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December 6, 2023

Hosting Tips from the Pros

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In November, Salt Lake Magazine published an “Ask the Experts” article with hosting tips from Culinary Crafts. Now, as the holidays approach, we wanted to share even more ideas from our experts on how to host like a pro.

Ryan Crafts, Meagan Crafts, Kaleb Crafts, Culinary Crafts, sibling owners, family business, catering company. Utah catereres, white cowboy had, black and white shawl, denim shorts, teach a man to fish

Meet the Experts

Ryan, Kaleb, and Meagan Crafts have been part of the catering and hosting business ever since they were big enough to dry a plate or push a broom. In fact, when Culinary Crafts began as a tiny baking company, the Crafts children used to deliver fresh-baked bread and cookies around the neighborhood in their little red wagon! Since its inception 39 years ago, Culinary Crafts has not only climbed to the top of Utah’s catering industry; it has dominated. Winning 27 Best of State awards and 9 Caties (essentially the Emmies of the catering industry), Culinary Crafts sets the standard for catering excellence in the Mountain West. Now that their parents have turned over the reins, the Crafts siblings are more than qualified to show you how to elevate your hosting game. Kaleb Crafts, happy host, hospitality, hosting, smiling bald man, Culinary Crafts, hand on shoulder, mustache

Kaleb’s Hosting Tips

“My top hosting tip is 'Be there for your guests.'

“We’ve all been to events where the host was running around franticly, trying to put out fires. Believe me, I know how stressful hosting can be! But you can’t let yourself get caught up in other concerns and ignore your guests. If they aren’t your top priority, they can feel it.

“To be there for your guests, don’t crowd the timeline of your event too tightly. Leave time for everyone to savor the experience and for you to adjust when something unexpected happens.

“Also, don’t try to be a martyr and do everything yourself. Let someone else take the photos and handle the music. Delegate. Call a caterer. Ask for help.

“Finally, do as much of the work as possible beforehand. Half an hour before guests arrive, you should be relaxing with a drink, ready to enjoy your own party. Once the party has started, silence your phone and put it away. At that point, your job is to be fully present with the people you love, who are the real reason to celebrate.”

Ryan Crafts, Culinary Crafts, owner, dinner guests, hospitality, Utah caterer

Ryan’s Hosting Tips

“Food is a social catalyst. When I’m hosting, I try to plan a menu that will help guests relax, start talking, and enjoy each other’s company.

“I like to create a menu that’s a mix of the familiar and the new. Some of the dishes should be standbys that guests are sure to love, but I also include one or two elements that might be unfamiliar. Throwing in something a little exotic is a great way to get guests excited and to stimulate conversation.

“When I’m hosting at home, I like to splurge. That doesn’t always mean caviar or wagyu beef; it means that even if I’m just serving grilled hamburgers, I’m not going to cut corners. I love the time-honored tradition of a host giving his or her very best—that’s a tradition you see in cultures all over the world. The way I see it, the ideal time to break out that whiskey I’ve been saving or the special dish I’ve been dying to make is when I can share it with family and friends.”

Meagan Crafts, Culinary Crafts, piping, frosting, black apron, smiling hostess, Utah caterer

Meagan’s Hosting Tips

“Hosting is a tremendous honor and one of my absolute favorite things! I can get lost in the excitement of planning a party, so I have to remind myself of what matters. Creative invitations, fun party favors, and adorable tablescapes are all great, but what really matters is helping my guests feel cared for. Years from now, no one will remember what games they played or even what they ate at your event, but they will remember how you made them feel.

“Instead of approaching hosting like a checklist of things to do, focus your planning on the experiences you’d like your guests to enjoy. What are the first things they’re going to see and smell and taste and hear? How can you help them feel welcomed and a little bit pampered? Keep most of your event simple, but find one or two ways to go above and beyond. For example, maybe offer valet parking or a coat check. Put some careful thought into the seating chart, or offer your guests’ favorite desserts. It doesn’t take a lot to let guests know that you planned with them in mind."

December 5, 2023

It’s About the Story

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by Ryan Crafts

President and Resident Storyteller

Growing up in the catering business, it always puzzled me why, in the middle of a busy event, my mother would suddenly pick up the microphone and talk to the diners about the food they were being served. “No one wants to hear it,” I would think to myself. “They just want to eat in peace!” But now, with a couple more decades of experience under my belt, I get it. It’s never just about the food. It's about the story the food tells.

