How to Present Tacos Like a True Chef
By Michael Tosh
Modern taco events have changed what festive eating looks like. Fortunately, the nature of mobile taco catering lends itself to a clean presentation.
It says something that the once-lowly taco is now served at weddings, corporate events, and high-ticket fundraisers. The deceptively simple yet delightfully textured tacos that taco cart caterers are now serving at these events cannot just be delicious food: they need to be presented in such a way as to fit their surroundings and to meet the expectations of their well-heeled diners.
But while an unfortunate number of Americans met their first tacos at a certain fast-food chain (or confuse tacos with their cousins, the burritos, extensively sold also in casual, fast-service environments), the association with fluorescent lighting and hard plastic seating is out of step with what tacos have become today. So for the unenlightened, the presentation of tacos – be it at a company party assisted by taco catering, a bar/bas mitzvah with mobile taco catering carts, or an in-home event prepared by an amateur chef – requires a few important details that add to the gastronomic pleasure of the modern taco:
Clean kitchen – The hygiene of food preparation is essential, of course. But just as important is the perception of that hygiene. A good taco cart will be sparkling clean with the added bonus of the food prepared right in front of the guest, one taco at a time.
Collaborative cooking – The other benefit of taco events is how no two tacos are alike. Because of the wide array of salsas and toppings – in addition to the choices between chicken, chorizo, carnitas, tofu, tilapia and shrimp – the diner and cook will have a back-and-forth exchange on what goes on that particular taco.
Salsas and toppings – As with the clean kitchen, the salsas and toppings need to look fresh and be in good supply. The sharp cook will keep all options available to all diners at all times.
Clean wrap (not overfilled) – It’s tempting to overfill a taco. Because more is more, right? Well not exactly. An overflowing taco ends up being messy for the diner and much of what’s lost goes to waste – or on someone’s nice shirt. Better that the diner gets a second or third taco that has just the right amount of fillings.
Sufficient plate – The greatest part of a taco-catered event – aside from perhaps the margarita bar – is that the rules of traditional dining don’t apply. This is walk-around food if the event calls for it, and that is the reason so many event planners ring up taco caterers first for their parties.
One other thing: make sure all ingredients are fresh. This isn’t just about taste – guacamole, chopped tomatoes and onions, and cilantro have to be prepared the day of service or else the host risks bad perceptions. Presentation is everything!
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