Catering to diverse palates and stratospheric expectations puts San Francisco’s Global Gourmet Catering at the center of culinary innovation
As BOSS readers and true bosses, it’s likely that many of you have memories of meals presented on the “rubber chicken circuit,” that plague of carbon-copy “cuisine” named for the pliant beige food presented on beige plates in beige conference rooms and reception halls found in every American city.
We are here, with Global Gourmet Catering, to help you heal.
Established in 1999 by partners David Ashley and Laura Lyons, whose mission to transform the catering industry to reach leagues beyond traditional hotel banquet standards has become a spectacular success. From firsts such as large-scale multi-ethnic stations menus to refining concession foods to high art, Ashley and Lyons have brought new levels of diversity and boldness to the catered event.
In addition to corporate events, the revolutionary San Francisco firm caters weddings, private parties, concerts, boutique concessions, anywhere that their discerning clients seek “incomparable experiences through highly customized food, beverage, and event services, using sustainable practices and a customer service driven team to exceed all expectations as a local San Francisco Bay Area caterer.”
That description comes courtesy of Global Gourmet Catering partner and director of operations, Spain Salinas.
Having discovered a love for cooking in his grandmother’s kitchen that led to attending culinary school, by 19 Salinas was cooking in some of San Francisco’s most renowned hotel restaurants, including the Argonaut and the Westin Saint Francis.
While toiling for several area catering firms, Salinas found himself cooking for the A list, including Oprah, Steve Jobs, and Christina Aguilera. “I got to experience what it was to be in these amazing houses, working for high profile people, and I got really excited about it,” he recalled. “I loved the change all the time.”
In 2004, on the advice of a friend, he joined Global Gourmet as a sous chef.
“We were doing who’s who events: cutting edge tech conferences, corporate galas and holiday bashes, CEO private gatherings, you name it. That inspired me to have a culinary career in catering. The food culture of the Bay Area has a tendency to focus on the prowess of celebrity chefs who are known for intimate dining experiences, but we’re the ones who are able to take that food and service caliber expectation and bring it to large events.” That gift for execution moved him along a trajectory from the line to the C-suite and a partnership at Global Gourmet Catering, where he now oversees the company’s operational direction. His aegis has helped the firm double in size.
“We provide large-scale corporate catering, high-caliber weddings and receptions, intimate fine dining experiences, and boutique concession food and beverage services in select entertainment venues in our local market,” he explained. “Our corporate catering services make up the lion’s share of our operations and can include everything from a cocktail reception for 50, a seated coursed dinner with organic wine pairing for 500, or a corporate conference closing mixer or gala for 40,000. Our dedicated weddings team provides restaurant-caliber culinary experiences for weddings of any size.”
Exquisite Experiences from Silicon Valley to the Outside Lands and Beyond
“The name of the game in our market is innovation, and everything we do revolves around that. Our executive management team came from restaurants as opposed to catering, which means that we are as comfortable being in a constant state of evolution as is possible. Every event is different, which is one of the things we love about what we do. We create food and beverage experiences that usually don't exist on a larger scale; our clients demand constant culinary and operational innovation. Recent examples include glow in the dark ramen for 500 guests in 45 minutes, 30 item menus served to order for thousands of guests, and a spontaneous product release celebration for 1,000 guests with 24 hours notice, to name a few.”
(Have no fear about the luminescent noodles; the concept, originally created by UK food design firm Bompas and Parr, uses quinine and food coloring to create otherworldly edible effects.)
“Given the highly customizable nature of what we do and the high level of client involvement, we are constantly working in a joint application development whereby the client’s input is integrated into our end product from the get-go. Since every event is different we are also constantly applying an adaptive project framework as we make adjustments to be able to deliver each client’s creative, quality, and service expectations within their prescribed budgets.”
He added, “What really sets us apart from other caterers is not only our ability to provide top-notch, restaurant-caliber culinary experiences featuring the highest quality seasonal, organic, locally produced and sustainably farmed ingredients from the Bay Area across the board, but to also be able to execute it on a massive scale, creatively and flawlessly while maintaining our high-quality standards. When you are talking about producing and serving 40,000 pounds of food in an hour, that’s hard to do, let alone do well.”
Global Gourmet Catering boasts a stable of elite Silicon Valley clients, from Apple and Netflix to Google and Salesforce, and virtually every universally recognizable tech company in between. “We are called ‘the tech caterer’ because of our ability to provide the cutting-edge menus, innovative thinking and creativity, and over-the-top customer service that tech companies demand,” Salinas said.
“Much of the work we do is for repeat clients, and they do not want to see the same menu item or event concept twice, so our menus are always evolving and our team is used to constantly innovating. We started the company in San Francisco in 1999, so you could say that it has ‘grown up’ with the modern technology market. Our relationship with Google, for example, started when they only had 250 employees and were still having their holiday parties in local bars!”
But what of the technology used to keep Global Gourmet Catering agile and relentlessly scalable? Salinas admitted that while there’s no elegant Silicon Valley solution under their tablecloths today, there soon will be. “Ironically, we find that our industry is a bit lackluster when it comes to technological innovation, which is why we have decided to enter that space ourselves. We are working on an operational software program that we hope will benefit all catering operations in addition to our own.”
Bringing Diversity into the Concession Space
The firm’s strategic expansion into concession catering, known as their In-House Services Division, came when Another Planet Entertainment, creators of the wildly popular Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival, and global entertainment powerhouse Live Nation, came calling in 2009.
“They asked us to provide the same elevated levels of service, food, and beverage options we bring to our catering clients to a variety of cafés, bars, clubs, concert venues, and other locations throughout the Bay Area. We are the exclusive in-house food and beverage services provider for The San Francisco War Memorial and Performing Arts Center, The Masonic, and The Mountain Winery in Saratoga. We have also been the caterer for VIP and corporate food services at the Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival since 2008.”
As the first full-service catering operation to be green certified in Northern California, Global Gourmet insists on procuring ethically sourced, superior restaurant quality ingredients whenever possible. Salinas and his teams nurture close relationships with their supplier base to ensure the consistency and quality of every item served, anywhere. “Relationships are the key to a successful sourcing and supply chain operations,” he confirmed.
“Our commitment to green practices and the high caliber of our services means that sourcing, food stuffs in particular, can be a challenge when we are talking volume because we work in the large volume arena of our industry — although our suppliers do everything they can to help us meet our clients’ various last minute needs. We pride ourselves on working with local farmers, fishermen, and specialty purveyors to provide the highest quality local, seasonal, organic, sustainably farmed, drought-friendly ingredients possible from the San Francisco Bay Area to enhance our food quality at any scale.”
Overseeing large events is a joy for Salinas, who has set his sights on feeding the masses, quite literally.
“I want to do a televised, live event for a million people,” he confessed. “We’ve done 40,000 and that’s been our maximum so far. We catered a seated dinner for 3,000, but going above and beyond that is my dream.”
The skill, scope, and expertise are there for Global Gourmet Catering to make that dream a reality. Now to find a venue. “I have some ideas about that,” Salinas laughed.
All we ask is that you save us a seat at the table — and hold the chicken.
Global Gourmet Catering is a San Francisco Bay Area catering and event planning company that provides incomparable event experiences for our clients. Its passion is to provide you and your guests with an exquisite culinary experience featuring sustainably produced, innovative and delicious menus, the highest caliber of service in our industry, trend setting design and attention to every detail. Global Gourmet’s catering and event planning services are tailor-made to suit your creative, organizational and budgetary requirements, whether your event calls for a cocktail reception for 50, seated coursed dinner with organic wine pairing for 500, or corporate conference closing mixer for 40,000.