Why Food is the Main Game for Functions
When you start to hear primary school kids talking about “plating up”, it’s clear our obsession with food that began with cooking shows such as MasterChef and My Kitchen Rules has now reached into every corner of Australia. But as our knowledge of food has grown, so have our expectations. And providers are now responding to these demands.
Restaurants are more competitive than ever. Food trucks and markets are springing up everywhere offering new culinary delights, while airlines are upping their game, pairing with celebrity chefs to provide designer meals. It’s a trend that has been gathering momentum for group and corporate events nationally over the past eight years, says Matthew Faux, Head Chef at Kingpin Crown. After venue selection, high-end food offerings are now one of, if not the top priority for functions catering to 15 people or 1500.
Food is an experience
It’s not as though function food has gone from sausage rolls and party pies to caviar and truffles, but the trend is clearly moving towards food at the more sophisticated end of the scale. While once the offering at events would have been pre-made products brought in bulk, clients are now expecting hand-made dishes with more natural, organic and fresh ingredients than processed. We want gourmet meals and we want an experience from the food to enhance our events.
“For functions, people want more refined dishes,” explains Faux. “Canapés used to be a simple bite, but now customers expect that out of one or one-and-a-half bites in the mouth, there will be the same experience, taste and texture as one would get from a meal in a restaurant. They expect the same quality and complexity.” To get this level of offering, chefs also require significantly more time, effort and skill.
High-end foods on offer at Kingpin Crown might, for example, include duck spring rolls made in house and of a superior quality to the supplied and mass-produced product. Other dishes on offer at Kingpin Crown include lobster raviolo, made with fresh lobster and homemade pasta, and topped with sage butter. Salmon Nigiri is another favourite – rather than being brought in en masse, it’s made fresh on the day with the salmon sliced, grilled and marinated in-house.
For corporate or larger events, another trend is the grazing table where food is styled and served as a feast to provide both a talking point and place to talk, encouraging more mingling.
Living up to the challenge
The challenge for chefs and venues is to provide the food being demanded, and those that do are gaining a competitive edge for their venues. However, in addition to providing the right high-end foods for functions, Faux says the cream on the top is front-line service, which must be personalised, including providing the specific meals customers request.
“I could deliver the best food in Melbourne, but if I don’t provide good service customers won’t give a good review and they won’t come back again,” he says. Changes are always being made to food offerings to accommodate customer demand, with overall menus reviewed at least once a year.
Small changes are made in between — whether it’s new flavours, garnishes, cuisines or styles — to incorporate new trends, says Faux.
While the pressure on kitchens has never been greater, the good news for customers is that venues like Kingpin are keeping up with the trend and turning out beautiful food using top-class produce. And that’s even before you’ve started bowling!