New York MetroWeddings would like to Introduce chef Andrew Pantano from the fabulous catering company "Culinary Creations."
NYMW: Tell us a bit about yourself and how you got started.
AP: I got started at 15 as a Garde Manger (Salads, Appetizers & Desserts) in a well respected restaurant 'Ryland Inn'. With the help of my brother (then the banquet & catering Manager). To this day I work closely with the Executive Chef at that time. Young, Eager and enjoying the NIGHT LIFE that seems to come with the business, I applied to the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, after 13 restaurants and 10 years in the business, I decided to do things my way.
NYMW: When did you first open Culinary Creations for business?
AP: I starting developing the idea 11 months prior to opening Oct. 1995.
NYMW: You really cover a lot of ground between the restaurant, cooking classes and catering. What do find to be the most challenging aspect of what you do?
AP: The most Challenging part of what we do is finding people to employee who are as energetic, excited and fascinated as we are, in what we do. The second most challenging part is also one of the most fun & interesting parts of what we do, and that is Catering in areas most people would have never thought was possible.
NYMW: It's fascinating to us that you can coordinate so many different types of cuisine as an off-premises caterer. Most of us have a hard enough time just getting dinner on the table! Could you tell us a bit about how the scheduling is handled, so that the courses are properly presented and served in a timely manor.
AP: First rule of thumb: We can not live by schedules! A couple that comes in with a list of what time they want things to happen at their wedding, is always surprised at my rule of thumb. Expect the unexpected, which is not a bad thing, it just means do not be upset when your (second by second) schedule didn't pan out.
MISE EN PLACE is a phrase from the French meaning (Having everything you need readily available).This is a phrase that you would hear from me quite a few times at a function (Being the Frenchman that I am...Pantano). Creating a Menu that is easily executed is also one of the biggest keys in serving guests in a timely manor.
Our Captains and our Chefs working together, are the people that get that job done perfectly. I do have a rule on how much time I will allow from first person served to last. I want everyone eating at the same time. Nothing angers me more than when I go to a Wedding, and by the time dinner is served, they are clearing the people who are already done, because it took them so long to serve everyone.
NYMW: How many guests do you usually accommodate at an average size wedding?
AP: Average size Weddings are from 200-250 people, this is a perfect size wedding to me. Trust me, I do love the 2,000 person weddings, but so much more attention to detail can go into the smaller 250 persons and below weddings.
NYMW: What do you find to be the most important difference between catering a wedding and catering a corporate event?
AP: We interact more with Weddings than with Corporate Functions. There is more of a personal feel with brides that feel close enough to you, to kiss you after their wedding, and call you to go out to dinner when they return from their honeymoon, to show you pictures. Before you know it you are doing their child's Baptism, communion, and watching the family grow.
Corporate affairs you do your job without being seen or heard. We do have some corporate clients that call us THEIR caterer, which is the kind of thing we like to hear. Most other corporate events are just for us to drop-off and set-up a luncheon in a meeting room, then leave.
NYMW: Do you generally offer menu suggestions, or do you take the lead from your clients?
AP: All of our packages and menus are SUGGESTED, as they say in the headings, we love nothing more than to customize a menu, or a package to our clients exact specifications, with our guidance. We are NOT a (choose from category A and category B) type of Caterer.
NYMW: What is your Culinary specialty?
AP: Diversity, This is the Word that describes our specialty. To be diversified in All Ethnic Cuisines. We enjoy being able to be creative and different. If you classify yourself in a type of specialty, you close a lot of doors.
NYMW: How has the business grown in the past few years and what is your vision for the future?
AP: Our clientele has determined our growth, and the direction it is growing. We have grow in All areas, Restaurant, Cooking Classes, and especially our Expansion of our Catering Facility and locations that we offer. We see ourselves eventually expanding into a In-house, as well as Off-Premise Catering, meaning getting a facility of our own to cater in, as well as still offering off-premise catering. We enjoy going to different locations too much to stop that end of the business. We are also looking to expand our restaurant A LITTLE, just to accommodate a dozen or so more people, we do not want a Large restaurant, we like that cozy feeling, we just want a little less of a wait at the door.
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