TST Creative Catering shares tricks just in time for summer party season.
Whether attending a wedding, graduation party, family reunion or birthday celebration, there’s one event element that all guests universally look forward to: the food. From decadent cheese displays to passed appetizers, freshly sliced steak to a rich piece of chocolate cake, one delicious bite can take an event from average to a local legend (e.g., your dad just won’t stop talking about those tiny grilled cheeses). TST Creative Catering, owned by Mike and Rhonda Pape of Woodbury, sets out to achieve this very goal.
“We love entertaining,” say Mike and Rhonda Pape. After having successful careers in other fields (Mike in the military and law, Rhonda in special events and marketing), they bought TST Creative Catering in the fall of 2015. Along with the catering business, they acquired two event spaces, Ideal Hall and The Scandia Creamery. “We wanted to do something that makes a difference and where we could work together,” Rhonda explains. “We have always had an interest in owning our own company and felt the best way to do it would be to look for an existing business that offered some great opportunities for us.”
Now running at around 2,000 events per year, it seems like opportunities abound for TST. The company covers all kinds of celebrations and gatherings in addition to providing meals to senior housing groups and schools. Their menus include everything from breakfast to dessert, and full catering to boxed lunches. Since opening, they’ve done everything from delivering lunches to over a thousand transportation volunteers in town during the Super Bowl to catering concessions for the Lakes Area Renaissance Festival. “There are a few weekends where it gets a little crazy,” says Rhonda, remembering a three-day span during October of 2017 in which they catered 10 weddings. “There are times where we feed over 1,500 people in one day.”
One especially memorable event was for the Twin Cities Opera Guild’s performance of The Marriage of Figaro at the James J. Hill House in St. Paul, says Rhonda. They researched food from the story’s time period to match the theme, and ended up serving bacon-wrapped dates that were such a hit they added them to the regular menu. The Papes are often on the lookout for new items to add to their catalog, and they encourage customers to ask about special requests. Apart from the creations of their customers and staff, they also get ideas from the different themed events they cater for, similar to the Opera Guild performance. “We worked with a school for an ‘around the world’ theme with food from countries that represented the makeup of their student body,” says Rhonda. “And we are working with a traditional Indian menu for an event this month.”
These opportunities for creativity are part of why the catering business is appealing to the Papes. “The most interesting thing is that no two days are ever the same,” they say. “It is so much fun working with the couples that come in planning their big day, or planning an anniversary or graduation party. It’s more than just food. Everyone we work with is marking something special.”
When the Papes consider what they think makes an event truly special, it’s a lot of little things adding up. “Great food is a given, but details really matter,” Rhonda says. However, it’s clear from their experience that only so much can be prepared for when planning an event. “Plan your event, but do not micromanage every detail down to the last second. It will take the joy out of the event,” says Rhonda. She adds, “You cannot schedule or plan happiness.” You can, however, plan a great meal.
TST Creative Catering works events within 60 miles of the Twin Cities and occasionally does weddings or corporate events in Wisconsin. The company includes two event spaces, Ideal Hall in St. Paul and The Scandia Creamery in Scandia, Minn. Each space can hold up to 350 people and offers full-service catering. Ideal Hall also hosts dinner shows with live music once a month. Find more details online.