I’m all for dressing up and dancing the night away, but when I attend a wedding, the food in front of me is what gets me excited. It’s the player in the game that might just have the most pressure in making sure the night is a success. So when Simon Ruffell, owner and chef at EatDrink shared some insight on the magic that goes on behind those catering doors, I was all ears. See below and get ready to get hungry!
1. How did you get into catering?
Catering was the next industry step for me to take; my formative hospitality years began at the Regent Hotel moonlighting from my University studies. It sewed the seeds for my love of good food and wine and consequently I gave up a career in the corporate world for that of restaurant management, cafes and bars. When I moved from Auckland to Sydney I started work for one of the top prestige catering companies. It was an eye opening experience – this company had a wonderful flair for flavor combinations, presentation and creativity. I fitted right in and realised I had a real knack for creating, cooking and presenting beautiful food. Two years later I was offered the catering contract on a luxury harbor boat – and from there word spread and my business grew.
2. What’s your personal motto, or a phrase that inspires you creatively?
Cook with love; for me sharing food is one of the greatest pleasures and gifts we can give one another. Cooking is an artistic expression – the beautiful produce we are inspired by, turned into a delicious and beautiful experience for loved ones to enjoy together. There seems to be a magic that happens when the love and appreciation is there for the produce, the process, and the final creation.
I have a philosophy on my website which echoes this and serves as a reminder for all of us in the team.
3. Can you describe your culinary aesthetic in three words?
Stimulating, artistic, uncomplicated.
4. What are three things you can’t live without?
Nature, space, my senses.
5. Where do you find inspiration?
Firstly, from the produce I work with; to see where it comes from and how it grows. Most of my dishes are the result of discovering an ingredient I love and building on all my favourite things that can compliment it.
Secondly, from some of the inspirational chefs who I follow – there are certain chefs who I have a tremendous resonance with – it’s the way they approach food, their palate, and it’s the way they actually handle, cook and present their food. I find they can totally reignite my love for cooking and send me down an entirely new culinary path.
6. What’s your favorite social media platform?
I’m not actually a big social media player; I fully appreciate its benefits but rarely follow what others are doing. I much prefer to experience it all first hand. Eatdrink does have a conscious social media presence and Instagram is now our most popular – a picture paints a thousand words, and I must say, I think our wall has some truly beautiful pictures.
7. What is a food or drink detail that often gets overlooked, that you wish got more attention in the planning process?
Food and drink go hand in hand. You need well considered service for both for an event to be a success. Most of our events are at private residences where guests are at the mercy of what the host supplies – there’s no fridge to raid or dial-a-pizza to call. Lack of drink never seems to be a concern – it would be unAustralian to have a poor stocked bar. However some clients try to cut down on catering costs with a menu which simply doesn’t last the distance, or is ill-timed in relation to when the bar opens. A nine hour wedding is not just about a big dinner at 7 o’clock.
8. What do you think is the most important question a client can ask, when deciding who to hire for their wedding’s catering?
Perhaps its not a question, but rather a recognition that your caterer is passionate about what they do. Many of my clients stress how important their menu is, and recognise that the wining and dining is the main way we entertain guests at an event. A passionate caterer is going to ensure a menu which stands up to expectation.
There is also a massive amount of organisation involved, to ensure a seamless event where the client never need be bothered with any questions or issues which arise on the night. A good caterer will step outside the role of just cooking, to make sure their client can simply sit back and enjoy.
Furthermore I believe a caterer needs to be flexible – menus need to be adapted to budget, running schedules and individual styles… not to mention being able to be flexible on the day of event – running schedules can run over, client wishes can change, power can drop out and weather can always throw a spanner in the works….
9. What’s been your proudest professional accomplishment as a chef?
Hard to answer, as every week we receive wonderful thanks and feedback from our events, and I continue to feel very proud of the work we produce each week. So what stands out for me is the quality of the team and what we produce in the face of adversity – we’ve had several severe storms to battle through, with hurricane winds, giant hail stones, no power, flooding, and an emergency rescue. And through all of this the team still manages to deliver beautiful food. When it’s a truly terribly night outside, it’s a proud moment to know we can bunker down knowing the show must go on and deliver a top class service.
10. When you’re not working, what do you like to do for fun?
I’m a keen traveller with a sense of adventure and exploration – but always like to celebrate the end of the day with my favourite people, great food, and lots of laughs.
Photography: Christina Calathas | Catering: Eat Drink Catering Pty Ltd