Twenty years ago, Lisa Dupar would hand sample catering menus over to prospective customers. These days, clients are the ones bringing ideas to her.
Dupar once supplied a Miami Vice–themed bash with pressed Cubano sandwiches, chocolate cigars (dipped in red sugar crystals to mimic fire), and Cuban-style coffee service. Members of Lisa Dupar Catering’s 100-person staff—with another 300 on call—might venture to a remote, largely kitchenless farm to pull off a lavish Indian wedding luncheon, only to serve guests a black-tie dinner of Northwest salmon a few hours later.
Parties have evolved from templated affairs to a form of personal expression, and Dupar defends her title as the region’s best-known caterer by rising to ever more elaborate occasions. Even hosts of more straightforward affairs “want their celebration to be in their voice,” she says, whether that means sustainable sourcing, a buffet of family cookie recipes, or exclusively French wines. Dupar’s massive commercial kitchen behind her Redmond restaurant, Pomegranate Bistro, bakes wedding cakes, tempers chocolate, and snips microgreens for as many as 1,500 events a year.
Catering is an economic bellwether of sorts; Dupar has seen Seattle through heady dot-com days—“nobody even asked about money, it was just ‘the sky’s the limit and send us the bill’”—to festivity-free recessions when she stayed afloat delivering lunchtime sandwich orders to nearby offices. Good caterers also evolve with social mores, she says. Informal flourishes like slushy machines now crop up at high-end events, made swank with twists like lemon verbena margarita mix. “People are raising the fun level.”