A Taste of Graduation

Kowalski’s catering director shares tips for creating a successful celebration.

Graduation season is officially upon us, and nothing says celebrating the closing of a chapter of life like lots (and lots) of parties. But these parties aren’t just the typical finger foods, meat and cheese tray and some punch. They’re planned, prepared, primped and catered (pun intended) to each graduate’s personal style.

Roxanne Kielbasa, director of catering for Kowalski’s Markets, says graduation parties are part of their catering business. And they’ve done it all: breakfast buffets with scrambled eggs, quiche, pancakes and build-your-own waffles; catered comfort foods like mac and cheese and chicken fingers; fresh sushi, taco and burrito bars; mini desserts and perennial favorites like cakes and dessert bars (think apple crisp and toffee almond).  

Meat and cheese trays are passé, Kielbasa says. “There’s so much more flair now. Whatever you want to do for food has to pull from the interests and personality of the graduate.” Think of their favorite foods, fun themes, and interactive and experiential dishes.

With the customization of each party, Kielbasa recommends a few important tips to keep the party going strong (and your sanity intact): Think about family members, neighbors, teachers and the graduate’s immediate group of friends who will be coming to the party and plan food for only those people. Students have many parties to attend and often "stop by and have a soda," says Kielbasa.

To take some of the pressure off of the busy June of graduation parties, Kielbasa also recommends combining parties with some of the graduate’s close friends. This not only helps offset some of the cost, but also gives students one bigger party to attend with their friends instead of three or four smaller ones.

In general, Kielbasa says the best hospitality and execution comes with good planning. Understanding the dynamic of graduation parties, and how to get oriented and organized, is one of the main ways Kowalski’s helps a graduate’s family be prepared for their party. One key piece of that planning is food safety, something Kielbasa says many hosts forget. “Whether you’re having the food catered or doing it yourself, it’s important to have a plan to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.”

Aside from their catering and event planning services, Kowalski’s offers DIY resources and planning. Culinary director Rachael Perron says the market will have lots of “unique, fun products” to pick up in the store that don’t require any cooking and keep up with what’s trendy in graduation parties.

A Sweet Idea
Kielbasa notes that a DIY sundae station, complete with a myriad of toppings, is a trendy way to ratchet up the excitement of any graduation party. Simply bring home your favorite ice cream and have guests top it off with a little something extra, like toasted coconut-caramel, a summer berry sauce (see recipe below), chopped caramel corn, melted peanut butter, crushed breakfast cereal, or even espresso for an affogato dessert. Yum!

Summer Berry Sauce
Serves 12


  • 2 cups fresh strawberries, raspberries, blueberries or blackberries (stems removed, rinsed and drained)
  • ¼ to ⅓ cup superfine sugar
  • ¼ cup Kowalski’s Fresh-Squeezed Orange Juice
  • 1 tsp. orange zest


Place berries, sugar, orange juice and zest in blender; purée until smooth. Add additional sugar to taste. If using berries with seeds, pass through a fine mesh strainer. Refrigerate covered up to one week. Serve over ice cream or pound cake, or stir into lemonade, club soda, tonic water or sparkling wine.