Dave and I don’t get out to eat very often. When we do, it’s generally a pretty short list of places we love and are willing to go back to. We’ll try any new place once or twice, seeing as we need to be able to recommend a great place to guests and ensure they have the best gastronomic delights in town while here.
Food Works is one of the places we do recommend to folks — and they cater, and cater VERY well, so we absolutely love it when they are catering at an event at our barn. We decided to have a short chat with Troy and his catering director, Amy, and get the inside scoop on what to consider while planning to have your event catered.
So, we know FoodWorks opened back in 2006. Given the rate of restaurant turnover in Chattanooga, your continued popularity is a statement in itself. What is it that makes you special?
Amy: This April will be my 6th year at Food Works. The majority of staff has worked there for many years. We are a little family. Most of us have watched each other get married, have children, graduate college or mourn the loss of a loved one. I think our guests can feel that sense of family & unity when they dine with us and they feel at home. You can see that Troy has poured his heart & soul into the food & he is proud of the product he is serving and that drives all of our employees to strive to do their best. Our team is why Food Works is special & why we have been a staple in the Chattanooga community for 12 years. Not to mention our food is delicious, we have a great location on the north shore and the building is super cool.
What drew you to food, and ultimately, the restaurant business?
Troy: My first memories of cooking are with my grandmother at their home in Charleston, South Carolina. There is no place I would rather be than on their property surrounded by a banana tree, 2 pecan trees, a pear and fig tree. They had the most incredible garden. My Grandfather was an avid gardener, fisherman, hunter & outdoors man so we grew up eating all the produce my grandfather grew or game he required. My Grandmother has the best friend chicken I’ve ever eaten to this day. I remember being in the kitchen with her helping crack pecans, baking pecan pie and making apple butter. I knew at the age of 12 I wanted to cook & pursue culinary school. I’ve had a variety of jobs from being a chef at fine dining, causal restaurants, 500 person caterings, etc… The restaurant industry suits me. I’m not a person that can sit at a desk 9-5 every day and I like that every day is different. I need to be up, moving and talking to people.
Have you always offered catering, or did it grow out of a need/ develop in a particular way?
Troy: We did not always offer catering. We saw an opportunity in the market and we decided we had the space in the facility to accommodate production. Having that space and staff already in place allows Food Works to offer competitive catering pricing while still providing a high quality product.
Do you have specific, planned menus for weddings, or can couples select favorite things from your menu?
Amy: We recently streamlined our catering menus to package systems to make it easier for the couple to navigate. We have multiple packages for people with a modest budget to couples who have a larger food budget. Couples can view our new menus on our catering website.
We are currently in the process of developing a brunch, southern comfort and Italian menus. All of our menu packages can be customized & tailored to fit the couple’s desires. If a couple has a favorite menu item or a family recipe we would be happy to work with them. Our chef’s abilities are not limited to only the food items on these menus. We also offered plated meal service if a couple is wanting more formal dining.
What is one area where it might be safe to cut costs? Conversely, what is one area where a bride and groom should not cut costs around food?
Amy: In my experience the decision of china vs. disposables can weigh heavily on a couple. At the end of the day renting china is usually double or triple the cost of disposables. There are beautiful disposables available on the market that look & feel just like china. In my experience most couples cut food or service costs first. Guests remember food not china. If you are going to cut costs switch to disposables. I would strongly suggest to couples to never try to save money by reducing service staff members for your event. Service is extremely important to me. My goal is to have short bar lines, a full buffet and clean, bused tables at all times. If you have a limited budget you should allocate the budget to food not china.
What is something you wish couples would do more of for weddings?
Troy: I would like to see the men take a more active role in the decision making process when creating the menu. Also I wish couples would allocate more of the budget toward food v.s non-essential items like a cigar rolling booth or fireworks. People make the food budget secondary. We want everyone leaving a reception to have had a positive experience and limiting the food budget can drastically affect that.
Amy: I would like to see couples take a more realistic approach when they are planning their upcoming nuptials. Instead of cutting food and service costs, consider downsizing the guest list. Limiting the guest list can allow for more diverse food choices.
If a couple is unsure of what they should choose for their wedding menu, what are some consistent crowd-pleasers that you would recommend?
Amy: Our signature dishes are shrimp n’ grits, BBQ, crab cakes, chicken picatta and salmon.
Do you offer tastings/samplings of menu items? If so, is there a cost?
Amy: We do offer tastings. The price for a tasting is dependent on the menu items you would like to taste. If you decide to choose Food Works as your caterer the cost of the tasting will be deducted from your final invoice. We do also offer a 10% discount off the food & beverage total if you book both your rehearsal dinner & reception with us. We can host your rehearsal dinner at our restaurant or cater at an outside venue. You can find additional information regarding our room rental policy on our website.
What is the best way to reach you?
Email: [email protected] http://www.foodworkscateringchattanooga.com/#!/splash-page