The onus on commercial kitchen operators to meet demand for more vegetarian and vegan food, coupled with a desire to be more environmentally-friendly, is rapidly catching fire in the corporate events space too, a leading chef at one of the country’s top caterers has claimed.
Ben Dutson, head chef for Sodexo’s major events business, oversees the catering for high profile events including The Henley Royal Regatta, Royal Ascot, Chelsea Flower Show and The Open.
And he is predicting a shift in the way visitors are entertained, noting that the organisation is not just leading the way in terms of new food offerings for such occasions, but demonstrating imagination and creativity in dealing with the environmental impact.
While the ethos of ‘nose to tail’ dining is nothing new, Sodexo’s chefs are subscribing to ‘root to tip’ in their use of fruit and vegetables and also reviving butchery skills so that there is very little waste in the kitchen. They are also increasingly embracing equipment such as Green Eggs and sous vide to enhance menus.
“Quite rightly consumers care about the environmental impact of their dining out experience,” he said.
“And we are very conscious of this. We now buy meat which is less butchered and we do this ourselves, which mean there is no waste and we can use every part in dishes, parfaits, sauces and stocks. It also means that our young chefs are able to learn these sometimes forgotten skills.”
Mr Dutson said it is vital that caterers such as Sodexo lead the way in reflecting food trends at corporate events.
The Sodexo team, for instance, has become increasingly more inventive in its use of food, for example when using artichokes in a dish the skins will be dehydrated and then deep fried before being used as a base for canapes.
“Adopting this root to tip ethos allows us to be more creative and have a really positive effect on the environment at the same time,” he explained.
Sodexo is also fully embracing the trend toward ‘flexitarianism’ – where people move between a plant-based diet and eating meat – by offering a huge range of vegan and vegetarian options at events such as Royal Ascot.
Mr Dutson anticipates that the move towards upmarket street food will continue, with barbeque offerings now very firmly on the menu. “It’s a trend that is going from strength to strength,” he said.
Offerings currently on the menu include slow cooked brisket and shoulder of lamb and the use of a Green Egg barbeque, which is used to finish dishes such as Tandoori scallops or to seer marinated fillets of beef after they have been in a waterbath.
The humble burger is also being elevated, with the company offering uts own burger which is available at all its sporting stadia around the UK and even at The Open, British golf’s most important tournament.