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Event Innovators 2014: Stephen Starr

The restaurateur and owner of Stephen Starr Events tries to replicate the restaurant experience at special events.

By Beth Kormanik June 17, 2014, 7:00 AM EDT

Stephen Starr, owner, Stephen Starr Events

Photo: Courtesy of Starr Events

Stephen Starr’s restaurant empire covers a spectrum of cuisines—bistro, barbecue, sushi, steak, and tapas—and that range prepared him to become a major player in event catering at cultural venues.

Since its launch in 2007, Stephen Starr Events has become the exclusive caterer at 15 cultural institutions, including blockbusters such as Carnegie Hall, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the newly opened Pérez Art Museum Miami. Starr, already known for restaurants such as Buddakan, Morimoto, and the Continental, launched the division at the suggestion of Simon Powles, a veteran of Wolfgang Puck Catering & Events and Restaurant Associates who now runs the operation.

“We like to take the words ‘institutional’ and ‘precooked’ out of our vocabulary.”

“The reason why we did it is we thought there was another opportunity to grow our business in an area that was dominated by a very large corporate entities, who of course cannot possibly pay as much attention to the details as we do,” says Starr, 56. “We try our best to replicate the restaurant experience at a special event. That’s our battle cry. We want you to feel we are paying attention to you as best we can. We like to take the words ‘institutional’ and ‘precooked’ out of our vocabulary.”

The philosophy at Stephen Starr Events is that food can help event planners reach their larger objectives—whether it’s a product launch or a gala dinner—so the menu is devised to create an experience for guests. There are no set menus. “The key to our success, in addition to maintaining consistency of our food, is the experience you have,” Starr says.

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