Adventures in the Catering Trade #1

Let's start with the elephant in the room. Do we need any more food writing?

It sometimes feels like food is made more from well chosen (and perhaps overused) words (delicious/ seasonal/ healthy/ ouzy/ fresh, etc) than any real combination, ingredient or practice. But, it’s nicer than reading about politics, war, and the stock market. Plus, we’ve all got to eat. And as we’re all individuals, each with our own gustatory cells, it’s not surprising there's a never ending appetite for food-related features… Hopefully this tastes of something.

Catering. A funny word?

It can conjure images of stainless steel trays, too much sauce, and congealed splatters of food served too fast. Google describes it as: ‘the provision of food and drink at a social event or other gathering’.

Simple? Not exactly. It’s all in the logistics - not as sexy as the restaurant business - not as secure as meals on wheels.

We live in a world often measured in systems, regularity, targets and goals. But catering (the mobile kind) is rarely able to rely on being in the same place, with the same people, with the same ingredients, at the same time.  Cooks, cleaners and carers all rolled into as many roles as the job needs, and is willing to pay for. Any [charming/ honest/ creative] body for hire should be no less than £20p/h and they should be tipped if the client can afford. It’s a hard (and underrated) job to stand there smiling, not knowing quite how much of yourself (or the food) to give away.

But it’s supposed to be an adventure so...what's our story?

#1. It could start in China, on the set of a big budget flop, having to kill and pluck live chickens to feed Nicolas Cage. While having to build a new kitchen at every new location (37 times in 8 weeks). While buying supplies from a guy in a car with a briefcase full of cash, given to us by the Triad Mr. Yen (the producer).

#2. Or it could be the bride who shall remain nameless’ hen night. Hiring actors (great waiters) to play out a murder mystery where the stripper has been killed, and all the food is ‘blood themed’.

#3. Or the Stag Do, hiking up a hill, and ground roasting a hide of venison.

#4. Or the wedding serving up a combination of the couples favourites, and telling neither what you know about the other.

#5 Or a ‘Pop-up’ where you combine Bonfire night and Halloween, call it Bon-Ween (in respect of French restaurants) and try to infuse everything with fire, smoke and surprise.

#6 Or a birthday party for a seventy year old theatre mogul who cares far more about the abundance of bubbles and the wit of the waiters, than they do about the canapes.

#7 Or a shoot for brand trying to push a ‘lifestyle scent’, where you’re in a white space and none of the talent will touch anything that’s been near meat, dairy, gluten or sesame seeds.

#8 Or it can just be a simple supper with clients who become friends. Everybody’s got to eat, and every meal should be its own micro-adventure.

Whatever the brief, be sure that catering can get you into all sorts of situations, and give you all kinds of insights. Like the seasons, and like the people you do it for, the trade is in a constant state of change. It's by nature perilously uncertain, often odd, and always individual.