Catering Partner Spotlights

Discover the incredible stories behind the amazing restauranteurs, bakers, chefs and catering partners we work with every single day.

SIPBAR bar
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How SIPBAR Brings the Party to Your Office

Read Time: 3 Min

From an app concept to a booming full service business, SIPBAR began when brothers, Jack, Daniel, and Alex created a restaurant-rewards app while running pop-up bars in offices on the side. Bar bookings were filling up the brothers’ schedules, becoming the core of their business, causing the app to be put on hold. They saw an opportunity to create an elevated corporate bar experience that would change the way offices host events.

drinks

“[You can] create a bar that suits your specific event profile, and check out online, in less than two minutes”.

Our visit with SIPBAR was unlike any other—they invited us to their summer party (how lucky are we)?! Upon arriving, the brothers welcomed us as if we were longtime friends—offering us drinks and food, while live music was playing in the background. The event had all the ingredients for a lively party, complete with food from one of our most popular catering partners, Per Se Catering. We sat down with Alex and Edmund, SIPBAR’s Toronto City Lead. “Corporate event planners have a difficult time pulling together an elevated bar experience at a reasonable price for any event, while caterers don’t put as much effort into their cocktails and bar experience”, explains Alex. “SIPBAR.com, was the solution to that. [You can] create a bar that suits your specific event profile, and check out online, in less than two minutes”.

office party

“It comes down to the bartenders, the team, the cocktails, and the quality of ingredients.”

“We started building the business around an efficient high level scalable bar service”, Alex explains. “We have a wide range of productsanything from craft beer, premium wines, spirits, and a cocktail menu that changes season by season,” Edmund adds. SIPBAR puts an emphasis on customer service, ensuring that all clients have a bar experience that is unmatched by any other service alike. “It comes down to the bartenders, the team, the cocktails, and the quality of ingredients.”

sipbar bartender

“Having Platterz as a sales arm and marketing channel has a direct benefit.”

SIPBAR launched in January 2017 and began working with our team that October. We have had the honour of watching SIPBAR grow from the early stages all the way through to now, where they have officially launched in New York City (and are a part of our roster of NYC vendors as well). “I always feel like Platterz wants to learn more about our product to be able to promote us better on the [Platterz] site,” Edmund explains, speaking to our partnership. “Having Platterz as a sales arm and marketing channel has a direct benefit,” Alex adds. Platterz has unique offerings for our clients, especially through SIPBAR, so we were thrilled to hear such positive feedback. We have an upscale bar service that pairs well with any event, meeting, or happy hour—safe to say, SIPBAR and Platterz are a pretty killer team together.

SIPBAR party
With Fall officially upon us, we’re starting to plan for the holiday season (did we mention we can plan your office holiday parties—for free?), and we’re thinking of all the amazing drinks and cocktails SIPBAR can add to your event. Looking for a custom cocktail? Get brainstorming, and let’s plan a party to remember.

 

For behind the scenes footage from our shoot, check out our Instagram page highlights!

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Instagram: @thesipbar

Website: https://www.sipbar.com/

Cities: Toronto & New York City

colourful salads
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It’s Not a Myth: Aaamazing Salad is Truly Amazing

Aaa·ma·zing Sa·lad

/AHˈmāziNG ˈsaləd/

When moving to Canada from China eight years ago, chef-owners Eva and her husband, Jacky, wanted to do something AH-mazing. Fast forward eight years, Aaamazing Salad is a booming healthy spot in Toronto’s trendy Kensington Market. One being a chef and the other boasting an art background, this dynamic husband and wife duo creates colourful healthy salads that appeal to not only the eye, but also the body.

“In China, salad is just fruit and romaine lettuce with a simple dressing. Here, salad can be a [whole] meal.”

Aaamazing Salads Salad

When first moving to Montreal, Eva and Jacky walked past a salad restaurant that had a lineup out the door. Coming from China, the two of them never thought that salad could serve as a main dish, nor be a restaurant’s main focus–they only viewed it as an appetizer. “In China, salad is just fruit and romaine lettuce with a simple dressing. Here, salad can be a [whole] meal,” says Eva. With a young daughter, who they wanted to grow up living a healthy lifestyle, the couple was inspired by this Montreal spot, and thought ‘we can do this too’!

“It’s pronounced AH-mazing. I wanted to do something amazing, and it just came to me.”

Kensington Salad Shop, owners Eva and JackyAfter diving deeper into health and nutrition research, Eva and Jacky started experimenting with nutrients and various healthy flavours. “We try to match tastes together, while also thinking of everybody’s’ [nutritional] needs. I also love the colours of vegetables,” Eva explains as she compares salad to a piece of art. When asked about the name of her restaurant, Eva explains “it’s pronounced AH-mazing. I wanted to do something amazing, and it just came to me.” We can attest that her salads are AH-mazing indeed!

