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.
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.
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.