Ask the Expert

Shane Tank of Premier Chef Services dishes out advice for couples in search of a caterer.

Your first meal as a married couple should be special – whether it’s a formal sit-down affair or a casual backyard buffet. With six years’ experience of full-service catering, Shane Tank of Premier Chef Services knows a thing or two about conceptualizing and executing that perfect dish. From a savory lamb loin roulade with chanterelle mushrooms and a truffled potato pavé to a lobster empanada, he offers an elegant and refined but casual approach to everything from a rehearsal dinner and reception to the day-after brunch. Here, he answers your most pressing catering questions.

How early in the wedding planning process should a couple book a caterer?

As soon as possible! I usually recommend as soon as the date is selected and the venue is agreed upon to hire a caterer and an event planner. Especially for weddings that are very detailed with heavy logistics and guest counts over 150, as we will only take one wedding a day of this size.

This year we are executing weddings that were booked in 2019 and have a few weddings booked on prime weekends in 2023!

At what point do you need to finalize meal choices and head counts?

Our contract reads seven days prior for the final head count and fourteen days prior for the final menu selections, although we typically have the menu selected a month or two after we receive the contract and initial deposit. I want clients to feel comfortable officially being on board with a reserved date, but also have time to discuss with family and friends a fun menu and the ability to switch or adjust their menu at their convenience. It is easy for me to do on my end, and having the perfect menu for our brides and grooms is a big priority. In regard to guest count, there is always a couple of stragglers that are either cancelling or coming last minute to the wedding, and we also try to be accommodating of this.

What sort of menu offerings do you suggest for welcome parties or rehearsal dinners as compared to wedding receptions?

As a chef with a diverse culinary palate, I usually like to do something fun or an ethnic-themed dinner for the rehearsal dinners, such as Indian, Thai, Moroccan, Italian, etc. Our New England clambake is also a huge hit as it is a little more casual and doesn’t outshine our plated wedding dinners. I recommend a four-course clambake as a great option. This focuses on all local shellfish and produce and is a much more streamlined and “cleaner” approach to a traditional clambake. A heavy hors d’oeuvres party with fun stationed small-bite appetizers is also a great go to.

Jeanna Shepard

Can couples customize a menu or do you provide a static menu?

Yes, completely custom! We have a beautiful twelve-page dining guide for both our private chef and larger catered weddings/events, but I only use this as a tool for couples and groups to get acquainted with our food and pricing. I like to focus on the culinary preferences of the bride and groom, and then I put together a custom, seasonal menu. Our focus is on seasonal Island cuisine as much as practical, but I am happy to import any special ingredients from the northwest, such as specialty fish, mushrooms, as well as Russian caviar and French and Italian truffles. Seasonal ingredients aren’t always available for the time of year the wedding is taking place, and we have many specialty purveyors that can provide us with a quality year-round product for couples with favorite ingredients or dishes. I will always advise for the freshest and most available, but try to accommodate any request.

Additionally, we have made specialty samosas hors d’oeuvres from [a client’s] grandma’s recipe from India, done vegan oil-free weddings, and imported A5 Wagyu beef directly from Japan as special requests from clients. Just ask and chances are we have done it, or it is something that can easily be accommodated.

How many weddings do you typically cater per year?

Usually between thirty and forty weddings a season. Every weekend starting at the beginning of May until usually Columbus Day. This year we have at least two every weekend, including high summer of July and August, which I believe is due to Covid and limited availability with vendors for new weddings this season. Ninety percent of my weddings pushed from 2020 to 2021. We will only take one large wedding of 150-plus per day, as those require our full attention and are heavy on logistical details.

Do you work with rental agencies to coordinate supplies, or do couples need to hire a wedding planner to do that? What about setting up the room and preparing tables?

Yes! Usually this is in conjunction with the couple’s wedding planner, but I do also coordinate directly if necessary. We have about seventy to ninety events a year with Big Sky, and they are on top of making sure that we have everything we need to execute our events seamlessly. Jim, Josie, Erin and the team are amazing and are also super helpful getting out quick, precise estimates and helping with last minute additions, site visits, measurements, and event layouts.

Tim Correira

Do caterers typically offer bartending services? If so, what does that entail?

Yes, typically. We offer fully licensed bartenders who set up, execute, and break down the bar for our events and weddings. In addition to that, we also offer coordination of bar service, but almost all wedding planners include this. Clients’ beverage needs are discussed with their planner or myself, and then we place the order with local beverage companies.

We also are happy to create fun cocktails and beverage stations with clients. We make specialty syrups, provide fruits and culinary ingredients like blood orange, passion fruit, and specialty purées to create fun and personalized custom cocktails for our brides and grooms. A few of our favorites are Lillet and local cucumber martini with Grey Goose, and a blood orange and Aperol Old Fashioned with an absinthe spritz.

Have you had to change your business or introduce different protocols in the age of Covid?

Honestly, just the standard protocols for restaurants. All of our staff were masked, temperature checked, and practiced social distancing. State guidelines have been adhered to for 2020 and early 2021, but at this point we are basically back to business as usual. Our staff is vaccinated or is in the process of being vaccinated.

The pandemic changed the way we serve food. What sort of Covid-era trends would you like to see stick around?

Nothing. Good riddance!

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