“We have to get the best [quality] of each ingredient. Quality product is more expensive, but it’s worth it.”

Aaamazing Salads Salad
In 2014, Eva and Jacky opened Aaamazing Salad. Prior to opening, Eva explains that they worked on developing their asian sesame dressing for more than one and a half years, and continue to perfect it, four years later. Eva and Jacky use the same approach in developing their whole menu; they are always working to improve the taste and ingredients of their product. “Quality [of ingredients] is really important,” explains Eva. “We have to get the best [quality] of each ingredient. Quality product is more expensive, but it’s worth it.”

“We start with a new recipe for a dressing, and based on the texture, we match it to grains or salads and then build up from there.”

Preparing SaladThe items on the menu all start with an idea. “We start with a new recipe for a dressing, and based on the texture, we match it to grains or salads and then build up from there,” describes Eva. Their popular (and delicious) Rocket Bowl began with a chickpea sauce. “Step by step we add ingredients”, such as eggs and avocados which are key items in the Rocket Bowl.

“Platterz gives us a chance to serve a lot of different customers and really big companies.”

Aaamazing Salads Kensington Market
Aaamazing Salad heard about Platterz from another local spot, Toronto Popcorn Company, who serve gourmet popcorn flavours—including Maple Bacon Popcorn. Yes, you read that right—just across the street from Eva’s restaurant. “Platterz gives us a chance to serve a lot of different customers and really big companies,” denotes Eva on our working relationship. “Platterz focuses on both their customers and their partnerships, making sure both parts are happy.  We can really feel it. I’ve had a really good experience working with Platterz, and give a lot of thanks to Platterz for our business.”

Healthy Salads
Eva made us feel so at home during our visit, and ensured we did not go hungry either. She sent us home with enough salad to feed our team for a week (not to mention it was incredibly delicious AND colourful).

What are you waiting for? Bring some healthy colour into your office—people will love it, we promise!

For behind the scenes footage from our shoot, check out our Instagram page highlights!

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Instagram: @aaamazingsalad

City: Toronto, Ontario

Healthy Salads
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Café Neon’s Healthy Catering Infuses Greek Heritage Into Every Bite

“In Greece, every village has a cafeneon, where all the locals gather to eat. A day doesn’t go by without going there.”

Walking into Café Neon, we were transported to a Greek café right by the Mediterranean sea. With brightly patterned walls, music beating, and the fresh smell of coffee, we felt far away. It didn’t feel like a Tuesday, or the beginning of a work week. It felt like we were in a small town in Greece—a place full of life and culture. We sat down with Greek owner Niki Tsourounakis at Café Neon, to hear her story and learn about her restaurant-catering business.

Veggie Platter

Named after the Greek traditional meeting spot, “cafeneon”, Niki wanted to bring a piece of Mediterranean culture to Toronto. “In Greece, every village has a cafeneon, where all the locals gather to eat. A day doesn’t go by without going there”, mentions Niki. Cafeneons bring people together over food—which at Platterz, we know a little something about. “I loved the feeling that they exuded. It was a local spot, and you met your relatives and friends, and caught up on the day’s events” Niki explains. Upon opening her restaurants and catering business, Niki wanted to bring this exact feeling to Café Neon and its cocktail counterpart, Bar Neon.

Being born into three family restaurants, Niki always felt at home in the kitchen. “I just had it in me”, she says. “I learned so much being in the restaurants. I learned how to cook by watching the chefs in the kitchen. I still have visions of how they prepared things to this day.”

Freshly baked croissants

“This is what I should be doing. It’s my passion.”

Despite her family history in the restaurant industry, Niki wanted to do something different. “I thought I wanted to leave the restaurant industry to challenge myself more. I went to school for forensic psychology. I wanted to be a criminal profiler.” After going through schooling for forensic psychology, Niki purchased a property and rented it out to a budding chef. “Watching him cook re-inspired me, and brought it back out of me. I thought to myself, what am I doing? This is what I should be doing. It’s my passion.” Stemming from this realization, Niki started participating in catering events, cooking out of her small apartment.

“I just dreamt it. I thought, this is going to be the place, this is perfect.”

Keeping busy with small-scale catering events, Niki was approached to do an office launch party for 300 people. Seemingly an ambitious undertaking, Niki was ready for the challenge. “I was cooking out of my tiny loft, but I never say no to anything.” Inspired by the neighbourhood of the event, she ended up finding a vacant space online, which would become Café Neon. “I just dreamt it. I thought, this is going to be the place, this is perfect.” Café Neon opened shortly thereafter in 2011, and just six months later, Niki opened Bar Neon. She now operates the business with her partner Katy Chan, who is a Stratford trained chef. 

Oatmeal Cookies Behind Glass

“We like to stick to simple ingredients, and letting them shine. Less is more.”

