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A Look at the History of Catering

O'Sheas Catering |

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When we are talking about catering the things that pop in our minds are foods and beverages served typically at a social event. Yes, that’s basically the main point of a catering business. Catering industry is a service industry of providing food and drinks in a professional capacity at a remote site or onsite such as hotel, public house or location depending on the request of the client.

In recent times, catering is no more just about serving delicious food but also has evolved to become an artisanal affair. Caterers now create an experience that involves all the senses.

The term was originally coined by the merchant marines, who were among the first to employ catering officers for their vessels. These catering officers were responsible for purchasing goods, preparing food and serving the meals on board the vessels.

Normally culinary world and chefs are associated with restaurants, but restaurants are relatively a new development. The modern catering industry mostly gained popularity following World War II but earlier examples of catering can be found much earlier. Let’s look at the history of catering.

Catering or world of large production of food largely centered around feasts and celebrations for royals and nobles for a long a time but catering history can be traced back to 4th millennium BC China. The first inns and places where you could eat were there. It was a start of a tradition of “hospitality” which basically means – being kind to strangers. And it has continued.

Egypt also has history of catering though most work was performed by slaves for grand celebrations. The free hospitality practice of catering emerged with the ancient Greece in Europe with hostels and inns serving free services. This continued into the Roman Empire though services were primarily intended for soldiers and eventually opened to all travelers.

Catering spread across Europe during the middle ages with monasteries accommodating mostly Christian pilgrimages along the popular routes. Additionally newly established bourgeoisies and monetary economy helped catering business to flourish.

In America, the catering industry is still quite young. One of the earliest known examples of catering in the US occurred in 1778 when Caesar Cranshell catered a ball in Philadelphia. Organized catering businesses have been found in Philadelphia since around 1890s. Philadelphia caterers were merging catering businesses with restaurants by about 1840.

Catering industry started booming after the World War II with companies that once supplied foods to military needed new markets. And as it happened, the country was entering period of prosperity, caterers found demand in their services. This combination of circumstances allowed the development of modern catering industry.

The modern transportation, new technologies, safety regulations and preparation processes and increase in travel and tourism has added to the popularity of catering business along with food appreciation in general. Now, catering business has its own trade shows that discusses about various ins and outs of catering and innovations in food technologies.

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