University of Utah football, football helmet, U, football, Utah caterers, red football symbol

The Best Sandwich He Ever Had

I will always remember the first meal we catered for University of Utah football at Rice Eccles Stadium. We’d been told that they wanted "football foot," including classic Buffalo chicken sandwiches, but we wanted to make it special. It was our chance to make a first impression, so we decided to elevate the tailgate classics into something extraordinary.

We started with the same organic, free-range chicken that we use for high-end formal plated dinners. Then we spent days bringing the meat to perfection. Every element of the sandwiches—from the bread to the meat to the toppings—was made fresh from scratch with great care. These sandwiches were good…like really good!

So we were disappointed when, after the fans started to arrive, our team reported, “No one’s trying the Buffalo chicken! They’re just walking right past it.” Immediately, I pulled a few teammates away from their assigned tasks and put them at the head of the sandwich buffets. They were to greet every guest with a huge smile and to say the following.

"Welcome to Rice-Eccles Stadium and Tower! We have a special treat for today's game. For our Buffalo chicken sandwiches, we picked the best chicken we could find. Then we brined it, braised it overnight, shredded it, and simmered it in our Buffalo sauce. It’s topped with our famous Beehive white cheddar coleslaw and served on a homemade ciabatta bun baked fresh from our stone oven. Go Utes!"

Immediately, the feedback changed. Instead of “No one’s eating the sandwiches,” our team told us, “We’re running out!” In fact, the Buffalo Chicken ended up being the most popular item we served that day, and President Uchtdorf said it was the best sandwich he’d ever had.

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The Story of Our Food

That experience was a good reminder of something every caterer, host, and home chef should keep in mind. Food takes on a whole new level of meaning and enjoyment when we learn its story.

As Culinary Crafts, we put an insane amount of time and effort into giving our guests a terrific dining experience. In the thick of all that work, it’s easy to forget what a difference it can make to take a moment and share a little story, give a little context, and make a personal connection.

Last Christmas, we invited our whole team to share stories and recipes about foods that have special meaning to them. Then we compiled those submissions into a cookbook. Some of the stories were hilarious and some were heartbreaking, but all of them were a great way to draw closer over the shared experience of food. We’ve posted several on our website throughout the last year, and we still have more to share! We hope you’ve taken the time to read the stories and maybe try some of the recipes at home; they are excellent! These stories are a way for us to share a little of our passion for food and our appreciation for the people we make the magic happen. To you, our friends, clients, guests, and—most of all—our amazing team, a heart-felt thanks. We wish you every happiness this holiday season.

Eat well.

November 16, 2023

Miracle Turkey

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by Meagan Price

Director of Marketing and Kitchen Sorceress

Meagan Crafts, staff, team, throwing flour, kitchen sorceress, Culinary Crafts, miracle turkey blog, flour scoop, black apron, Utah caterer, high end catering

Growing up at Culinary Crafts and working events from a young age, I learned the art of putting out fires. I don’t mean literal ones (well, sometimes literal ones), but being a full-service caterer means constantly dealing with problems on the fly, from changing a tire to repairing a bride’s dress to figuring out how to cook the entrée when the venue’s oven breaks. My childhood gave me an unshakable sense of “I can figure that out.” I’m grateful for the confidence I developed, but sometimes it got me into trouble, like it did on the year of the Miracle Turkey.

During my junior year in college, I worked as a resident advisor in the dorms at SUU . I thought of the students in my charge as “my kids” and loved surprising them with pies, cakes, and fresh-made cinnamon rolls. (When did I ever get any studying done?) As Thanksgiving approached, I worried about my residents who would be stuck in their rooms instead of visiting family, so I decided I would take it on myself to make them a full-blown Thanksgiving meal. I hadn’t done anything like that before, but I was sure I could figure it out. How hard could it be?

The Miracle Turkey

Anyone who knows me will not be shocked to hear that I went all out. Twenty pies, three types of stuffing, seven sides, and dozens of homemade rolls. The pièce de résistance was a frozen twenty-two-pound turkey.

I had never baked a turkey, and attempting it in the tiny oven in my tiny apartment was…well…probably a bit crazy, to be honest. After about forty calls to my mom and dad, three batches of burnt Stove Top, and seven hours of cooking a turkey, I finally had my first ever Thanksgiving meal! It was glorious.

