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Economic downturn has not affected the catering business

There are many factors in deciding what type of party it will be � casual or formal � as well as how many people to invite.

One of the most important decisions is whether to use a caterer or handle the event yourself.

Traditionally, November and December are the busiest time for catering companies. This year�s economic downturn has not affected Edwina Corey�s business.

�Actually, our sales are up 40 per cent over last year and we are totally booked for the rest of the year,� said Corey, owner of Edwina�s All Occasion Catering. �I think there will always be people who want to host a house party but don�t have the time or inclination to prepare for it.

�And there is the convenience factor. Everything � from setting up to serving to cleaning up � is taken care of by my staff and me.�

Corey provides what she terms as a basic catering menu: traditional fare. While she does receive requests for more exotic food, in most instances, Corey will steer the client to a company with experience in that particular cuisine.

�I love to play around with a new recipe but there just isn�t enough hours in the day to do it justice at this time of the year,� said Corey. �I did have a long-time client recently insist that I provide a Chinese menu for her event.

�She said she knew I could handle it and wanted me to do the job. We got it done.�

Judy Norman has been to a number of catered events over the years and truly enjoyed herself. But when it comes to her annual house party, she prefers a more hands-on and collaborative approach.

�This annual gathering began years ago when I came home for the holidays from my second year at university. I hosted a wine and cheese party for friends I hadn�t since the summer,� said Norman. �I asked that my guests dress up and we all tried to act like adults.�

From that first gathering, Norman�s Boxing Day party began to evolve. With friends getting married or new friends being met, the numbers steadily grew from year to year.

�It got to be quite a lot of work but we always enjoyed getting together so no one wanted it to end,� she said. �Some friends would offer to bring an item or two, while others brought along wine.

�One year just before the holidays, I thought about turning the party into a potluck supper, rather than just a wine and cheese party.�

The idea was a hit. Norman organized what food was necessary and let her friends chose what they would like to bring. She also found out about any allergies or dietary restrictions so there would be something for everyone.

�Since the party had been slowly changing over the years as we got older, this step was easy to take,� said Norman.

�And some of my friends prepare dishes that I would never attempt, so we all get something new to try out.

�Now, I make sure the house is clean and the wine is chilled!� Norman has noticed that some of the dishes and beverages have also evolved. There are more healthy options, like low fat cookies and egg nog. And the wine has gotten more expensive as careers have progressed.

That trend toward more healthy fare for the menu, while cutting back on deep-fried items, has been steadily growing for the past few years.

According to Corey, her deep fryer is not used as much as it was in the past.

�I do prepare a lot more salads and fruit trays than in the past. That said, people do tend to splurge a little at Christmas.�

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