Finding unexpected uses for everyday objects is thrilling," says TJ Girard, the designer and co-owner of the Manhattan catering company Pinch Food Design. Whether looking in hardware stores or high-end design shops, she finds surprising ways to serve foodscrewing cabinet knobs into reclaimed wood to create pedestals for hors d'oeuvres, say. When she can't repurpose, she creates from scratch, designing pieces like acrylic trays with honeycomb cutouts so canapés don't slide around when passed (one of her party-food pet peeves).
Girard and her business partner, Bob Spiegel, are quite differentshe's a 30-year-old former set designer, he's a 30-year veteran of the catering businessand they push each other (with a good bit of bickering) to reinvent the status quo. A few of their ideas are inspired by restaurant trends: At chef's tables, for example, cooks assemble hors d'oeuvres where guests can watch.
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As for the food, Spiegel wants to surprise people more with form than flavors. "I think about how to create familiar dishes in an architectural way," he says. Sometimes, he simply turns an hors d'oeuvre on its side, like stacks of blini layered with crème fraîche and topped with caviar. Other times, Girard adds the architecturefor instance, setting tacos in a piece of wavy crown molding. A perk: There's no way the food can slide.