Hiring a caterer takes a lot of weight off your shoulders. Definitely do your homework first though, and don’t go hiring just for the sake of hiring! Before even beginning your online search, ask around: maybe someone in your entourage knows a good caterer, or knows someone who knows someone. You’ll rest easier knowing your caterer came recommended. Expect to shell out between $20 and $60 per person, depending on your menu. The Fairmont Elizabeth’s former chef, Alain Pignard, launched his own catering company in 2014 under the name La Palette Gourmande. For cocktail dinners, Pignard recommends a dozen or so hors d’oeuvres per person, including some heartier finger foods containing beef or fish. For holiday dinners, he says people usually stick with the classics: “Tourtière, salmon, foie gras, turkey . . . my customers almost always order traditional holiday dishes!” Some caterers, like Trois-Rivières’ Dany Willard like to reinvent the classics by serving them in the form of hot or cold appetizers. Think venison paté or a turkey sandwich. Others offer the latest trends, like ready-made meal kits. Renowned Chef Jérôme Ferrer recommends his Christmas box: a ready-made dinner for 8, delivered anywhere in Quebec for only $350. So what’s in the box? Glazed salmon rillettes, foie gras, tourtière, duck confit and fresh panettone. Store your box in the fridge and come Christmas Eve, presto—you have a gourmet meal just waiting to be savoured! Ferrer’s website even features suggested wine pairings by renowned Sommelier François Chartier.
Your own private chef
More and more people are hiring at-home chefs for private dinners and events. What are the advantages of hiring an at-home chef for your next holiday get-together? “The food is restaurant quality, but you get to enjoy it in the comfort of your own home, without having to do the dishes,” explains Étienne Ouellette, a private chef from Lévis (etiennechefadomicile.com). Ouellette suggests booking your at-home chef several weeks ahead of time, especially during the holiday rush. According to Montreal’s Simon Pierre Huneault (facebook.com/unofficielchefadomicile), guests love to see private chefs in action: “People like to watch our techniques, ask questions. And seeing as we’re on-site for the final preparations, we can sear the meat on the BBQ, or use the fryer, so everything is as fresh as it gets!” People generally opt for a four- or five-course meal, which costs anywhere between $50 and $100 per person. Alternatively, you can select a cocktail dinner format that runs between $1 and $4 per amuse-bouche. The only thing you have to worry about is setting the table! The chef arrives approximately one hour before the start of the meal, and leaves once the prep, service and clean up are complete (usually four or five hours later). As a general rule, at-home chefs take on groups of 6 to 30 people. Go to miummium.com for a complete list of Quebec’s at-home chefs.
An at-home sommelier, waiter or mixologist
Want to host happy hour, but don’t want to spend the entire evening topping off your guests’ drinks? For approximately $26/hour, you can have your very own private waiter. All you have to do is make sure your bar is stocked! You can even hire a mixologist and have them create signature cocktails for your fete. Patrice Plante, owner of Quebec City-based Monsieur Cocktail, offers the “Home Sweet Home” option: a turn-key solution, complete with your very own selection of cocktails, a bar theme and personal mixologist, for only $25 per host, for groups of 15 or more. “Customers peruse our cocktail list and choose their favourites. We bring everything, even the glasses. We also offer an at-home workshop, which can be adapted according to the season. For example, during the holidays, we can teach you how to make a stellar Christmas punch!” You can also hire a sommelier, like Gatineau’s Tom Vigeant (sommeliertom.com), who’ll offer you and your guests a wine tasting experience you won’t soon forget (approximately $40 per person).
A food truck parked right in front of your door
Most Montreal food trucks (as well as those throughout the province of Quebec) own a catering permit, which allows them to cater at private residences. During last year’s mild winter, many food trucks stayed open for business. Alexandra Binet, owner of La Boîte à Fromages in Greenfield Park explains that “Last winter, some of my customers hired us and set up a space outside their home—complete with patio furniture and a fire pit. Others invited their guests to order raclette or fondue from our truck, and then continued the party indoors. Often, our being there is the highlight of the party!” Same thing goes for Coaticook’s Boucaniers en cavale, well-known and beloved for their applesauce, maple syrup and bacon pulled pork. In fact, February 2017 was their best month of the year! According to Félix Gagnon, representative for Montreal’s Texas-style Smoking BBQ (facebook.com/lesmokingbbq) restaurant and food truck, “your guests will love having a food truck because it’s fun, and you’ll love it because we take care of everything—plus we won’t even dirty your kitchen!” Contrary to caterers and at-home chefs, food trucks aren’t usually all that busy during the winter months, so you can often book them at the last minute, but you’ll need to make sure you have 50 or so guests. Some food trucks require a minimum sales volume of $1,000, while others require a deposit once the menu has been selected (around $25 per person).
A popular name in the frozen food aisle, Cool & Simple has established itself as one of the hottest brands in the world of ready-to eat meals (with some products imported from Europe!). On the menu this holiday season: foie gras brioche canapés, verrine appetizers, roast capon with cranberry stuffing ($26), Christophe Morel chocolate Yule log… delish! Also in the frozen food business, Chambly’s Mignardise specializes in frozen desserts (75 pastries for $85), all made with real butter and cream. Frozen has never tasted so good!