Instead of springing into summer we’re un-springing ourselves, seeing how we can do things differently. This includes finding ways to make event food more sustainable. For inspiration on how to reduce waste and menus that keep it deliciously local, we spoke to four of our outstanding event caterers.
Owner of Fresh Creative Catering, Nikki Gaskell
“Firstly, everyone needs to eat! Food creates the mood of a function. It can be used to enhance a theme and good food nourishes the body as well as the soul.
To be as sustainable as possible, we focus on using delectable in-season local produce. We also recycle all bottles, plastic, tin, cardboard etc. We never throw good food away, sending any leftovers to worthwhile charities after an event.
My favourite local menu is a good old braai.
Starter: Enamel mugs of soup with South African olive oil drizzle.
Mains: The perfect free range Karoo lamb chop cooked medium rare – dressed simply with herbs and oil, local greens in season and garlic smashed potatoes.
Dessert: Deconstructed Melktert, mmm.”
Executive Chef at Chefs JHB, Karel Jacobs
“I believe food is the highlight of an event, especially nowadays - food has become such a talking point on social media. Incredible event food can highlight your venue, your product and make the best memories.
To be eco-friendly with food, always plan your menu with seasonal items and local produce. Planning and prepping is also key to prevent wastage. Always try to use one item in more than one dish to get the most out of each product. We try to preserve left-overs in chutneys or compotes to use in our next menu.
My favourite local food can really be made up of anything local, from fresh fish, free range meat from nearby farms and handpicked veggies from the Jozi Market... Plus, I have a soft spot for tender lamb chops on the braai!
If you’re looking for other recommendations you can’t go wrong with Gemelli's pork belly or a burger at Society Eatery.”
Owner of Hashtag Hot Caterers, Franz the PowerChef
“Food plays a huge part in any event as it is the social bind between everyone there. Not everyone may have much in common but great food can be their connection point. It brings conversation, happiness, comfort, theme and conversation.
Being sustainable begins with your menu planning. Start cutting out beef from your menu. Beef contributes to about 20% of all Greenhouse gas emissions. Cutting even half the beef on your menus will assist with this and create awareness.
Be mindful of the energy you are using for heating and cooking at an event. Use chaffing fuels and dishes and gas instead of electrical equipment to cut on power usage. Always use biodegradable utensils and canapé spoons, plates and cups. After the meal, send your glass, plastic and paper for recycling and your wet waste for compost.
Here’s how I celebrate local produce:
Traditional Cape Malay pickled fish with a spice infusion, coupled with interesting side dishes. A fresh mango, coriander and lime salad is a beautiful, fragrant taste sensation! Plus, a smoked Snoek pate with a crisp seed toast is amazing!
I also have a thing for traditional fire roasted chicken with the African sautéed cabbage and chakalaka with green chillies and pap. Finger licking deliciousness! No cutlery needed!”
Pop-Up plant-based Chef, Lexi Monzeglio
“Food is fuel. Our days are structured around eating. It can be social or essential. When it comes to events, it's a key aspect to success because it's the fun part that energises and engages people.
To be as eco-friendly and cost effective as possible we focus on food preparation first. Ensure the kitchen staff minimises waste, has good water usage etiquette and efficiency in the kitchen. Try and create a menu that utilises off-cuts and waste in things like purees, stocks or garnish.
During the event make sure your food is so good that people eat it all! Seriously, don't have inedible garnishes, massive portions or extremely rich food. Rather have the guests go for seconds than leave food on the plate.
My biggest tip for leftovers is: FREEZE EVERYTHING. Whatever can be used in future you can freeze and reuse. Alternatively; when you can't do that, engage in a community give-back programme where you can send leftovers to underprivileged.
For me, keeping it local at the moment is all about bowls. Anything in a bowl. Seasonal produce, using locally grown (organic where possible), healthy plant-based meals. My favourite local dishes include a plant-based milk tart, South African-ised hummus (adding roasted carrots and African-inspired spices), Rooibos vegan panna cotta and anything with a Cape Malay spice twist.”
Kelly McGillivray, theSQUAD Leader