Mark Harrison, Senior Executive of Events at CGC Caterers gives H&E North a flavour of the key ingredients that go into creating a successful menu.
CGC Event Caterers is long-established caterer with a distinctive British identity. With decades of experience this Yorkshire-rooted company has built a firm reputation for great food, attentive service and craftsmanship across its large portfolio of venue partners and standalone events. One particular area of expertise for the team is catering to large numbers. It’s no mean feat to produce high quality dishes that look as good as they taste for delegates in excess of 1,000. CGC’s Mark Harrison talks H&E North through some important elements to consider when catering for that big event…
Hi Mark, tell us about a recent large event where you’ve themed a successful menu.
We recently catered a large lunch for 1,500 people with a central theme of The Great British Seaside and what a great theme it was to work with in terms of the type of food to serve. We consulted with the client to develop a menu in keeping with the theme, serving cockles, mussels and mini fish and chip cones as canapés before the main meal.
The real showstopper on the day was the dessert, ‘Sweet on the Beach’ – a fun dish with nostalgic elements of British seaside holidays. Featuring vanilla pod ice cream on a biscuit crumb ‘beach’ with candy floss, mini sugared doughnuts, meringue and fresh fruit, it got a great reaction on the day and was the perfect finale to the meal.
Where do you source your ingredients?
Our ethos here at CGC is to source all of our ingredients locally where possible – it tastes better and helps reduce our carbon footprint. We work with a number of great suppliers and have done so for many years in a lot of cases: Lishman’s of Ilkley, Taylors of Harrogate, TD Goodall, plus many more. We also pride ourselves on being able to tailor menus to our client’s needs, so we will look to use bespoke suppliers if it’s suits the event better or the client wishes to feature them on their menu.
How do you judge a successful menu?
The ultimate measure of success for us is that the client is happy. There are of course a number of ways to achieve this but the main and most simple thing is to listen to the client from the outset. We make sure we get their input and are involved from start to finish with our expertise guiding them to bring their vision to life.
What do you think makes the biggest impression on a plate?
Having a bright, vibrant and colourful plate is a great and simple way to create a big impression. As the saying goes ‘you eat with your eyes’! Making sure you have a beautiful looking plate that also tastes delicious will leave customers feeling satisfied. You can easily create a splash of colour by adding edible flowers, or a brightly coloured purée brushed across the plate. With the amount of guests these days who eagerly whip their phones out to capture their food and share it with others, the pressure is on to make our event catering as visually impressive as any top restaurant.
What are the biggest challenges you face?
A lot of people don’t see or think about the work that goes on behind the scenes at a large dinner or event – and that is exactly what we want as it means the event is running seamlessly at front of house. Guests typically will enjoy a banquet event for five hours, max, but for us, the team behind the scenes, delivery of the event itself starts a full two days before. It begins with the delivery of roughly 20 tonnes of equipment to the site and the construction of field kitchens for the chefs to get to work in. Event managers and waiting staff are on the floor in the event space getting the tables set and the bars prepared while the space is themed, decorated and rigged with any AV requirements and staging. The transformation of a marquee or a blank canvas event space is incredible.
The logistics of running a large event from a catering perspective is massive: on top of the 1,500 guests we’re likely to have 15 chefs, 15 event managers, 10 porters, four drivers and 130-150 waiting and bar staff. The timings need to be exactly in-line with the client’s expectations, the food needs to be piping hot and the staff need to be incredibly well briefed, especially if you consider the size of the venue required to house that sort of number. Getting your bearings can be the first big challenge!
If you were to offer one piece of advice to someone looking to design a bespoke menu for an important event, what would it be?
Be seasonal and be local. For us, Yorkshire is bursting with an abundance of great producers and suppliers and, the simple truth is, it just tastes better!
To find out more about what CGC Event Caterers can offer, call 0113 287 6387 or visit Cgceventcaterers.co.uk.