It’s hard to imagine, but Terry John Zila has both a catering business (the eponymous Terry John Zila Catering) and a dessert company (JohnJeanJuan). He has been creating delectable treats for weddings and special events for decades. His clients know he will always come through with new and creative ideas to please their guests. We talked with Terry about current food trends, how he has adapted to the current climate of events, and more.
CURRENT FOOD TRENDS, IN THE AGE OF SOCIAL DISTANCING
“Traditionally, trends have been driven by the seasons. But COVID has really been the driving force as to how we as caterers are allowed to present the food. Charcuterie boards have been gaining in popularity for several years. But at this time, boards of food at public events are not allowed. To be able to provide that same experience, I’ve been doing Charcuterie Skewers with all those fun ingredients such as olives, cheese and nuts all wrapped up in prosciutto. It’s a fun way to present the trend in a different context.” We did say Terry is creative, right? And with clients embracing passed appetizers, “it’s a great way to have a great variety of offerings and naturally allows for social distancing. Also, passed appetizers allow for guests with different dietary needs and preferences to be able to have a great experience. Appetizer menus can be very flexible and easily edited to include or exclude ingredients as needed.”
Check out more of Terry’s culinary creations in our story about Fall wedding cake trends.
HOW TERRY JOHN ZILA ELEVATES FOOD
“Clients are really focusing on quality ingredients right now and dishes with multiple layers of flavors. For example, sauteed salmon will always be popular, but add a Balsamic Brown Sugar Lemon Glaze and a Green Herb Sauce, then it becomes a show-stopper. Or a Chocolate Layer Cake with Custard and Caramel Sauces elevate a classic dessert into something far more memorable.”
EMBRACING A CHALLENGE
“We are a complete custom catering service. I do provide sample idea menus, but I love it when clients have their own ideas I can help bring to fruition. If it’s something I don’t normally do, that is even more exciting because I l love a challenge. My motto is: “Find a way to say yes”.
CATERER, BAKER, AND IN-HOME COOKING CLASS INSTRUCTOR
In addition to his two catering companies, Terry also teaches cooking classes. They are great as an engagement gift, or for a joint bachelor/bachelorette party. Terry explained the benefits of cooking with your other half, “I find that couples who cook together are often more in tune with each other. Creating something together and then sharing the product of that effort, a meal, is a great way to bond. And a lot of good conversations happen when you’re prepping food. Rose Levy Beranbaum, wrote a wonderful cookie book. In that book, she said she would make cookies with her Aunt and had some great conversations because you would talk about ‘things you wouldn’t feel comfortable saying if your hands were not busy’.”
A SENSE OF HUMOR ALWAYS WINS
Check out Terry’s dessert company website, JohnJeanJuan filled with humor, along with gorgeous images of desserts from the get-go. The motto, “Eat Dessert, because no one ever rewarded themselves after a hard day with Kale” is on the cover page, indicating his attitude, with gusto. So how far in advance should a couple look to book Terry? “From a catering booking perspective, a least a month is necessary as weekend dates fill up so quickly. With cakes and pastries, there is a great deal more flexibility as I don’t have to be at the event. 2 weeks is fine for the dessert side of things.”
A FOODIE THAT’S ALWAYS LEARNING
Terry told us, “I’ve always been obsessed with food. And that drive hasn’t dissipated in the least. I have over 3,000 cookbooks and get more all the time. I find the research aspect of my work so important because, with as much as I know, I realize there is so much more I don’t. My desire is to learn as many techniques as I possibly can.” We asked him, of the many hats he wears, what’s his favorite? “It sounds like a cliché, but every time I do an event and the client tells me I exceeded their every expectation, I feel like I did my job. I think my favorite role is that of the facilitator: providing an experience that allowed the client to relax and know they were in good hands. When your clients are relaxed, then they can forget about the little details and have fun. The details? That’s my job.”
Once you’ve gotten engaged and the wedding planning has begun, you need to add “shopping for wedding bands”...