With events continuing to push the boundaries of what’s possible, innovation and creativity is a top requirement when it comes to food.
From bowl food to street food concepts, event catering has come a long way from the days of your typical stodgy, bland conference food. Clients are now not afraid to tell caterers exactly what they want when it comes to the food at an event. Simon Mason, executive head chef at Smart Hospitality Manchester says creating a bespoke menu is “a great way to ensure the food really fits the brief and brings the event to life”. With food often front and centre at an event, customisation is a growing trend,. “From the moment the guests walk through the door, it’s all about foodie delights.”
James Mark, executive director of ancillary services at Excel London considers food to be an “enabler for events”. “It not only provides a focus for people to meet and interact, but with the right balance of ingredients and menu, it can have a positive impact on delegates’ ability to concentrate and participate and enhances their motivation during the day.” The post-lunch slump following an over-indulgence in carbs at the free buffet is likely something we have all experienced at least once.
Creative, customised catering in 2015
Zoe Watts, business development director at Creative events notes that a more relaxed and informal style of dining is growing in popularity for seated dinners. “This social dining translates so well for events, particularly in venues where the architecture, decor and ambience lends itself to a more casual experience.” At the newly-launched Camden Foundry, the company is encouraging clients to use the existing wooden bench tables and mismatched seating for dinners, rather than traditional clothed banqueting rounds and chairs. “Add to this shared boards and small plates in contrast to a plated meal where one menu fits all and we’re seeing much more interaction between guests who also like to be in control of what they are eating.” Open kitchens is not a new concept for restaurants, but it is one that is starting to filter into the events industry. Creative events often bring the buzz of a kitchen front of house through live cooking or making the cooking and service more visible. John Hearn, executive chef at food design and event management company Tapenade, says food with a difference is all the rage this year, mixing unusual ingredients and serving it in surprising ways. “We are serving dishes such as ‘Apple Sourz Jam Jar Trifle’ with warm raspberry and cinnamon doughnuts or bags of sticky pork ribs in jam jars, empty tin cans and flower pots,” he says, adding that Japanese influences are still going strong. Smoke and sausages Hearn is no stranger to dealing with, and fulfilling, unusual catering requests, including putting sauces on toothpaste tubes and mini paint pots, and serving fish in a sardine tin. “Recently, a client asked for smoked baked beans and sausages in a sealed tin. We had to put the beans and sausages in the individual tins and fill the can with smoke before sealing them. The guests were surprised when they removed the ring pull and smoke escaped – it was fantastic theatre,” he says. Catering requests submitted to Moving Venue have been getting more adventurous and challenging of late, with clients expecting what is happening on the London restaurant scene to be reflected at events. “Peruvian food is having its moment, particularly with the success of Lima Floral and Ceviche and consequently requests for Ceviche food stations matched with pisco sour cocktails have soared,” Moving Venue head chef Steve Williams says.
First published in March issue of conference news.
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