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[Design Forum] Adding familiar vibe to most special occasions

How to throw a party that is unforgettable, fun and classy?

Celebrated caterer Peter Callahan, who has catered some of the finest events for Martha Stewart, Barack Obama, Vera Wang and many more A-listers, offers his food for thought: “shrink it.”

He is known for specializing miniature versions of deserts and American comfort food favorites, including mini-burger, finger-sized tacos with mini Patron bottle margarita and teensy lobster rolls, starting the mini-food craze in New York. 
Peter Callahan. (Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)
Peter Callahan. (Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)

The result of serving tiny hors d’oeuvres has created something more than food, said Callahan, who spoke during the last session at the Herald Digital Forum 2014 held at Seoul’s Dongdaemun Design Plaza on Wednesday.

“When these foods came out, people started talking about food and laughed around it,” said the caterer who owns New York City-based Peter Callahan Catering. “It served as an icebreaker during awkward cocktail hours and got the party going.”

“If you are giving something that people have not seen before, you are giving something that elevates everything,” he said.

Callahan, with many titles including the caterer, food stylist, and the creative director, describes himself as a food conceptualist ― which was dubbed by Martha Stewart ― who does something different from what already exists. In conceptualizing something different, he enjoys working with food items that are very universal.

“In America, there are certain foods that are symbolic of our country, such as burgers, fries, sandwiches and pies, they are everyone’s favorite food,” said Callahan.

But he noted that people don’t expect their comfort food or breakfast foods to be placed on the silver tray at the most haute soirees. But when they see it, it has fantastic side effects that these food brings to the table, comfortable, tasty and relaxed party for kids, adults, rich and poor, while keeping the party still classy and fancy.

Callahan has shrunk most of items that people can imagine, even miniature beer mugs. But he follows his rule of thumb. “It should look exactly like the normal counterpart that is big, and taste exactly like the original one,” said Callahan and explained that creating something smaller is always harder to do.

“When you buy a cotton candy, you want to taste the cotton candy, not the foie gras cotton candy.”

After 25-years of his career as a “food conceptualist,” nowadays, he focuses on putting his past collection of works together in an effort to build up his brand, which includes his first book “BITE by BITE.” The book offers simple recipes for people to create their own stylish parties like him at home. He also started to apply for design patents to protect his creative food items because he believes that as a designer, artist and a businessman, protecting the item while profiting is critical.

With his visit to Korea, he envisions shrinking foods in different regions of the world.

By Ahn Sung-mi (