With a healthy Mediterranean fusion menu, Café Neon’s food is made from scratch. “One of our biggest mantras is that we don’t use anything that’s processed and we use mostly organic ingredients. We make everything.” Niki is proud of the ingredients she and her team uses, and even imports her family’s olive oil from Greece. “It tastes like liquid-gold.” She mentions how eating healthy is important to her, and how this is incorporated into her catering. “We like to stick to simple ingredients and let them shine. Less is more.” 

Café Neon signed on with Platterz about a year ago. On working with Platterz, Niki says “it feels like having an extra team member.” We work with our vendors daily to make sure that they feel like they are a part of our family, so it was extra exciting to hear Niki say that she feels like we are a part of her team.

In terms of opportunity, Niki reflected on how her business has recently evolved. “We’re catering to people we would’ve never approached. We don’t really advertise that we cater, and we don’t really have to because of Platterz. They’ve opened a lot of avenues for us, and are allowing us to grow at a much faster pace.”

Cafe Neon

After hearing about Niki, her Greek heritage, and how the kitchen is Niki’s natural habitat, our admiration for Café Neon instantly grew. This is why we love meeting our vendors—their stories and the care they put into their food is truly inspiring. We felt very at home during our time at Café Neon, and love the way Niki’s passion for food comes through in her catering. If your team is in need of some healthy comfort food, Cafe Neon has got you covered!

Take a look at their menu on Platterz and be sure to let us know what you think!

Porta Via grilled vegetables, roasted chicken, grilled tofu, quinoa and brown rice
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Cooking as an Art: How Porta Via Chef-Owner Ali Found His Creativity

Cooking as an Art: How Porta Via Chef-Owner Ali Found His Creativity

We arrived at Porta Via bright and early on a Friday morning and were greeted by smells of fresh herbs, a kitchen in full-swing, and Ali’s unwavering hospitality. He led us straight into the hustle and bustle of the kitchen, sharing intricate details of his past while mixing spices, chopping veggies, and preparing his catering orders for the day.

Owner Ali With His Menu

From an aircraft maintenance engineer to a restaurateur, Ali’s quest for creativity was found through fresh ingredients, healthy food and recipe-building. Porta Via, the Italian phrase for “takeaway”, was opened in 2006 to fill the gap between fast-food restaurants and fine dining. On opening his restaurant and catering business, Ali mentions that there was “nothing fresh or of good quality,” if you needed something on-the-go. With this, Ali saw an opportunity.

seasonal salad

Initially an Italian-inspired menu, Porta Via opened to provide customers with something quick, without compromising quality of food or taste. Through listening to his customers, the Porta Via menu quickly became international fusion, focusing on high quality, healthy ingredients that were always fresh. “Everyone is going back to their roots, everyone is becoming health-conscious.” Ali mentions, which inspired the health-focused menu of Porta Via. 

“The ingredients we use are real ingredients; it’s the food we were meant to eat.”

Chalkboard restaurant sign: Porta Via Promise: real good using real ingredients from scratch. Bon Apetit!

Ali has worked in the restaurant and catering industry since 1998. He worked as a bartender, a server and a catering coordinator at restaurants, banquet halls and catering companies. “I picked up a lot of experience on how to service customers properly, and how to make them happy.” This is one of the main focuses of Porta Via – to always listen to their customers. “We change our recipes according to what our customers want. Our menu is almost entirely gluten-free, we use no preservatives, and make everything from scratch.”

While working for Air Canada as an aircraft maintenance engineer, the attacks of September 11th played a key role in Ali’s career. “A lot of people were laid off after September 11th, and I was one of them. My background was in engineering and the restaurant industry.” Upon arriving at this crossroad, Ali chose the restaurant industry. He explains how growing up, he always wanted to create, and through food he has found his creative niche. “Cooking is an art,” Ali remarks, “I wouldn’t have lasted as an engineer, I wouldn’t have been able to be as creative.”

Porta Via’s catering menu is inspired by many cuisines; every week, Ali and his family dine at different restaurants to look for new ideas for his menu. When inspired, Ali returns back to his kitchen after hours and experiments with different ingredients. “Our roasted eggplant in ginger coconut curry sauce was inspired by a fine Indian restaurant in Toronto.”

Build-Your-Own Hot Meal Bowls

Ali wears “many hats” at Porta Via; he is a business owner, a manager, ensures food is at top quality, and directs customer service. “Marketing gets left out” Ali mentions, and notes that Platterz has really helped his business in this way. As soon as he sat down with the Platterz team, he knew that he wanted to be a part of it. “Platterz understands the restaurant business very well, which is helpful for success.”

