Great Ocean Food: Turning up the heat
Catering has improved considerably since I first started 30 years ago. I was at a function on the weekend where, in years gone by, the food was second-rate.
Thanks to competition and modern food preparation and serving methods, event dining is now leaps ahead of the “chicken or beef” you may have been offered in the eighties. In fact, there was a full a la carte menu with six choices for each of entrée, main and dessert and an extensive wine list.
There were 12 people on each table and about 50 tables in the room, so there were approximately 600 people to serve. This is a typical catering scenario at an event. The orders were taken with efficiency but no real enthusiasm. The choices were somewhat predictable; eye fillet of beef, lamb backstrap, pork belly and fish. All prime cuts served with vegetables and a sauce. Nothing particularly adventurous, but I understand the need to cater to a wide variety of tastes in such an environment, so everything should be satisfactory.
Unfortunately, they made one of the most fundamental errors possible. The plates had not been heated and as a result the food was disappointingly cold. In fact, my fillet of beef was so cold, I sent it back, only to be served the same meal again ever so slightly warmed. It was so substandard and all of the obvious time and effort was wasted due to the most simple of oversights.
Checking for a warmed plate is almost the first thing I do when served a main course. When I was catering, we would dedicate an entire oven just to warm the plates. It was something drilled into me by the first chef I worked for and is mandatory for the service of hot food. It is doubly important when serving large crowds in a short timeframe.
Overall the meal and service was fairly good and would have been excellent, had the food been served at the correct temperature.
Following is a winter favourite of mine which will always be served piping hot. Heat the plate, serve with potato mash, sprinkle with gremolata and enjoy by the fire.