Accommodating Preferences at a Retreat

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I'm catering a three and a half day retreat of nineteen people, so far (potentially twenty).  There are two vegetarians, a couple of people who want gluten free, and one person who has an allergy to garlic.

I think I can accommodate the person with the allergy, and have come up with pretty good ideas for the gluten free folks.  As far as the vegetarians, the previous caterer (last year) made everything vegetarian and provided bits of meat on the side.  

I don't like that idea at all.  I think I need to accommodate the vegetarians as well, but this could get crazy.  I've seen the menu from the retreat two years ago and the chef had veggie options for breakfast and lunch but not dinner.

Any suggestions?

I haven't catered before, am doing this as a favor to a friend who can't find another caterer.  I have done a lot of home cooking and have had some culinary school training.
 
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I would consider dishes where the meat is merely added at the end, and doesn't need to cook with the rest of the ingredients, so that you make the dish, reserve a couple of plates for the vegetarians, and add the meat to the rest. 

For example salads, stir fry, fried rice, pasta dishes...

And to simplify your life, make only one meat dish a day, for example for lunch, and make dinners vegetarians only. Or the opposite. I am a meat eater (/lover) but usually I eat vegetarian for lunch, meat in the evening. 

Especially if it's some kind of yoga retreat for example, where they'd rather not eat anything too rich for lunch. 
 
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Now I'm imagining a yoga retreat where everyone eats steak and beans and garlic. 

"The rankest compound of villainous smell that ever offended nostril" - the bard
 
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I'm thinking customization might be the way to go.

Build your own rice bowl (Asian inspired toppings) or fajita platters with a good variety of veg/bean options plus the fajita meats.

Pasta - meat sauce and plain marinara sauce or alfredo sauce options, plus meat and extra veg on the side.

Baked potato bar could work too (how fancy of a retreat is this meant to be?).

Pretty crazy odds to get a couple of gluten free-ers in a group of 19-20.
 
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I like Foodie's idea, but that could generate a lot of waste Since you were able to learn that much about their dietary requirements, could you do a preselected menu offering two or three choices per meal? Design your menu using as many shared ingredients, but not too similar items. Do you have help or are you solo?
 
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could you do a preselected menu offering two or three choices per meal? 
That sounds like a perilous exercise, as he could end up flooded with opposite requests, making it impossible to follow them all. And once you've asked, there are more chances of pissing of the customer. I mean, if I go do a retreat and they serve pasta, and I try to avoid pasta, it won't be a big deal. But if you ask me, and I specify I don't want pasta, and there's pasta, then I'm going to feel like you didn't listen to my request, which is worse IMO. 
 
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That sounds like a perilous exercise, as he could end up flooded with opposite requests

I am not sure what you mean about opposite requests. I was just thinking since Joy456 is not a regular caterer, they should try to maximize ingredient efficiency and minimize waste. They could have several options for each meal that cover all the dietary requests And can ask a count of a menu choices prior to the retreat. it would help a great deal. I'm sure you knew that, and I just didn't state my complete thought in my last post.
 
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Sorry I didn't know how to word it better. What I mean is, sometimes, when you ask, you end up being in a situation where you cannot please everyone, only just because you've asked, people will be more upset than they would have, had you not asked. By opposite requests I meant multiple requests that are impossible to respond to simultaneously. I'm not sure how many people you have but let's say you end up with one low-carb, one raw-only, one gluten-free, one who doesn't eat rice because of the arsenic, one who doesn't eat anything caramelized because of carcinogenic, one who only eats things well cooked, one who has trouble digesting legumes, one who can't digest veggies, one who...... etc... you may find yourself in a situation where you can't possibly please everyone, and because you've asked, the ones that you chose not to listen to will be more upset not to have been taken care of as if you had never asked. 

I agree with you with the goal of minimizing waste, I'm just not sure Joy456 will be able to cover all dietary requests after she/he asks, which is why I believe it's a bit dangerous to ask. 
 
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Do a pad thai without garlic or meat. Serve the garlic allergy person, the gluten free people, the vegetarians. Add some cooked (in the same vein) protein and serve the meat eaters.

Do a paella without garlic or meat. Serve the garlic allergy person, the gluten free people, the vegetarians. Add some cooked (in the same vein) protein and serve the meat eaters.

Do a harira stew without garlic or meat. Serve the garlic allergy person, the gluten free people, the vegetarians. Add some cooked (in the same vein) protein and serve the meat eaters.

Etc, etc. etc.
 
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Honestly, my favorite idea is customization.  I do have plans to do a taco bar, and I thought about the potato bar, but my friend who's directing the retreat thinks that might be too informal, at least for dinner.

Dinners are the biggest issue.  I'm not crazy about making everything meatless and then adding meat on the side, because my favorite dishes require meat (for example, one is a pasta sauce with a rich beef stock). But I may have to suck it up and provide mostly veggie dishes with meat on the side for the sake of simplicity.

For the garlic allergy, I'll prepare some dishes without garlic, but some will be have to be separate dishes.  I'm just not willing to sacrifice garlic for the entire crowd.
 
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Just wanted to thank everyone for their feedback.  In the process, I've done some online research, and am seeing the problems in preparing foods for those with alleged food sensitivities (sometimes passed off as allergies) versus bona fide food allergies.
 
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