When asked what the most rewarding part of his job is, Ali explains without hesitation that “being able to create jobs and give opportunity is the most inspiring.” Ali has cultivated a positive working space for his employees – which also happens to be one of the key principles of Platterz (no wonder we work so well together)! Ali views his relationship with his employees very positively. “We are like family. If I focus on the employees, they focus on our customers, and everyone is happy.”

A humbling moment for us came when Ali spoke about how Platterz has played a defining role in his creative pursuit. “The Platterz team is so adaptable and great – they trust me, and are always willing to take on new recipes for the menu.” The Build-Your-Own Hot Meal is the best performing item on Platterz, and enables him to come up with new creative combinations and flavours for his corporate catering clientele. Ali adds that this feeds his creativity further – he’s always trying new things.

“Cooking is an art.”

Seasoning Brussel Sprouts

While being at Porta Via, Ali and his employees treated us like a part of the family. Talk about amazing workplace culture! We were welcomed into the family, and left well-fed (the food was extraordinarily fresh and abundant with flavour, FYI), which is why we love meeting our restaurant and catering partners. Sharing food brings people together, and after learning about what led to Porta Via’s delicious success, the food tastes even better! 

 

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How Platterz Caterer Mika Built Mika Fresh From The Ground Up

What do Computer Science and cooking have in common?

To most, not much – but for Mediterranean caterer Mika, whose passion has always been about making things, the disciplines turned into an unlikely pair of outlets for her creativity. We sat down with her to hear her take on the transition from typing code to kneading dough, and to learn how she built the successful catering company and storefront Mika Fresh while starting a family.

mika fresh

When Mika and her husband first immigrated to Canada, she planned to study Culinary Arts at George Brown – a unique complement to her degree in Computer Science, which she hoped would let her explore her love for baking. But between a career in engineering and growing her family, she put the goal on the back-burner, instead taking odd bakery jobs on the weekends and after hours to satisfy the baking itch.

Soon, that itch meant that working in the kitchen became a necessity rather than a hobby. “When I was working with computers, I realized that I needed to work with my hands – but not just typing,” she said. Baking and cooking gave her a creative space she felt was missing from her office jobs that she couldn’t pass up. Her time spent in kitchens grew, and after having her second child, Mika took up opportunities to work in restaurants, eventually making the switch to baking full-time.

Since moving to Toronto, she’d also noticed a gap in the market for fresh, casual food that tasted homemade: “It was hard to find a place where you could get something healthy…You have to look very hard, and sometimes you don’t feel like having the whole experience of the restaurant, but you want real food,” she said. So she decided to fill the gap herself.

mika-restaurant

When Mika Fresh was born, it was just Mika as the head chef and owner, her former coworker Naftali who’d head the baking efforts, and whatever kitchen space they could get their hands on. As a first-time business owner, she experimented with different approaches – like a focus on packaged grab-and-go meals, and private event catering – before nailing down the concept.

Finally, she decided to focus on catering out of a small, fast-casual dine-in space. Getting into a rhythm with only two people handling the administration, storefront, catering, and deliveries took time. “We had a rough start. Our customers were very patient with us,” she laughed. Today, it couldn’t be a more different story.

mika-team

In the two-and-a-half years since she and Naftali bounced from kitchen to kitchen, Mika joined Platterz, and settled into a space where her catering capacity, storefront business, and reputation as a staple Toronto caterer have skyrocketed. For Platterz customers and Toronto locals who’ve tried the food, Mika Fresh’s reputation is obvious: reliably delicious, healthful dishes that taste like they were made by Mom.

Mika’s independent approach has taught her a lot. Her advice for other burgeoning caterers is to have a solid business plan, and try to plan to offload responsibilities to hired staff. “If you have the finances from the beginning, you’ll have the resources to help you build more easily in the future,” she pointed out.

She’s frank when reflecting on her business, telling us, “on your own, it’s a lot.” At Mika Fresh, she’s solely responsible for all the administration in addition to working in the kitchen – plus, she and Naftali do the catering deliveries by themselves. The result is a business and food that people love – but it doesn’t leave much time for sleep or spending time with family, which she says is her biggest challenge.

“I don’t get to see my kids much, which for me as a mother is really difficult,” she said. Luckily, Mika’s kids are getting old enough to spend more time at the restaurant, helping out with odds and ends in the kitchen on weekends. “I think they’re getting tired of my cooking, though,” she laughed. 

mika-orders

Mika credits Platterz in part for alleviating the burden of marketing and expanding her customer base to major Toronto companies, like Twitter, Amazon, and LinkedIn. Feeling confident about her corporate catering business has allowed her to focus on growing Mika Fresh and delivering great meals, without having to worry about getting enough customers through the door.

Since moving to her current space, she’s hired additional staff members, and plans to expand her catering capacity. “Platterz really helped push the catering business forward,” she said, “And we want to focus on it.”

As a customer favourite, we know she’ll be met with open arms.