by James J. Hodl, Chef Magazine

This article is a continuation of "Catering to your every need" (page 28) in the March 2009 issue of Chef Magazine.

Catering a special event al fresco, be it for a business lunch or a church group's picnic, requires portable equipment, and in some cases, special tools.

North Aurora, Ill.-based Grillco offers several models of barbecue grills that can be towed behind your catering van to the site of the picnic, be it a forest preserve or merely a school parking lot. Available models cook with LP gas, charcoal or mesquite. Many can be used for barbecuing any variety of meat--accessories include flat and spit baskets for cooking half chickens or even a whole pig luau-style--with one model just for roasting corn and potatoes.

The E-Z Way Roaster Oven (pictured, right) from Big John Grills & Rotisseries, Pleasant Gap, Pa., is a towable smoker/roaster for cooking all types of meats and potatoes on site. Features of the LP gas-fired unit include a piezo electric igniter, a smoker tray and a 44-inch rib and chicken rack.

A new line of portable gas grills was introduced in January by Crown Verity, Brantford, Ontario, Canada. For high durability, virtually all of the parts in this line of grills--including the body, burners, radiants, top grid, water pan and fasteners--are made of heavy-gauge stainless steel. Offering a grill surface 15-percent larger than other portable grills, these models have folding leg tables and are stackable for easy transport.

When catering a barbecue, aren't cool beverages just as important to the success of the event? Absolutely, and you'll need plenty of ice to drop into water glasses, sodas and cocktails. But not any ice transport container will do. It's a waste of time and resources to have a staffer scoop ice from the ice machine into buckets, only to have to tote those buckets back by the handles or by some cart. And that doesn't ever cover the worry that the staffer might use the wrong buckets.

Such worries are eliminated when you use the Safe Ice Handling System, which was introduced last March by Rubbermaid Commercial Products, Winchester, Va. The system includes the 5 1/2-gallon Ice Safety Tote (pictured, left) with an angled top surface and a pouring spout, which provides better pouring control with fewer spills. Able to hold 25 pounds of ice when full, the tote has an ergonomic hand grip near the base for easy lifting and carrying. With an attachable adapter, the tote can be attached to any standard ice machine bin, as well.

The tote comes with two ice scoops. A 74-ounce scoop has an angled handle with hand guard that improves leverage and control, so the potential of wrist strain is reduced for the person assigned to ice duty. The scoop fits into an open-style holder that allows it to air dry (as recommended by FDA) between uses. Also provided is the "scovel," a two-handled scoop/shovel with a 120-ounce capacity for faster loading times. The dual handles also are designed to reduce wrist strain, while the device's high side walls minimize spills. Besides keeping the ice free of cross contamination by keeping human hands away from it, the tote system is dishwasher-safe for easy cleaning between uses.

These tools for barbecue and cold drinks are nice, but ask any bride what she wants at her catered wedding reception, and she'll likely tell you this: a chocolate fountain. To meet that demand, Buffet Enhancements International, Point Clear, Ala., offers the American Chocolate Fountain line, which includes models up to 40 inches tall (pictured, right) that can keep up to 20 pounds of chocolate flowing like a slow-motion waterfall all evening.

Designed to take only minutes to set up, these fountains maintain chocolate at 105° to 110°F for lava-like consistency that enables steady movement and easy coating of food items, like strawberries, placed in the flow path. A stainless steel auger recirculates the fallen chocolate back to the top of the fountain for yet another descent. The 1-horsepower motor and Quiet Crown topper maintain silent operation. After each event, the fountain's upper tier and auger disassemble for easy cleaning in a dishwasher.