When planning a wedding, one of the most fun details to plan is the food – not only what to serve, but presentation, style, and taste! That makes hiring a great caterer an important detail you don’t want to overlook. We turned to our 30A-Lister David and Donna Townsend from Townsend Catering to learn more about the catering business and how they got their start.
How did you get started doing catering professionally? (Or what made you want to pursue that career?)
David Townsend: After my freshman year of culinary school, I came home for the summer and worked at Edward’s Catering, under Chef Jeff Zak. It was under Jeff Zak’s wing that I truly realized my passion for cooking. My dream of becoming a chef became something more; I knew that one day I would own a catering company myself.
When I returned to college that fall, I met Donna. She was studying Hospitality Management while I was still chasing my dream in Culinary Arts. Four years after we finished our degrees, Donna and I were planning our own wedding at an estate in Seekonk Massachusetts. It was during this process that we realized just how exciting it is to work in the catering industry. We decided we wanted to use our experience to help others with their weddings, and moved down to the Emerald Coast in 2002 to open a catering company of our own.
What are some things brides should consider when choosing a menu for their wedding?
Donna Townsend: The biggest thing we suggest when a bride and groom are creating their menus is to have a good variety of foods throughout the night. With upwards of 300 people attending these wedding receptions, you can imagine that someone may not like seafood, and there are often vegetarians in the crowd. Giving their guests options will make everyone happy, and will guarantee that their wedding is as unique and memorable as can be.
You are so creative with your food presentation. How do you come up with some of the unique ideas we’ve seen?
David Townsend: The most important thing we consider when preparing meals is to use the freshest ingredients. Using fresh and seasonal ingredients that pair well with our menu items makes a world of difference in presentation. There is definitely a noticeable difference, both in taste and presentation, when your food isn’t fresh. Our meals are cooked on site with the freshest ingredients available.
Donna Townsend: We are constantly developing our menus and creating new dishes and ways to present them. Society’s taste and style is constantly changing and we must make sure that our menus are evolving with the times. Many of our ideas come from our team members. Whether it’s our cooks or our bartenders, we encourage the whole team to contribute their ideas, then we all work together to take those ideas and perfect them. Even our brides and their families have a hand in some of our creations.
What is the most unique food request you’ve had for a wedding?
David Townsend: A few years ago a couple came to us with a rather unusual request. The groom’s parents were from India, and the couple wanted us to do Indian cuisine. We were very excited to do something that was a bit off the beaten path from our usual requests. The catch was, they wanted us to use the groom’s grandmother’s personal recipes of family favorites. And the grandmother would be present at the tasting.
Our excitement didn’t waver, but you can imagine the amount of pressure that this added to our usual routine. We spent an entire month preparing for this tasting with grandma, perfecting these classic Indian recipes with the fresh ingredients we had local to us. The tasting was maybe the most stressful we’d had leading up to it, but said we nailed it. That October we cooked grandma’s recipes for over 150 people and everyone loved it.
Donna Townsend: The interesting thing was that the bride wanted a classic southern cuisine along with it. So we had gourmet mac n’ cheese, pork tenderloin, and shrimp and grits, right across from chana masala, saag paneer, and chicken makhani. We always tell our brides that variety is important, and this event is the perfect example of that.
That’s so fun! Is there anything else you want brides to know?
Donna Townsend: We really want to emphasize that the sky is the limit for clients. We like to offer a guiding hand, but brides should know that our culinary team can make any dream they have a reality. We are constantly innovating and creating new dishes on our own, but we really enjoy it when our brides become a part of that process. It’s the input from couples and their family that drives us forward, so we urge our brides to bring us their ideas and join in on the creative side of things.
We couldn’t have said it better ourselves! Getting the pleasure to work with Townsend Catering many times on various weddings, its easy to see their passion and creativity showing through on their food choices and presentation. We are excited to have them on our 30A Wedding Co team and encourage our brides to check them out during their wedding planning.