Being vegan at catered events

December 14, 2010

I’ve been to a few catered events over the years – some weddings, sure, but also a golf tournament banquet, some business functions, and some other stuff too.  They were all fun events, and I met some great people at my table, but the dinners weren’t vegan, and if I didn’t take a chance on getting something other than the rubbery chicken (and risk having an empty plate) I wouldn’t have had those experiences.  Here’s what I’ve learned about going to catered events:

Some fun trivia about my last catered meal: I forgot to ask for a vegan option until the morning of the meal, but the organizer made it happen.  The next day, she asked how it was, and I told her how amazing she was for pulling that meal together – even the wine was vegan! (It happened to be a Barnivore-approved wine, but I suspect she didn’t know what I was talking about.  I thought it was a good compliment though.)

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Amanda December 14, 2010 at 10:23 pm

I went to Outback Steakhouse with family, thinking they would have an option or two I could have. Boy, was I wrong. Even thieir salads were served with cheese and some form of meat. When the waiter came around, I told him I’d just have a bowl of lettuce, because there’s nothing even remotely vegan on the menu. He said, “No worries, I’m a vegan too. I’ll have the cooks whip up something awesome for you”. I kind of looked at him funny (A vegan working in a steakhouse?) but was stoked about what was coming. I had steamed veggies, mashed potatoes, and they made meatless potstickers with some sort of sweet sauce. My whole family was drooling. So awesome.

Jason December 14, 2010 at 10:28 pm


Al December 15, 2010 at 10:27 am

I agree with everything in this video.

There was one summer where my family attended three weddings at the same reception hall in Fargo, ND. Each time, the bride and groom were nice enough to let the caterer know they needed to prepare a few vegan options. For the first one, we were the only vegan family there, but the second and third time, there were other vegans in attendance and the caterers knew exactly what to do.

That reception hall now likely has a process in place for vegan options at receptions.

The more we call ahead, the more normalized it becomes, the more it just starts to be part of the process. Eventually, caterers will be proactively asking the question, “Will there be any vegans in attendance?”

Laura P. December 15, 2010 at 4:44 pm

I too have found that others are often jealous over the specially made vegan food I get at catered events. I can’t tell you how many times I have had others come up to me and inquire why I have something different and say it looks/smells so good. At events where there is a buffet my food is fresher since it is not made in large batches. Being vegan can present certain challenges, but at catered events vegans often end up with better food!

Epicurean Vegan December 16, 2010 at 10:48 am

I used to be so nervous about telling restaurants and event organizers that I’m vegan–I didn’t want to the “difficult” customer, but I’ve learned that it’s actually no big deal at all. You’re exactly right when you say people at the table get a little jealous. I was a writer’s retreat back in October and I had let the staff know ahead of time I’m a vegan and they made the most wonderful meals for me. One night I got a stuffed portobello and the next night a stuffed bell pepper–they were amazing and I think everyone at the table did a double take, then frowned at their own meat-filled plates. I don’t hesitate to ask a waiter if the chef can modify a recipe for me (if it’s not a busy dinner or lunch rush) and I agree with you–many chefs welcome the idea of finally making something different since they make the same thing day in and day out. Anyhow, great advice–thanks!

Jason December 16, 2010 at 2:41 pm

I’m so happy to hear I’m not the only one who’s experienced this, thanks everyone for backing me up! This is one of those areas where it can be a little tricky to experiment, so it’s great to hear from other people – it’s easy to pick a restaurant and try new things, but catered events usually require a bit more work to get in, and then it’s more intimidating in our minds because of the perceived exclusivity (though in reality a lot of catered stuff is an obligatory hassle for the situation you happen to be in, but not everyone’s in that space.)

Julia January 4, 2011 at 6:16 pm

I have a girlfriend which had got married this summer. It’s a bit weird but I have not told her that I had become vegan, because she thought that being vegetarian was weird when I was vegetarian.
So, I told her to tell the catering that I would like to have something without meat, eggs and dairy products. Off course she didn’t say it the same way to the catering, she said – “a vegetarian will be present”.
Finally, I was chewing on the sour tomatoes and pickles 🙂 Not nice.

Kathleen April 14, 2013 at 9:55 pm

I have had both experiences-bad and good. I have definitely had the experience of getting something others envied and enjoyed some good food. Yesterday I went to a bar mitzvah but never thought of contacting the organizer for fear that it would somehow burden the facility but you are right, I should do this. I told them the night of and they gave me a baked potato and veggies cooked in vegan margarine. I had a small avocado I had brought with it. I also had plain lettuce and had brought a vegan Caesar dressing not even knowing others were eating sad Caesar salad. I made the of trying a dish at the cocktail hour after being assured it was vegan only to learn it was not and I learned an important lesson-although you can never be sure, make sure to talk to the maitre’d and have them ask the chefs exactly what is in it because people do not know necessarily what a vegan is. My waitress was very very sweet and really went out of her way to accommodate me the best she could but kept saying well you can have steak or chicken thinking I had told her the only thing I could not eat was fish.

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