A look at the preparation of the elaborate convocation spread
Convocation is a grand occasion for thousands of Capilano University students each year, and while the graduates are the focal point of the ceremony, it also serves as a spotlight moment for the team working behind the scenes to cater to the entire event. Chartwells has only been CapU’s food service provider for a little over a year, but they have always delivered artful and palatable dishes on the catering front, and Convocation has been no exception.
According to Catering Manager Stefanie Boch, the platters at Convocation don’t actually differ much from those served at other events throughout the year, but rather it’s the amount of food that is out of the ordinary. Although this year’s spread is still in its developmental phase, she notes that one thing is certain: “Chartwells does not use their traditional measurements for platter sizes for this event.”
Last year’s spread consisted of hors d’oeuvres, including bocconcini and tomato skewers, sushi, teriyaki meatballs, petite vegetable samosas with chutney, spring rolls with plum sauce, cajun chicken wings, mini beef tacos with salsa and pita chip platters with hummus and tzatziki. Bite size desserts, including cream puffs, coconut macaroons and assorted squares were all served with coffee, tea and punch.
With over 3,000 guests to cater to over the span of two days, the chefs begin planning their spread months in advance when event organizer Julie Vanderyagt reaches out to Chartwells. Food and beverages are prepared on the day of the event. “At this point we have a look at last year’s menu and Julie decides if there should be any changes,” said Boch. “By mid-May, Julie gives us a rough idea [of] attendees and she gives us the times of the different ceremonies with receptions. Our kitchen chef starts to work on food quantities and staff planning.”
Seven to 10 days before the ceremonies, attendance has been calculated and preparation speeds up, and work schedules are created accordingly for front-of-house staff members. “Constant communication between Julie and us is essential. Everyone needs to be on the same page and needs to know the deadlines,” said Boch.
Preparing enough food for the largest event of the year isn’t without its challenges. “It is at a time of the year when our operation starts slowing down and we have fewer staff working,” said Boch. “The large scale of this event is always a little challenging. It is also challenging that we do not have a lot of turnaround time in between sessions, and everything has to work like a well-oiled machine to ensure proper take down of the last session and setup for the next one.”
With timeliness noted, Boch ensures that Chartwells is also prepared for dietary restrictions. The majority of Chartwells’ menus are nut and major allergen free, and allergy alert placards get placed in front of spreads. Vanderyagt also takes note of certain dietary requirements that get handed off to the caterers long in advance.
The event is to take place outdoors despite a high chance of rain, but Boch is certain the event won’t be heavily dependent on Vancouver’s unpredictable elements. “Our task becomes more challenging in case of bad weather, but it does not impact how the event is planned and executed,” she said. The reception following the ceremony is hosted underneath a canopy, and plates are transported outdoors using Chartwells’ traditional catering carts and food warmers.
With all the stressful hours of planning and preparation required to pull off the extensive ceremony that is ultimately the most meaningful day for CapU students and their friends and families, Boch finds satisfaction in her and her team’s end product. “It is great to be a part of an event that is very important to not only the university, but also the students and the proud families,” she said. “To be able to see all the happy faces makes it all worthwhile.”
CapU’s convocation ceremonies are scheduled for June 5 and 6, signalling the end of Chartwells’ second successful year as the university’s catering service.
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