We've all been there: You're at a party with a glass of wine in one hand and a slider in the other. When you bite in, chipotle mayo oozes out, and suddenly you need a third hand.

TJ Girard and Bob Spiegel saw this as a design offense--and a business opportunity. So in 2011, the former TV set designer and the chef teamed up to launch Pinch Food Design, a catering company that creates culinary experiences as imaginative as they are practical.

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Rather than forcing guests to pick up a fluke crudo appetizer with their hands, Pinch serves it on a custom-designed fork, displayed upright by means of a magnetic strip on a wooden serving tray. At a recent party it catered for an athletic brand launching a new air-inspired shoe, the company whipped up light, fluffy hors d'oeuvres displayed to appear as if they were floating.

This kind of obsession with theatrical engineering has earned the New York City-based company a prestigious corporate client list that includes Google, Viacom, H&M, and Target. In March, the $12 million business unveiled Twist by Pinch, a new offering that applies its craftiness to craft cocktails.

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From the founders

TJ Girard: "I worked in the art department for shows like Friends and Two and a Half Men. Then I came to New York to work in theater, but I wasn't making enough money to survive. At the time, there was a movement happening in Europe around provocative food design, and I showed Bob some ideas. I trusted our concept, but the question was scale. This is where Bob's a genius, because he knows how to increase steps in the kitchen to cut back on steps onsite, and all of a sudden, we're doing a party for 800 people."

Bob Spiegel: "I ran my own catering company for 21 years. One day, I placed an ad on Craigslist, looking for someone to help design buffets. TJ responded and took it to a level far superior to what we had been doing. Our sales team was not prepared to sell what she was creating, so I sold that business to start Pinch. TJ's family is French and she grew up around food, and my family is in the furniture business, so we can both easily go into each other's arena."