While Adelaide’s chefs and restaurants enjoy the accolades, another part of the culinary world goes quietly about its business — the caterers.
Day to day, catering companies are faced with a multitude of tasks, and can be considered the all-encompassing conglomeration of the fast-paced and rigorous hospitality industry. According to Melissa Reilly, director of sales and marketing at EPICURE, every day is different in the catering industry. “We can be hosting a small workshop for 10 people one day and doing a degustation dinner at the [State] Library the next,” she tells The Adelaide Review. “There are also various levels of involvement in events – we could be simply serving gourmet sandwiches, or styling an event from head to toe.” EPICURE boasts a repertoire of iconic venues across Adelaide, including the State Library of South Australia, Adelaide Town Hall and South Australian Museum, and has consistently been recognised by the Restaurant & Catering Australia Awards for Excellence – 2015 saw EPICURE win the award for Best Venue Caterer for their work at Town Hall, as well as the Best Function/Convention Centre Caterer at The Ellington. Reilly’s role involves liaising with clients at the frontline of the business and conveying information about functions to the kitchen and front of house team. However, she stresses that sales are only one aspect to the multifaceted catering industry. “We work alongside those looking [for something] outside the box,” Reilly says. A recent client requested a function in the hangar at Port Adelaide’s Aviation Museum, while another desired a degustation dinner with a black theme, for which the chefs got creative, sourcing unique produce such as black truffles and black garlic to feature in the menu. Reilly notes that the most difficult aspect of working in the catering industry is the competitiveness. “When you consider EPICURE’s portfolio of iconic venues alone – all within short distance of one another – then add that to South Australians’ solid general knowledge of food and wine, that makes it super competitive,” she says. “Because of amazing restaurants like Orana, paired with [representations of ] food in the media, clients walk in with high expectations. Our challenge is to ensure that these expectations are continually surpassed.” Another aspect to this challenge is conveying operational details to clients. Offsite catering involves an enormous amount of behind-the-scenes work and preparation to ensure an event runs smoothly. Caterers and front-of-house staff are required to bring equipment to install a mobile kitchen, and prepare a venue for a function by decorating it and providing glassware and crockery. While restaurants have an established space and a set menu, caterers are required to constantly adapt to new surroundings and client’s requests. “Logistically, that’s no mean feat,” says Reilly. “Our job is also about educating clients as to what it takes to get there.” Reilly goes on to say that despite the occasional stress of putting together events, the payo is always worthwhile. “I have a love of food and wine and its ability to open up shared experiences. [Catering is] very people-driven, and it’s so rewarding to see your clients beaming when their guests come up to them telling them how much they’re enjoying the event.” The team at Taylor & Holmes share the sense of fulfillment described by Reilly when working with clients on a function. “Food is happiness – it brings people together, it honours your guests, and it’s an important element for creating a successful event,” owner and manager Kate Hobby tells The Adelaide Review. “It’s incredibly satisfying talking to clients, evolving events with them, providing the food and packing everything up, knowing they’ve been very happy with [the function].” Another pivotal Adelaide o -site catering company is Plenty Catering Co, owned and operated by Dianne and Eldert Hoebee. Previously known as No Fuss Catering Co, they and their team have been in business since 1988. As South Australia’s First Gold Licensed caterer and the recipient of several Restaurant & Catering Awards for Excellence, Plenty Catering Co is well experienced in functions ranging from private events, such as weddings, birthdays and engagements, to corporate work all over the state. “Plenty Catering Co is passionate about keeping [our] menus and presentations contemporary, on-trend, and ahead of the pack. Recognition of dietary requirements and food intolerances receives [our] utmost attention,” says Eldert. “We’re about giving clients what they want, not just what we’ve got.” Unlike restaurants, caterers experience a variety of constant challenges that require fast problem-solving. The Hoebees note there is a growing trend of last-minute bookings – recently, they organised the catering for a wedding from first contact to completion in the space of one week. Other major considerations for o ff-site caterers include location, access to electricity and water, and changes in the weather. Offering a different perspective to the world of catering is The Happy Motel. According to their Twitter, “The Happy Motel is a catering installation company. We create food and beverage memories. We blend morsels with musics and eats with arts. We’re always open.” After being offered a stall at Barrio at the end of 2011, Jordan Jeavons and a team of four friends decided to establish The Happy Motel as a casual project business rather than a traditional catering company. “The Happy Motel is more of an avenue to do events,’ Jeavons says. “It’s not really a full-time goal, but more of an output for creative endeavours.” Since its inception, The Happy Motel has catered for events including Lola’s Pergola as a part of the Adelaide Festival, the Adelaide Beer and BBQ Festival, and a variety of private functions. Jeavons states that the business focusses on many di fferent cuisines, including Mexican, Korean, Middle Eastern and Argentinian, and has ranged from a small barbecue setup to a comprehensive o ff-site kitchen. The Happy Motel is passionate about working with clients’ requests. “People want the unique experience of food and whatnot, and it’s only when people tailormake something to your event [that this can occur],” says Jeavons. “With a set menu you lose something unique in the process [of catering].” The Happy Motel’s next upcoming project is food, wine and music festival Here’s To Now, taking place at Coriole Vineyards on January 2, 2016. Featuring acts including C.W. Stoneking, Remi and Dan Kelly, the day will be a celebration of local music and innovative food producers. While Jeavons is reluctant to disclose the nal menu, he says that the day will feature a charcoal barbecue and wood-oven pizzas. Food has the power to bring people together, and caterers are the backbone of the events that we enjoy, patiently toiling away in busy offices, temporary kitchens and unfamiliar venues. Next time you’re at a catered function, don’t forget to pass on your thanks to the chef.