No longer just for the elite, top chefs will cook for you in your own home.

As a na­tion of food­ies, our hunger for gas­tro­nomic highs and be­spoke

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Contents -

For the food ob­sessed, it is the equiv­a­lent of hav­ing Kylie Minogue sing at your birth­day party. But you needn’t be a sheik, an oli­garch, nor have suit­cases filled with cash to have your favourite chef come around to cook you din­ner. Wel­come to the ‘ex­pe­ri­ence econ­omy,’ where star-pow­ered cater­ing is pitched at mere mor­tals.

Among the many hats Chris­tine Man­field wears – speaker, cook­book au­thor, tele­vi­sion pre­sen­ter, gas­tro­nomic tour host – she’s added a cater­ing chef’s hat to her col­lec­tion.

Hav­ing closed her Syd­ney restau­rant Uni­ver­sal in 2013, the ac­claimed chef now con­sults for Pearl Cater­ing, and along with men­tor­ing staff, guid­ing menus and gen­er­ally “putting my sig­na­ture across their of­fer­ing,” Man­field will also cook at your event.

“There’s the chance to get up close and per­sonal with me, in a way, more so than in a restau­rant,” she says.

From menu cre­ation through to its ex­e­cu­tion, Man­field says the free­dom that one-off oc­ca­sions af­ford is one of the big­gest draw­cards for her as a chef.

“With events, cre­atively you can re­ally let rip,” she says. “You can have more fun, cre­at­ing the fan­tasy around an event and theme through the food and how it’s pre­sented.”

The ap­peal of a be­spoke ex­pe­ri­ence is driv­ing the growth of these pri­vate chef din­ners. “Peo­ple want to cre­ate a spe­cial mem­ory. They’re seek­ing some­thing that’s not ac­ces­si­ble on an ev­ery­day level, and want to cre­ate some­thing unique,” Man­field says.

There are around 3700 cater­ing com­pa­nies in Aus­tralia and, ac­cord­ing to the most re­cent Restau­rant and Cater­ing Aus­tralia fig­ures, NSW and Queens­land are lead­ing the charge, gain­ing 3.2 per cent and 3.8 per cent re­spec­tively from 2011-2016. And as the in­dus­try grows, it is also adapt­ing to cus­tomer de­mands, with bou­tique cater­ing on the rise.

Pearl Cater­ing gen­eral man­ager, Craig Durston, has seen the ex­pan­sion of cus­tomers want­ing to cre­ate their own ex­pe­ri­ences. “Peo­ple are en­gag­ing with food like never be­fore. They have an in­ter­est in it, they spend time and money on it,” says Durston. “Hav­ing an event at home is part of that.”

Clients want­ing the next level for their event have fed the trend to­wards celebrity chef col­lab­o­ra­tions. “There are only so many ways to style or dress a room. This led to clients want­ing named chefs to cook for them,” he says, adding that hosts pay be­tween $4000 and $10,000 for Man­field to pre­pare a menu and cook in their homes. “Yes, it used to just be for the rich and fa­mous, but peo­ple are now re­al­is­ing they can ac­tu­ally have such an event at home.”

Kylie Pa­gent is one such host, who com­mis­sioned a Chris­tine Man­field menu to be served when she re­cently threw a 70th birth­day party for 22 friends and fam­ily at her Syd­ney home.

“We were fans of Uni­ver­sal, and be­fore that, the Para­mount (another Man­field restau­rant), which we loved,” she says. “The high­light was be­ing able to watch the chefs in the fam­ily kitchen, cook­ing such an ex­tra­or­di­nary meal.”

Colin Fass­nidge of Syd­ney’s 4Four­teen and My Kitchen Rules was tasked with the top-se­cret gig of cater­ing an in­ti­mate din­ner party for Adele when she was in the coun­try ear­lier this year, cook­ing up a “sch­mick bar­bie” for 10 peo­ple. But you don’t have to be a global su­per­star to get him into your kitchen. “It’s not some­thing we ad­ver­tise, but it’s another as­pect to the busi­ness,” he says. “When you have a good group of peo­ple, hav­ing a laugh, chat­ting in the kitchen with us, prob­a­bly over a glass of red, it’s fun.”

Hav­ing held var­i­ous cater­ing con­tracts over the past 20 years, Neil Perry has wit­nessed the in­creas­ing de­mands placed on the mod­ern caterer first-hand. “There’s a high ex­pec­ta­tion peo­ple have of cater­ers now, and they have to get it right,” he says.

As one of our most recog­nis­able chefs, Perry is of­ten asked to cook at pri­vate events. “Peo­ple ask, but I don’t think they could af­ford it,” he says. “But I do a lot of fundrais­ing din­ners – din­ner for eight or 10 peo­ple, when it’s a great cause, like Starlight or Ozhar­vest.”

At such fundrais­ers, a Perry-cooked din­ner might go for up­wards of $30,000. “The high­est we raised was $250,000 for a din­ner cooked by my­self, Thomas Keller and He­ston Blu­men­thal over in WA.”

You won’t need any­where near that type of money to have Michael Ran­tissi from Syd­ney’s Ke­pos Street Kitchen come and cook his mod­ern Mid­dle East­ern food at your home. How­ever, many of the events he’s been in­volved in have spared no ex­pense, at $100,000 or more. “There have been mind-blow­ing events for peo­ple who have no con­cept of how much money they are spend­ing.” Ran­tissi is cur­rently plan­ning an event that will trans­form his client’s back­yard into a Mid­dle East­ern bazaar.

Such quests for the ex­pe­ri­en­tial don’t come cheap. But for lit­tle more than what you’d spend at a restau­rant, in Mel­bourne, Miche­lin-trained chef Ro­muald Oudeyer will come and cook for six to 26 of your near­est and dear­est. A three-course meal starts at $140 a head through his din­ner party ser­vice, Romu.

Man­field says an in­creas­ingly food-lit­er­ate clien­tele means chefs are work­ing harder than ever to de­liver meals that are both cut­ting-edge and de­li­cious. “The bot­tom line is that the food has to taste bloody bril­liant.”


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