Gourmet Garnish by Shiraz: How To Plan A Successful Event

Having dedicated over three decades of his life into perfecting the art of crafting memorable gastronomic experiences, Shiraz Kotwal is an authority in Culinary Management, known for curating the most elegant-yet-fun culinary know-hows across the board – from Corporate Events, intimate Sit-Down Dinners, Restaurant Management, Casual Brunches, as also your everyday Home-Dinners and Kitchen Management! Shiraz offers a Special Discount to Parsi Times Readers who wish to avail his professional services and consultations. Connect: E-mail: shirazkotwal@gmail.com  or Call/Message: +91 9833720369


Post my last column on Menu Planning, one of the requests I received was to assist a Nonagenarian Birthday. I met the Birthday girl – the brief was a simple Sit-down, home-cooked dinner for a family of 12, using the family Monogrammed silver, glassware and Royal Doulton porcelain. The menu approved, ingredients ordered, appropriate crockery and silverware taken out from storage – and we were good to go. On D-Day, we had the tablecloth laid, florals done, placements complete, food ready, Champagne on ice – by 5:00 pm we were set and ready!

Culinary Management is a term used loosely by most today. It is an art and a science which looks into every detail of the house operations. The two areas need to work in tandem to orchestrate a successful event. Putting together an event, no matter the size, needs meticulous planning – whether it’s for ten people or a thousand! Every event is as important to me as it is to the client, my 30+ years’ experience is on the line too!

When approached to oversee an event, I have a detailed questionnaire, which helps me understand in detail the event specifics and preferences of the client. The following are some important pointers to ensure a successful event:


The Budget: Remember, when you don’t outline the budget for the event, then the event will outline the costs for you! Use a spreadsheet or a piece of paper and account for every single detail that will cost you money. Ensure to  break down your costs. Note the amount you plan to spend and leave a column for the amount you’ll actually spend, so you can track if your budget is spiraling out of control. And leave a bit of wiggle room or reserve, for the possibility of going over budget or for unforeseeable situations.


The Guest List: An idea of who’s attending the event or the ‘crowd mix’, helps curate a successful culinary experience, especially in terms of choosing the menu as well as the theme (if one is preferred). Knowing the age profile of guests helps better planning. Also, ensure to consider dietary restrictions of guests – such as gluten intolerance, restrict dairy, nut allergies, etc. You don’t want a last-minute situation dealing with a guest’s food-hypersensitivity.


The Venue: It’s all about LOCATION! Before finalizing on one, find out the restrictions laid down by the owners of various properties. Two main aspects that make a venue suitable are – Ease of Accessibility and Parking Availability/Valet Parking. Ensure to mention these details to the guests.


Planning The Menu As Per The Nature Of The Event: It is important to under the kind of event you are catering to. These could be formal or informal, personal or professional.

  • Personal Events: House parties, intimate dinners/lunches or other kinds of personal get-together celebrations for Birthdays, Anniversaries etc., house-warmings, baby showers, et al call for menu planning depending on the crowd-mix and dietary preferences of the guests, in terms of cuisine; vegetarian/non-veg/vegan preferences; consumption of alcohol; the appetizer-to-main course ratio, etc.


  • Professional Events: If it’s a Board Room Luncheon, then quick, non-messy food, light on the stomach, is the order of the day, especially if it’s back to the Board room post lunch! Bite-sized, finger-foods is the preference at events like product launches, press briefings, mini-workshops. Day-long seminars would need to cater to proper meals.


The Caterer: At the end of the day, the success of any event lies in the quality and taste of the food! Hence, hiring a caterer is vital to the success of the event! Here are a few points to consider – your due diligence when hiring a caterer:

  • How long has the caterer been in the business.
  • Feedback from people who have undertaken their service.
  • Is the caterer insured and possesses the appropriate food-service licenses
  • Hygiene Standards
  • Flexibility in terms of requests.
  • Are they operating from a proper kitchen facility or a garage?
  • Quality of Service Staff
  • Cancellation Policy


Food Presentation: Did you know that even before the food touches your tongue, you’ve already tasted it? Yes, you first eat with your eyes – visual appeal is half the battle won! Here are a few tips for you:

  • Choosing the right crockery takes your presentation to the next level, serving as the attractive backdrop to the food.
  • Use Contrasting Colors and Symmetry: While light-colored plates make bold, vibrant colors pop, darker plates will make lighter-colored foods more visually appealing. Colorful vegetables and greens can be used as accent points.
  • Food Decoration Works Magic: As per the dish, garnish with the right herbs, edible flowers, spices and citrus zest. Edible flowers and micro-herbs add beauty, interest and flavor to a dish.
  • Get Your Creative ‘Sauces’ Flowing: In addition to adding flavour, sauces present the opportunity to be more creative in your presentation. Instead of mindlessly pouring the sauce over the dish, strategically use sauces with squeeze bottles or paintbrushes. Create accent dots along the side of the plate, or lightly drizzle the sauce over the main ingredients or then use individual sauce boats when serving certain dishes to let your guests choose.

When food is beautifully presented, your guests will be dying to try it – ensure a variety in taste, colour and texture – every dish should be well garnished and served with a smile!

Coordination Is Key: When working with multiple vendors, (for themed events, décor, catering, etc) ensure there is regular and smooth communication at all times so that everyone is on the same page. Coordination is crucial, so collectively discuss and finalize on the placement (floor-plan), layout (dishes) and timing (entry of guests, stage, music, starting the buffet, closing kitchen, etc.)

Now that you’ve run through your basic checklist for a successful event, you’re sure to have an amazing soiree that your guests will enjoy and remember for a long time!



Leave a Reply