Degrees Catering

strawberries

Shannon Aitchison

Degrees Catering Manager

Image of Shannon Aitchison

Trends & Tips from me!

Catering Trends

Staying Local
The push towards healthy, locally-sourced foods continues, particularly for the plated dinner service and kids' meals that are so trendy at the moment. Clients are more aware of what foods are in season and more conscious of where caterers are sourcing their foods from. Kid’s meals are no longer chicken strips and fries, but are now sashimi and sushi rolls. Kids have more sophisticated palettes today and parents want to encourage their children to make healthy choices, so are expecting these options to be available when booking events, especially weddings.

As warmer weather beckons and guests are looking for lighter, fresh seasonal items, now is the perfect time to showcase a mix of fresh local flavors and bright colours in your spring/summer menus.

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Inventive Cocktails
The days of a signature cocktail to match a wedding’s colour scheme are long gone. Now brides and grooms want to offer their guests a great cocktail in the form of a build your own style. 

On trend for Spring/Summer 2014, you could set up a gin tasting bar for guests, offering spirits from distilleries around Vancouver Island with different bitters and vermouths. Guests can have fun sampling different flavours and inventing their own signature creations.

For a pop of colour and flavour, dress up summer drinks with fresh fruit ice cubes. As the ice melt away, rather than watering the drink down, the flavour profile just gets better!  Colourful and refreshing, these are a great way to impress with very little effort.

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Interactive Stations
Fun and entertaining, these are one of the hottest trends this year. Oyster stations are always a great way to have guests interact with the chefs and learn a new technique! If you don’t know how to shuck an oyster then it almost becomes a bit theater for the guests and they might go home and shuck their own oysters for their next dinner party.

DIY food stations are not only great for keeping conversations going but they allow guests to customize their creations. Build your own salad stations are perfect for spring and summer. Offer a selection of fresh locally chopped veggies and a selection of house made vinaigrettes. Fresh and fabulous!


Photo credit Jenna & Tristan

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Micro Bites
Everyone wants big flavor in a single bite so mini foods for cocktail hour are still extremely popular, particularly if they are whimsical and thematic. Taking simple classic meals, shrinking them into a single bite. Think tomato soup in a shot glass paired with a mini sharp cheddar grilled cheese sandwich.

Presentation of simple classic mini hors d’Oeuvres can be elevated with fresh seasonal flowers or with the use of everyday items transformed into serving platters like trays of wheatgrass or egg cartons.


Photo credit: Catersourse

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Bio

With nearly two decades of service in the industry, Shannon is well equipped to lead UVic's busy Degrees Catering department. In her short time at UVic - she started here in June 2012 - she's already lead Degrees through a major rebrand and pulled off hosting 8,000 delegates for Congress 2013 without a hitch.

Shannon began her work in the restaurant industry at an early age, working in various roles including hostess, server and bartender at local establishments including Canoe Brewpub, Restaurant & Marina, Oak Bay Marina Restaurant & Inn at Laurel Point.

With a positive, can-do attitude and a firm belief that “hard work will pay off” Shannon excelled in the industry and began to see her work as more than just a way to make ends meet.

Briefly considering a career in Child and Youth Care, Shannon recalls the moment when she knew she wanted to pursue food and beverage as a career instead: “I’d always thought of my work as a way to pay the bills; it wasn’t until I was into my 3rd year of school that I realized I enjoyed what I was already doing more than what I was studying in my degree.”

Shannon has also travelled extensively, moving across Canada to Nova Scotia where she worked for a personal chef and gained fine dining experience. Her travels continued through Central America, where she worked at the front desk of a “little guest house, meeting lots of people”. She lived in Taiwan for two and a half years and travelled throughout South Eastern Asia, soaking up the flavours of different cultures and cuisines.

Today her biggest passion is event planning and she feels the key strengths she brings to her current position are her strong organizational and teamwork skills. She also brings a great deal of enthusiasm to her new role.

Shannon’s favourite meal depends on the season. In summer, “a great glass of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, and a big salad piled with everything” For winter, “braised short ribs with garlic mashed potatoes, grilled root vegetables and a peppery Shiraz” because “you’d never pair a glass of Sauvignon Blanc with braised ribs”.

Hobbies include travel, snowboarding, softball and spending time with her new “puppy”, a 100-pound Bernese mountain dog named Bandit whom she describes as her new favourite person, “he’s always got a happy face”.