Food. It’s something that we need to live. After oxygen and water it’s the next thing on the list that we officially cannot survive without. Which means that on the whole, I’m rather saddened to say, we can be inclined to treat as just what it is: a necessity.
What was the last really good meal that you ate? Think about it. The last truly unforgettable (for the right reasons) meal that crossed your lips? Actually, come to mention it, when was the last really bad meal that you ate? (For me it involved a prawn, nature’s own form of chemical weapon cunningly encased in a shell – warning enough surely to stay away).
But enough about me and the dodgy prawn I ate back in 2006, my point is this: food is really, so often, just mediocre. There is the food at the top of the mediocre scale, (we’ll call this upper mediocre). There is the food at the bottom of the scale, (or lower mediocre as I’ll call it now, you see where I am going with this), but on the whole, to the average one of us, food is usually just food.
Then we come to your wedding day, when food is not just food anymore: food is an integral part of the day acting as a demonstration of the kind of couple that you are and what you love. On your wedding day, the food you choose to share with your guests should be nothing other than perfection.
You want the first sight (or smell) of a canapé to have your guests inelegantly drooling in anticipation. You want it to be upper class in the food stakes (I will desist now with that analogy, I think my point has been made).
And this is why I was so excited to be chatting to the lovely Jacqueline Cottrell of deWintons, one of the London’s leading catering companies which was founded back in 1996: I was excited because they just ‘get’ the fact that, for food to be memorable, for food to be great, it has to make up part of the wedding experience, not just be something to sustain you until the dancing gets going about 8.00pm. To them food is never just food.
And this, this is the kind of food that you need to have at your wedding: food that gets you and your guests excited, talking, socialising, and salivating around the last Confit Duck Leg with Celeriac & Pear Remoulade on Toast canapé where you try ever so nicely to be polite and offer it to those around you (I would personally just tuck in rather than making a pass at appearing selfless).
Speaking to Jacqueline it’s clear that she and her incredibly accomplished team don’t just treat food as a job, it’s their life: they eat out in their spare time, cook cakes at home with the children, live and breathe great food. Always excited by something new, deWintons ice-cream supplier put into words what Jacqueline and her team feel about food: ‘Why would you always settle for vanilla when there are so many amazing flavour combinations that you can try?’. It is this drive and constant desire to evolve and develop which enables them to stay on top of trends, remain innovative, and most importantly excited and passionate: their job is their passion as well as their livelihood. Food, to them, is never just mediocre, it’s exciting, and they love it and this is very, very clear.
An established and experience industry professional, Jacqueline is also full of practical advice for your wedding, for example feeding the youngest wedding guests before the sit down meal (whereupon they can go and play while the adults actually have time to enjoy their meal, a simple, but genius solution to that eating-with-toddler-on-lap conundrum so many parents are troubled by): Making sure that you choose your favourite brand of champagne not just what a venue offers as standard. The company listen to what their clients want. They offer seasonal, fresh produce which is anything but mundane. If you don’t like the set menus they offer (and the likelihood is you will, frankly, I would have trouble choosing quite which delectable offering to go for), then they offer an entirely bespoke option. They ask their clients what they like to eat before suggesting menus, they ask their clients what they like to drink before discussing the wine and cocktail lists: these may seem like obvious things, but remembering that it’s your day, about your taste rather than thinking what ‘everyone else’ will want to eat sometimes needs someone outside the wedding party to remind you of. And at deWintons they do that (and ever so nicely).
What keeps the company fresh is their passion, their drive, and their attention to detail. Jacqueline says herself that she and her team run every event that they cater for as a ‘shadow hostess’, that is to say that they do everything that you would want to do yourself, but you can actually kick back, have a glass of champagne and enjoy it safe in the knowledge that they will run it to perfection and that you can actually enjoy yourself.
And that, that, is what a great food is all about.
We caught up with Jacqueline to get the low-down on current food fashions, how to cater for your wedding, and her own most memorable meal…
How would you describe deWintons’ food?
“Modern, fresh, alive, delicious.”
What food are you seeing trending for weddings this season?
“Street food, mini meals & lavish pudding stations.”
What are your tips for creating a great wedding breakfast menu?
“Think about what you love to eat and indulge all your fantasies, think about the colour of the food, texture, keep it light as you’ll be drinking plenty of champagne!”
What are your tips for making sure your canapés sing?
“Fresh, seasonal ingredients. Beautifully presented canapé trays using lovely flowers to match the ones on the tables keep the food simple yet vibrant.”
What are your tips for creating a stylish wedding breakfast on a budget?
“Go for canapés in place of the starter then have a fabulous buffet. It looks lavish but definitely works out cheaper for whoever is footing the bill.”
Buffet, BBQ or Silver Service?
“I always think a buffet is a fabulous idea for a wedding as it means guests can mingle more making it very sociable and creating a less formal atmosphere.”
What should you avoid on a wedding menu?
“Anything too heavy, anything that is not seasonal and anything the Bride and Groom don’t like.”
What are your tips for making kids and Vegetarian food brilliant at a wedding?
“I always suggest serving the kids food as soon as they arrive – don’t make them wait until all the other guests have sat down. Give them a bit of fun and give them food on the move such as mini burgers, wraps & goujons. There’s absolutely no reason why Vegetarian food needs to be nothing but brilliant – at my own wedding we nearly all had the vegetarian option as my husband and I loved it so much at the tasting.”
Let’s talk money: how much does deWintons charge for catering?
“Prices start at £65.00 head for a delicious three–course dinner menu.”
What’s the best menu you’ve ever produced for a wedding breakfast?
“My Own: my husband did mention in his speech that he hadn’t realised what a marketing ploy our wedding had been for deWintons! Our menu was as follows with matching wines:”
Potted Shrimps & Melba Toast
Parsley, Lemon, Red Onion and Caper Aioli
(Grilled Watermelon & Feta Salad,
Reduced Sherry, Toasted Pinenuts and Figs) V
Von Buhl Reisling 2008, Trocken, Pfalz
Slow Cooked Pork Belly, Bubble & Squeak,
Roasted Apple, Pork Jus & Crackling
(Mushroom Pithier Bubble & Squeak,
Roasted Apple, Carrot and Thyme Gravy) V
Sancerre En Grands Champs 2006 Alphonse Mellot
The Charge 2006, Rioja
Dark Chocolate & Espresso Marquise, Parsnip Puree,
Slow Baked Treacle Tart, Milk Ice Cream
‘Eton Mess’, Strawberry & Balsamic Jelly,
Whipped Cream, Crushed Meringues, Mint Powder
Monbazillac La Brie 2005
Words by Harriet Rouse Tigerlily
Images 3, 4,5 deWintons