None of us knew how to carve a turkey correctly, so we hacked away at it like maniacs. My dorm didn’t have a dining room, so people were lined up and down both sides of the hallway, on beds and couches, or standing in doorways with plates in hand. As more and more guests arrived, I began to worry that we would run out of food. I had planned on about forty guests, but when 150 showed up, I was freaking out! Then something strange happened. As if by magic, the meal seemed to keep multiplying itself. Somehow, we all got fed. It was the miracle of the Thanksgiving turkey.

With a few more years of experience, I realized that it shouldn’t have taken me seven hours to cook a turkey; I could have done it in one or two hours. How? You can find step-by-step directions here for how to save yourself hours in the kitchen and have your turkey come out perfect every time!

November 9, 2023

A Perfect Apple Pie

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by Mistie Tunbridge

Pastry Chef and Girl with the Golden Smile

Mistie, Culinary Crafts, Utah Catering, bakery, pastry chef, black and gold photo, perfect apple pie

A Thanksgiving meal isn't complete until you end it with a slice of perfect apple pie.

When I was growing up, my grandma always took on the job of making what seemed like hundreds of pies for Thanksgiving dinner. I remember pulling a stool up to the counter, helping her stir, and putting together pies all day long—of course sneaking tastes along the way.

When I got older and more into baking, I decided that I wanted to contribute a pie of my own to Thanksgiving. Thus, my journey began to make the perfect apple pie. Through many trials and errors, from soggy crusts and soupy fillings to pie dry as the desert and sprawls of notes filling a notebook, I finally found the sweet spot of what I consider to be a perfect apple pie: a sweet, flakey, buttery tart shell filled with the crisp sweet flavor of golden delicious apples caramelized in cinnamon sugar. I was finally ready to bring my pie to dinner, thus beginning a new Thanksgiving tradition that's been going on for seven or eight years.

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Perfect Apple Pie

Pie Filling Ingredients:

  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 1 pinch nutmeg
  • 3 lb golden delicious apples
  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 2 Tbsp caramel sauce (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Peel and chop apples into bite-sized pieces.
  2. Mix sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, caramel, and apples.
  3. Melt half the butter in a frying pan and add half the apples. Cook over medium-high heat until golden and caramelized.
  4. Transfer to a large bowl and repeat Step 3 with remaining butter and apples. Let cool completely.

Tart Shell Crust Ingredients:

  • 1 cup unsalted butter (room temperature)
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3½ cups flour

Instructions:

  1. Add butter and sugar to a food processor and blend until just combined.
  2. Add the eggs and blend for 30 seconds. Add flour in small portions and blend until dough just comes together. (Do not over blend.)
  3. Add a tablespoon of cold water if dough is too dry. Divide and shape into two disks and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Assembly:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°.
  2. Roll out one disk of crust to about 1⁄8 inch thick. Place in a 9-inch pie pan, and trim off excess pastry around edges.
  3. Add cooled apples to the pie shell and brush the edge of the crust with water. Roll out remaining crust and place over the top. (I like to do a lattice.) Crimp edges and brush with egg wash. Sprinkle with sugar.
  4. Bake for 35-40 minutes until golden brown. Let cool for 15-20 minutes before serving.

November 2, 2023

Culinary Crafts Joins Rocky Mountain Bride’s Venue Collective

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We are delighted to announce that Rocky Mountain Bride magazine has invited Culinary Crafts to join its 2024 vendor collective.

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The collective is an exclusive guide to the best wedding vendors and venues in the U.S. and Canadian Rockies. We are honored to be featured among this amazing group of wedding professionals. The 2024 vendor collective will also feature our in-house bartending service, Bacchus Event Services. It will include the two wedding venues that Culinary Crafts operates, the Kimball Terrace in Park City and the Tasting Room in downtown Salt Lake City.

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We’re also delighted that Rocky Mountain Bride is highlighting Utah’s extraordinary wedding and hospitality industry. As the only state in the U.S. to be awarded three Michelin stars (designating it an “exceptional destination” and “worth a special journey in itself”), Utah is ideal for destination weddings. We’re glad that people are discovering that Utah is a beautiful place to live, work, and celebrate...and to get married!

Watch for photos of our gorgeous weddings and special catered events.

Rocky Mountain Bride Featured Vendor

27x winner Utah’s Best of State

24x Best of State Caterer

3x Best of the Best / Hospitality

1x Entrepreneur of the Year