Not all Indian Food is Created Equal

Victoria Schultz Chicago Ashyana Catering

Not all Indian Food is Created Equal

By Victoria Schultz

I have been in the hospitality industry for over 12 years, specializing in weddings and social events for the last 7 years. South Asian events were very intimidating to me in the beginning because I had no knowledge of the Indian culture. These weddings were multi-day events, included huge groups of people, with massive buffets filled with food I had never heard of. How can you plan and execute an event as important and large as a wedding without a simple understanding of the culture? Thankfully, when I was with Marriott from 2015-2018, I was able to take several courses on ethnic weddings, specifically South Asian weddings. I finally felt comfortable of the how and why behind so many Indian traditions; about the food and flavors, the colors and why someone kept stealing the groom’s shoe before the ceremony! I felt included now which gave me the confidence I needed to connect with my clients.

A big part of South Asian weddings is the food and it has to be perfect because not all Indian food is created equal. Most hotels and banquet halls partner with caterers and have the Indian cuisine brought in for authentic flavors and preparations. Seems easy enough, right? Bring in your own food, my team will help set it all up and serve it, you clean up at the end. Unfortunately, not all events are as smooth as you would hope:

I once had a caterer who ran out of rice…..if you know anything about Indian cuisine, you know this is unacceptable. That caterer was no longer one I wanted to refer to my clients. Another event, the caterer and staff were late. TWO HOURS late. We had to change the entire wedding schedule around while also scrambling to find food in our own kitchen to feed this huge group of very hungry people. They also left way too quickly and did not clean anything up. Another caterer marked off my list.

Having a few catastrophes like these helped me narrow down the caterers I wanted to work with and I now follow a few simple “rules” when approving outside caterers:

  • Arrive on time
  • Communicate
  • Don’t run out of food
  • Clean up after yourselves

That is all! Communication is the most important though. We have to work together and communicate so that our mutual client is happy. That is what the hospitality industry is all about no matter who you work for. Leading up to the event day, I as the venue coordinator, need to know from the caterer how many dishes they are bringing, what serving utensil is needed, how many hot boxes, how many staff they are providing, etc. That way I can have my onsite team all ready to go for smooth execution. Samar Jain with Ashyana had been to Marriott for many weddings and events, all very successful, so he was one of only a few caterers that I approved and referred to my clients. I could confidently share his information knowing the food would be amazing, the team friendly and easy to work with, and still leave the Marriott kitchen flawless at the end of the night.

I currently work at Q Center, a conference center and event venue in St. Charles, and we can host weddings for up to 1,000 guests. We have indoor and outdoor spaces; waterfalls, a pond, water fountains, and beautiful landscaping. It is a dream wedding location which also includes overnight accommodations. When I started with Q Center in December 2018, I knew that South Asian weddings would be a perfect fit there and immediately reached out to Samar to be an approved caterer. We had become friends and I knew he could help me expand South Asian weddings at this new wedding destination. We help each other’s businesses grow, plus he is always looking for ways to enhance his food and service in this ever changing industry.

Indian Weddings are a big production, and there are so many pieces that need to come together for a successful event. I can confidently recommend Samar and his team at Ashyana Catering without a second thought. I know the food will be amazing and can focus on the many other facets of my client’s wedding!