10 Minutes With: Mary Giuliani

Caterer and Foodie

Food for thought from the caterer to the stars.

What do a Ferris wheel that serves mac-and-cheese and heart-shaped Belgian waffles topped with cinnamon whipped cream have in common? Both are the creations of Mary Giuliani, master caterer to celebs and betrothed couples alike.

Once an aspiring actress, Mary and her husband Ryan (cousin of Rudy) opened their catering business, Mary Giuliani Catering & Events, in 2005. “If you can’t join ‘em, feed ‘em,” explains the New York resident of her transition from actress to caterer-to-the-stars.

Mary sets the stage for a wedding or party with a menu that infuses comfort into every bite, from petit filet mignon with truffle demi glace to bacon and arugula with mushroom butter on toast points. The entertaining way she presents her food—like the previously discussed white-lacquered Ferris wheel or pairing a shot of chilled vodka with classic caviar on blinis—is also a hit among A-listers from Justin Timberlake to Holly Robinson Peete and Rodney Peete.

Read on for Mary’s tips to inspire your wedding menu.

Who taught you about food and entertaining?
My grandmother owned a hotel in Montauk so I learned a lot about hospitality from her. And my mother is a fantastic cook. I do a mini spaghetti-and-meatball dish you can eat in one bite based on her recipe. I think entertaining should be a reflection of your style. It is a great opportunity to think outside the box.

What inspires you to come up with your ideas?
Movies from Big Night to The Jerk inspire my dishes. Retro cookbooks have great ideas. My love of travel also gives me food for thought for recipes. And eating out a lot helps too!

What is your mission behind a menu?
Even fancy parties should be fun! That’s why my menu “pairings” are so popular. I love to create mini dishes you can eat in one bite and then match them up with a drink. So, I’ll serve a deconstructed bite of paella on a skewer with a sangria “sip.”  Or I once had a s’mores pit at a wedding for a couple that first met at sleep away camp when they were young. I love to push the envelope when it comes to presentation to make entertaining fun.

What are some of your clients’ favorite dishes?
My mini dishes are so popular because it is yummy food you can eat in just one bite. But since I’m Italian and the worst thing ever is to not have enough food, I make sure to have rich flavors with my minis like in potpies or short-rib tartlets.

I also think my love of comfort food is so popular because there is something sweet and youthful to the flavors. Plus I love the juxtaposition of how grand and elegant an event can be, but then we’ll throw down mac-n-cheese to serve guests!

And my “perfect pairings” menus (taking hors d’oeuvres and serving mini cocktails along with them) are a huge hit at parties.

What are the newest food trends you’re seeing in entertaining?
Thinking locally when it comes to making a menu is still going strong. Not only will you help sustain nearby farms and businesses but it also guarantees that you’re drawing on local flavors that are the freshest.

I also see that formality in dining is coming back. While rules are still made to be broken, clients are now seeking elegance, not just fun. So for instance, while I used to serve all comfort food for an entire wedding, I’m now saving those touches for the end of the night, for example, or as a special surprising moment in the event.

Any tips for brides on how to develop a wedding menu?
I think my best advice for a couple working with a caterer on a menu is to not give into pressure on what they think they should be serving. They should relax and think about what they like to make or what they remember as their favorite meals as a couple.

I say: happy bride, happy wedding, so if you and your fiancé are enjoying what you’re eating and it’s true to you, then you’re setting the tone of the event and it will trickle down to your guests and their enjoyment.

Thank you Mary.

--Erinn Bucklan

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