A Formula for a Design Explosion

Catering By Design + Atomic Design

The Monday night event at Catersource-Event Solutions has become the standard bearer for many catering and design trends that make their way across the country following their debut at the conference. For the past eight years, Catering by Design has been involved with it in many different ways, from producer to caterer and sometimes both. This year, the Denver-based company took on both roles with Atomic Design, a national firm based in Pennsylvania, as co-conspirator.

Together, they set off nine culinary and design explosions in the form of inspired food stations. Rob Barber, Vice President/Rental, of Atomic and Cade Nagy, Owner/Executive Chef and Dan Smith, Creative Director, from Catering by Design created a tongue-in-cheek Parisian theme – a visual, culinary and very punny delight.


“The idea for M– USE really started with this bar in mind,” Nagy says. “We knew we wanted to incorporate pink wigs. After several ideas, we landed on the idea of keeping it clean, simple, and colorful by displaying wigs on silver leafed male heads. It was going to be the showpiece of the entire event and was. From there, it became a bar that featured fun drinks. Like most of our concepts, it all starts with something simple like a vessel, in this case a wig. How else do you name a bar after wigs? It just had to be named S’wig.”


“And to add that dash of cabaret style and drama, we used our Laser SuperZipper drapes,” Barber says. Guests ordered drinks with such names as Beehvie, Bouffant, Franche Braid and Shag.


At the Underbelly station where Catering By Design served upscale pork and beans and a Nicoise Oscar, Atomic’s classic Pillow panels provided a “back alley” and grungy look.


This station began with American Metal Craft’s “Oscar” (as in Sesame Street’s tin-can living curmudgeon) mini metal trash cans. “The idea came from using this in juxtaposition with caviar,” Nagy says. “Originally it was originally going to be called ‘Caviar Trash,’ then we realized the budget wouldn’t allow for that much caviar. So we changed to a food item that was common, yet could be dressed up to take out to the prom. The answer was ‘J Snow’s Pork and Beans’ in homage to my great friend and fellow caterer, Jeff Snow. For the past four years Jeff volunteered his time away from his business in Omaha to fly out to Denver to help us create these events. Therefore we decided to name the pork and beans after him along with his own custom pork and beans can. The design for the station was always trash meets fresh and yummy.”

La Pouche Chaude (The Hot Pocket)

One of Atomic’s most popular products from its Super Lever rental collection was used at this station. Wafer panels gave a contemporary look to the Edison lights while being a great screen for different light patterns.

hot pocket

“We began by playing with Hot Pockets, an old idea yet a childhood favorite of mine,” Nagy says. “However the party was originally to take place outdoors and we were going to serve hot pockets straight out of the oven. Once we found out that we would no longer be outdoors, the concept had to switch a little. The thought of taking hot pockets and filling them with classic French dishes was the inspiration here. We wanted it to feel, look, and smell like a bistro bakery. Custom built bakery tables, Edison bulb chandeliers, and custom printed placemats, helped finish the look.”

Duck and Boa

The entire look and feel of the station stems from a love of Beijing Noodle No. 9, a popular restaurant in Las Vegas. “It all started with B Noodle #9 and the look,” Nagy says.

duck and bao

The design was all-white, very modern, and clean. Utilizing existing beverage walls from last year’s Harmony event, Catering By Design made custom video walls featuring the menu and the company’s newest pet fish, Duck. “The menu was all about focusing on Chinese meets French cuisine by filling bao buns with French ingredients. Duck a L’Orange came to mind. Then the obvious name for the entire station came to be from there.”


Atomic finished it off by showcasing its SuperLever Pippa panels with brand new integrated LED lighting.

Choux Fetish

choux fetish
“This was my personal favorite of the entire night,” Nagy says. “On a recent trip to London I came upon a small bakery with hand painted eclairs that were pure art. I knew I had to try to make these. Not being a pastry chef, I failed miserably. But I knew what I wanted. So I called an expert, my friend, Donna Ford, to help. I wanted to take the classic dough for making eclairs and cream puffs, pate choux, and transform it. That’s when the word choux stuck with us. We knew it had to be named Choux Something. Once we went through several ideas like Choux Shopping, or In My Shoes, we decided on A Choux Fetish. It then turned into making it a show, complete with a –shall we say — sassy drag queen feasting on pate choux on stage. The eclairs were then served in mini shoe boxes on shelves to make the concept come together.”


Barber and Atomic added their own sweet “frosting” to the look with the latest addition to Atomic’s SuperZipper collection, Gossamer. This was framed by the Flounce SuperZipper and accented by custom chandeliers. Lighting by Lighting 4 Rent transformed this station (and all the others) to set the mood. “Choux Fetish screams campy Parisian scene and a place to indulge,” Barber says.

Fondue or Fondant?

“Do you Fondue or do you Fondant? That’s where it began,” Nagy says. “We knew we could take skewered foods and serve them fondue style. But how could we make the fondant part make sense? We decided to skewer foods that could go either way. We made both with a meat of some sort, with a vegetable, and with some sort of bread. All we had to change then were the ingredients. One had a savory cheese fondue sauce one had a sweet fondant sauce.”

Barber adds, “Our Buule SuperZipper drapes and custom CNC panels with lights, the Fondue and Fondant columns framing the station, completed a circus look chosen for the station.”

Table to Farm

table to farm
A blue sky and white SuperVel custom printing vinyl panels were the perfect backdrop for the Table to Farm area.

“Again, we started with the concept, the look, then the food. The idea came from Farm to Table, and the whole surge of that idea sweeping the world,” Nagy says. “What hasn’t been done is Table to Farm; taking it the other direction by taking farm animals and making them into tables. So we drew up some ideas for the animals, and built the tables. Then it was all about pairing the tables — Cow, Pig and Chicken — with a food item that would work.”


Muse at Catersource
A flower market salad of roasted Brussels sprouts, green and white asparagus, charred cauliflower, fresh origins petite season’s mix, microflower, shaved radish, feta, honey Worcestershire dressing, floral potato paper.
Mecanique Dance Floor

Finally, the team gave the guests food on a rotating buffet. “Like most of our ideas, we needed it to be somewhat theatrical,” Nagy says. Male models were hired to crank a faux gear to give the illusion of spinning the three rotating buffets. “Once we had those figured out and running, we went with a food item that was hearty, rustic and served in a metal dish to keep with the feel.”


The funky stage backdrop was enhanced with Atomic’s modular Pinwheel product and the columns that framed its perimeter were designed using the steampunk SuperLever Gearz panels.

The event’s name, Muse, is certainly appropriate. Catering By Design and Atomic Design’s playful stations and many ideas from farm to fetish no doubt will continue to be the creative muse in 2014 for many events from catering and event professionals who enjoyed the evening. Here’s a S’Wig and Cheers to them both, as well as the amazing teams who helped pull this off!

Photos by Allee Photography.


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2 comments on “A Formula for a Design Explosion

  1. brookesteffan@zoho.com'
    bride's checklist 3 September, 2014 at 10:02 am - Reply

    I like what you guys are up too. Such clever work and
    reporting! Keep up the awesome works guys I’ve you guys
    to my personal blogroll.

  2. […] Dawgs: Love the creativity. Check out how Atomic paired its backdrops with the work of Denver’s Catering by Design on Designdawgs here. […]

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