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A Discussion with Design Cuisine’s Kent Smith

In March of 2020, Design Cuisine’s Account Executive and Creative Director, Kent Smith, was attending Catersource 2020 in Las Vegas learning about the future of events and catering. After four days of breakout sessions and exhibit halls he came home to a “shocking contrast” with businesses closing, events canceling, and COVID-19 taking the starring role in the year to come. 

We sat down (virtually) to talk with Kent about how Design Cuisine adapted their unique and delicious catering services to thrive during the last 18 months, and what he thinks the future will look like in a post-pandemic events season. 

How Kent found Design Cuisine: 

Kent owned his own catering business in Texas for nearly a decade before he attended a conference and learned about Design Cuisine. He made the decision to close his catering business and moved to the DC area to pursue a career with Design and has been an integral part of their team for 19 years. 

What the “new normal” meant for Design: 

As lockdown persisted, Design began to do what many businesses had to do, furlough staff. Kent was one of the few staff members Design Cuisine was able to keep on board during the pandemic. They communicated openly and honestly with their clients, letting them know they would do their best to be around for whatever they needed. 

When it became clear the world would not be returning to normal in the near future, Design pivoted to at-home meal kits, giving clients the opportunity to have a gourmet experience in their own home. 

After working the at-home meal route, they began looking into long-term government contracts and working with non-profit organizations throughout the DC and NYC areas like, Real Food for Kids, that helped deliver food to underprivileged children who no longer had school lunch provided for them. 

Throughout the pandemic, Design packed and transported nearly 15,000 meals daily to New York for those with food insecurities. It was all hands on deck for Kent, staff members, and sister commissaries, who donned hairnets and gloves to safely accomplish this service. This humanitarian effort was the catalyst for Design to bring back a majority of their staff, and during these few months, they have proudly packed over 1 million meals. 

In January 2021, Design also provided around-the-clock hot beverage service and nearly 1,000 meals a day to the Capitol Police and National Guard members stationed in Washington D.C.  The result of this cyclical effort thankfully restored their hourly staffing.

“Events are certainly back.” : 

With the fall event season approaching, Design Cuisine is implementing new mandates to ensure all event staff and attendees stay safe in our “new normal” event environment.  

While Design does intend to return to more traditional catering styles (self-serve buffets, etc.), they are continuing to evaluate the needs of each event on a case-by-case basis, and taking the client’s comfort level into consideration when providing their services. 

One trend Kent does not see going any time soon is the Grab-and-Go concept, or individually packed servings ready to go for each attendee. There is a “comfort level about that” and it is still the preferred way to serve food for some of their clients. 

We are grateful to call Design Cuisine, and Kent, one of our longtime partners and recommended vendors, and are excited to see what the future will bring for them. 

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