At Kemp & Kemp, we’ve never had set menus or packages, so the first stage is usually to meet with the potential client for a good old foodie chat (or a call if they are based in San Francisco, Sydney or Beijing – a lot of them are!). I find out what they love, what they hate, the style of wedding (not a theme exactly, but what ‘feel’ they are aiming for, from traditional, to Glastonbury with a village fete in between).
This is one of my favourite parts, some people know what they want & some have no idea so we just spend time talking about the sort of food they would eat if they were going out (for example). This is what makes us fantastically different to other caterers & has lead me to create totally bespoke menus including:
* incorporating the bride’s love of fried chicken (we put together starter boards on an American theme);
- a menu to satisfy the bride’s father being Persian, the groom being Australian & the mother born & bred in Yorkshire (Persian lamb pilaf, rare steak, Yorkshire puddings as canapes);
- a full Mediterranean menu for first generation Italians;
- a menu with a nod to India where the groom (and family) were all Indian and the bride English (the family all came to a tasting & declared our samosas the best they had ever eaten).
And so it goes on! My job is seriously a great joy.
I love researching food and recipe ideas & am forever buying recipe books, I love nothing more than when a client tells me his Mum is Malaysian & can I re-create her beef rending! Sometimes, the family give me their passed down recipes, sometimes (as was the case with the Persian father) we even have a cook off, he cooked his family recipe, I cooked my interpretation & together we decided on the one to serve (mine, as it happens!)
Sourcing unusual or authentic ingredients is usually quite straightforward – there are many & varied online suppliers of all sorts of goodies from proper Spanish meats & cheeses to specialist oils & spices and even beautiful Sicilian tomatoes.
One of my chefs lives in a diverse neighbourhood in Birmingham, It’s great fun to go and order authentic flatbreads from the Turkish baker, the exact spice mix for marinating tikka, or tiny little shiny aubergines, from the Indian grocer & enormous bunches of coriander & flat leaf parsley from the Lebanese shop across the road
Once a menu has been devised & the quote sent to the client & the booking made we need to pin things down closer to the date. That’s because our menus always have lots of options in it. To trim these options down, we offer clients a tasting (strictly for the winter months – there’s a lot going on in the summer!).
In our case, these are individual and take place in our prep kitchen in Stone & are great fun.. I like to think of them as ‘chef’s table’ the client and a couple of guests (if they would like to bring anybody along). They narrow down their menu & I cook the chosen dishes. Many clients bring their wine along to match & famously, one bride & groom plus a set of parents turned it into a restaurant lunch ambience, with much frivolity & great enjoyment of the food! Many caterers/venues offer a sort of ‘moonie style’ tasting of 100 odd people altogether, but where’s the joy in that I ask!
It gives me an enormous amount of pleasure to cook at these & to encourage comments, and any changes they feel they would like to make – say to the presentation etc. We all take photographs, make notes & the clients go away feeling loved, happy & in great hands.
All the challenges are good ones..because they all involve either sourcing the product, perfecting or adapting the recipe to cater for the diverse palates of a wedding, or adapting a dish which may be perfectly easy to cook for six for a dinner party on an oven you know – – but is not quite so straightforward when serving 150 people at the same time from the back of a marquee half way up a Pennine in a muddy field.
A great example of this kind of adaptation is individual beef Wellington – hard to perfect at a wedding, but many clients love it, so I came up with a ‘deconstructed Wellington’ of a fillet steak with a puff pastry tart filled with the mushroom duxelles with an individual pot of redcurrant & port reduction..all the tastes of Wellington, none of the stress for the chef on the day.
When I get home I have sourdough toast, Whole Earth peanut butter & a cup of tea!!