Norema Salinas
Betty Zlatchin Catering, San Francisco

Cuisine is one of the most important aspects of a smartly executed agenda focused on well-being. We sat down with international culinary maven Norema Salinas of Betty Zlatchin Catering to get her top suggestions for planners when it comes to bringing wellness and creativity to the table.

What are three of the best ways to incorporate wellness into an event from a culinary standpoint?
First, you want to ideally make sure the caterer/chef uses products that are locally sourced, organic and sustainable, and makes everything from scratch. Using ingredients that are in season is also important—for example, corn and tomatoes in the summer, winter squash and halibut and crab when it’s in season where the event is being held.

Second, since people have so many dietary restrictions and preferences nowadays, always have a vegan, gluten-free option and a vegetarian, gluten-free option. Completely gluten-free menus are actually really good and very healthy. Displaying food labels with all of the ingredients alongside each dish is also essential. On the beverage side, the cocktail menu should have interesting and healthy non-alcoholic options, such as a cucumber thyme lemonade or a ginger lemongrass iced herbal tea.

Above all, healthy, high-energy meals and snacks are advisable to have your attendees receptive. You want to provide food that gives them healthy energy. For example, we do house-made protein bars that are vegan and gluten-free, with natural sugars (agave or dates). Another good example is vegan grain bowls. You can do ethnic versions, such as Indonesian or Mediterranean, and they must have fresh and natural ingredients. It’s great to do them with quinoa, which is gluten-free, high in protein and one of the few plant foods that contain all nine essential amino acids. It’s also high in fiber, magnesium, B vitamins, iron, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, vitamin E and various beneficial antioxidants. It sustains your energy.

Can you give us examples of other creatively healthy dishes your company has crafted?
We make bacon out of king trumpet mushrooms, so it tastes like bacon but they’re vegan and gluten-free. We cut them thinly and bake them with organic light brown sugar, smoked paprika and other ingredients. We use them in dishes such as our delicious Deconstructed Corn Chowder Salad, which has white corn, cherry tomatoes, thyme, lettuce, fingerling potatoes, mushroom bacon and lemon vinaigrette.

Another really interesting one is our Mushroom Candy. It is glazed in tamari, which is gluten-free, and we serve it on a vegan rice crisp.

We do a fun hors d’oeuvre called the Swiss Chard Beggar’s Purse, which is Swiss chard filled with ricotta, pine nuts and tapenade, or a vegan option with quinoa salad or cashew cheese and vegan tapenade.

For hors d’oeuvres, I always have a vegetarian and a vegan gluten-free option, as well as a meat and a fish. But since so many people are gluten-free, we’ve done seared beef on a Parmesan crisp with a little aioli, which doesn’t have gluten.

Do you have any other tips you’d like to share?
I think the wellness aspect also extends to the environment, so using eco-friendly Leafware at events is great. We’ve done dishes like short rib over polenta on Leafware, which you put in the compost afterward. Imagine the amount of water saved by not washing dishes for an event of 1,000 people.