Behind the Culinary Curtain with Bon Appetit Catering


Bon Appetit Catering in Davison was bustling with activity on a busy Friday in December as they prepared for an event. Sous chefs were preparing an array of salads and a luscious prime rib was basted and waiting to go into the oven. The upscale catering service is owned by Jim and Gayla Dean and is well-known for its top-shelf service and French-inspired food. A well-established business boasting 35 years, they cater events all around Southeastern Michigan, particularly wedding receptions. “It’s a thrill creating fabulous events for our brides,” says Gayla. “We always try to do something different and make it memorable.”

A lot of planning and work goes on behind the scenes to make the Big Day a gustatory treat. The first meeting is at least one year in advance of the wedding, and to start on the right foot, Gayla tries to get to know every bride and groom. “I listen; that’s the most important thing,” Gayla says. “Once I get to know a couple, we can come up with creative ideas. Each and every job is unique, and in order to satisfy the customer, an event must be planned from beginning to end, including preparing food that is visually appealing as well as delicious.”  

Even if everything else is perfect, bad food can spoil guest opinions of the wedding. Nowadays, catering operations like Bon Appetit have to compete against venues that include dinner with their wedding packages, so their food has to be unforgettably superb. Head Chef Jim Dean, who handles all the food preparation, is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY, and insists on using the freshest ingredients for every dish, which he garnishes and decorates with professional skill. Cooking begins early in the morning, as everything is made in-house, including salad dressings, breads, and even the creative and fanciful fruit carvings that Bon Appetit is known for. The Chef’s French influence is evident in buffet options such as the very popular Beef Bourguignon, Beef Wellington and Deconstructed Cordon Bleu. If a reception venue does not have adequate space for cooking or is not up to snuff, Bon Appetit brings its mobile kitchen to ensure that the food quality does not suffer.

As the chef and his staff are working away in the kitchen, Gayla is directing traffic in the dining area. “Catering isn’t just about putting food on the table, it’s about presentation,” she says. Tablescapes are prepared with care and creativity, with everything from coordinating colors and themes to a display of mini shrimp cocktails on a Velcro® wall.

Finally, the guests arrive. It’s show time, and the whole service staff is dressed formally in hats and chef’s jackets. There are anywhere from six to 18 staff members, depending on the size of the wedding, and either Gayla or Jim is present at every event to make sure everything runs smoothly. “We work in teams of two,” says Gayla. Two people are responsible for water, two for hot foods and two for salads, with a chef at each food station, Gayla explained. Another team of two usually works in the kitchen, getting food out of the oven and preparing it to be served. The team has to be ready for every possible scenario, and unexpected guests are a surprisingly common one. “Jim always prepares five percent more than what was contracted, just in case,” says Gayla. When the food has been consumed, tables are also cleared in teams. Out of necessity, the caterer must work closely with all of the other vendors, such as the DJ and photographer, to keep to the strict timetable. “Being prepared for a reception is really important,” Gayla says. “It’s like baking a cake; you have to have all the ingredients in place before you start. That’s the way we do it.”    

At the end of the day when the last dish is put away, both Gayla and Jim are satisfied with a job well done. “It’s a real honor to be a part of a couple’s special day,” Gayla said. 

Signs of a Professional Caterer:

• The person you make decisions with will actually be there at your wedding.

• They have the proper amount of staff (at least one server per table).

• You should be able to taste your menu options.

• They plan on making some extra food, just in case.


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