COCONUT GROVE – One of the first steps in planning a wedding or other special event is determining the theme. And, according to Bill Hansen, one of South Florida’s leading event planners, that initial step usually centers around the menu.
As CEO and founder of Bill Hansen Luxury Catering & Event Production (www.BillHansenCatering.com), he’s pretty much seen it all as his staff of creative planners and chefs have guided clients through many of the most elaborate events in the area.
With more than 100 exclusive venues spanning from Palm Beach to Dade and Monroe counties, Hansen is able to match locations with the client’s theme, whether it’s in a retro warehouse, an art museum, or an ancient monastery.
“We have become very good at listening to our clients,” he said. “Once we understand the feeling they want to convey to guests we go to work, devising a plan that involves recommending the perfect venue and then devising a menu that matches.”
Hansen added that the venue frequently will influence the menu and the style of serving.
“For example, a garden event may be more appropriate for a more casual menu,” said Hansen. “Likewise, an evening event may call for a more formal type of dinner with ‘white glove’ servers.”
The key with working with this 35-year-old firm is that they will meet all needs and will implement an event that has the appropriate theme with the finest foods.
“Once we understand the ‘feel’ they want then we move on to the venue and the menu,” said Hansen. “All of the decisions are related, resulting in a seamless, perfectly orchestrated event.”
The options for food often includes a buffet, formal sit-down dinner, or passing hors d’oeuvres with food stations.
“In all cases, we recommend a food-tasting session,” said Hansen. “This basically involves us providing a presentation of some of the foods to be served once the theme of the event is determined.”
Regardless of the menu, clients should consider the following, according to Hansen:
Buffet: This should be a full meal with several choices of entrees, salads, etc. Keep in mind that you should be able to fit what constitutes a full meal on one plate. While this can be a formal presentation, it does lend itself to mingling and a more social ambiance. Sometimes, a pre-set salad course prior to opening the buffet works well, keeping the hot food separate from the salad course.
Passing Hors d’oeuvres with Food Stations: This may be appropriate for an afternoon or early evening event. It encourages mingling and an “eat-on-the-go” style of dining. Typically, there are numerous stations that can feature a wide range of foods (meat, sushi, salads, soups, etc.). There are also servers available. Tables and ample seating is recommended, Smaller plates are recommended for easy carrying and to encourage returns to the food stations. Some brides opt for seating for only 2/3 or so of the guests, with no assigned seating in order to keep their guests mingling. This option also combines some lounge furniture like sofas, chairs, high boys, etc.
Formal sit-down: The possibilities are endless, but usually involve up to 5 courses with several choices of entrees, wines, etc. This style will usually influence more formal attire, including suits, black-tie, gowns.
“Food and venue definitely influence the entire event,” added Hansen. “For example, a Cajun or barbecue menu indicates a less formal environment, probably in the afternoon or early evening. A sit down dinner later in the evening certainly calls for a more formal event.”
Premier chefs on Hansen’s staff can create any kind of menu that matches those of five-star restaurants.
“We pride ourselves on providing all types of ethnic and American cuisines,” said Hansen. “Our affiliation with one of the finest Kosher caterers in South Florida has also resulted in many opportunities with Orthodox and Conservative Jewish clients.”
Based out of the historic Villa Woodbine historic mansion in Coconut Grove, Hansen and his team of executive chefs and planners consistently deliver on its promise of creating “one-of-a-kind” experiences that eliminate the stress during the preparation and the day of the event.
“We have become the ‘go-to’ caterers and event planners for people seeking non-traditional venues,” said Hansen. “Many people want something unique as opposed to a hotel or a country club. We pride ourselves on offering our clients the most diverse selection of venues in South Florida.
In addition to Villa Woodbine and Vizcaya, Hansen offers other venues including the The Kampong, Fairchild Tropical Garden, Park Place, Palm Court, the DuPont Building, The Moore Building, The Cruz Building, The Charles Deering Estate, 1111 Lincoln Road, The Gallery of Amazing Things, The Versace Mansion, The Rubell Family Collection, The Ice Palace, The Walton House, The Ancient Spanish Monastery, The Bonnet House, The Needham Estate, to name a few. He caterers at over 100 venues throughout South Florida.
There is no detail too small for Hansen and his staff.
“We offer all types of cuisine with a catering staff that rivals any 5-star restaurant in the area,” said Hansen. “Our chefs provide all types of ethnic cuisines and Kosher menus, to name a few. There isn’t a menu we cannot provide to our clients.”