and then create a menu based on the time of year before malady and tone the preferences of your guests in the event type that we're having. Keep in mind the taste elements that we talked about and the weight elements that we talked about. I can't wait to see your projects. So go ahead and get started below. Thank you for watching my video, and I hope to see you again soon.