When it comes to food trends, 2019 has been all about consumers dictating which ingredients wind up on their plates – not to mention the cultivation of Instagram-worthy experiences. We’re demanding more healthy, sustainable farm-to-table options of our own choosing while also being given the opportunity to flaunt our food photography skills by capturing the latest crazes to emerge from the culinary world.

That’s where custom catering and grazing tables come in – merging big, diverse and beautiful displays that showcase our love of food with unique experiences you can enjoy with family and friends. From spectacular styling to high-quality ingredients (wave goodbye to processed meats!), these tables and platters make for a showstopping bespoke dining experience.

Aliza Devenyi, who co-owns Toronto’s cured.catering with Zoë Wisenberg, can attest to the high demand for photo-ready displays. “Most clients are concerned about the ‘wow’ factor,” she says, referring to the stunning table-sized charcuterie boards (pictured) she and Zoë specialize in. “Clients want an impressive, beautiful and, most importantly, delicious spread.”

According to a recent survey on millennial spending habits, more than 3 in 4 (78 per cent) said they would choose to spend their hard-earned cash on desirable experiences over material things. This pattern in spending habits is what economists are referring to as the “experience economy”, and its influence on food culture is undeniable – foodies need only look to the growing trends in farm-to-table options, custom catering and grazing tables for evidence.

“[They’re] not only a beautiful focal point for any party, but they provide a fun, interactive and customizable experience for guests,” Devenyi adds. “Gone are the days of stuffy dinner parties with complicated cuisines.”

A Visual Feast

For the uninitiated, a grazing table or supersized charcuterie board may resemble a traditional buffet at first – but instead of stacking a plate high with a limited selection of food, they instead allow guests to walk by, pop a bite-sized item into their mouths and keep mingling with the crowd. After all, nothing brings a group of people together quite like a table gorgeously styled with a rainbow assortment of drool-worthy foods to choose from.

And, as companies like cured.catering have proven, grazing tables or super-sized charcuterie boards are also genuine works of art. Even Pinterest is reporting that searches for grazing tables have skyrocketed by more than 163 per cent in the last year – and you can credit that surge in popularity to its Instagram-ready displays and communal experiences.

It also allows for customizing to suit a variety of dietary needs as people become more vocal about taking ownership of what’s on their plates.

With the growing number of dietary requirements, Devenyi and her business partner Wisenberg have had to get creative, sometimes crafting tables with a 50/50 balance of meat and vegetarian options. Think: prosciutto and honey paired with blue cheese (a personal favourite of hers) or something like vegan cashew “cheese” balls and thinly sliced veggies with nuts.

“We’ve noticed an increased demand in requests for offerings that cater to specific dietary needs, like gluten sensitivity, dairy-free and vegan,” she says. “We also have people asking for lighter options, such as more fruit and crudités.”

All of cured.catering’s creations are made up of locally-sourced produce, meats and specialty cheeses – something more foodies are taking note of when choosing where to spend their money.  As the business has developed, so too has its offerings, including all fruit or dessert tables – and candy tables for those with a major sweet tooth.

It’s apparent from rainbow bagels to epic spreads that people are eating with their eyes now more than ever before, with no signs of the trend abating anytime soon, including the ability to pick and choose how and what food you consume.

“Every bite has the power to be a different, transformative taste, which is why I think it’s so popular,” Devenyi says. “It’s not a plated meal, but rather … a way for guests to get creative and indulge in their hearts’ desires.”

All photos courtesy of cured.catering