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Working in contract catering

11 Sep 2019

Working in contract catering

Often you are serving significantly more people,  meaning that you are required to pre-prepare vast quantities of food.

Contract catering can be in all sorts of places- city offices, museums, race tracks, universities, you name it. You could find yourself working in a fine dining executive staff restaurant, feeding thousands in a football stadium or a glamorous celebrity venue. Standards can also be extremely high as some contracts rival Michelin-star restaurants.

Contract caterers are blessed with arguably the most sociable working hours in the hospitality industry. In a business contract, you’ll work the traditional 9-5 hours, five days a week plus occasional weekends or evenings for functions. In the education sector, these hours could be even shorter.

Contract caterers such as Harbour & Jones, Bartlett Mitchell and Elior are some of the most successful and profitable companies in the country. Elior, for instance, has won numerous awards and is ranked amongst the top 25 businesses to work for in the UK by The Sunday Times.

There are also, arguably, more entrepreneurial opportunities in contract catering. Louise Wymer, now the owner of Catering Academy, started up her own company in 2004 after working for various independent contract caterers. She is now one of the most successful businesswomen in the country and was shortlisted for the 2010 ‘Veuve Clicquot Business Woman of the Year’ award. Contract catering opens doors and often allows entrepreneurial expression to a far greater extent than conventional restaurant work.

It is not for everyone. Contract catering isn’t considered as prestigious as working in a high-end restaurant amongst Chefs and culinary achievements don’t receive Michelin recognition. Nevertheless, working as a Chef in the contract catering industry is ideal for anyone looking to balance their passion for food with a financial opportunity and a conventional working week.

Tom Gore, Executive Chef at the event and fine dining venue The Brewery said: “Where I am today is exactly where I wanted to be. I love the party scene and the challenge of cooking for large numbers of people. The fact that no day is the same, there’s constantly different things going on.

"When you’re in a restaurant there’s a very specific style to follow at all times. In events,  you have to be adaptable. The scope can range from doing an Indian themed wedding for  David Cameron’s sister to the American style wanted by the MTV Awards. We try to  create authentic dishes to suit our events and it’s crucial we’re adaptable."

Rob Kirby is director of Lexington Catering said: “We make everything in the house, there’s  nothing we buy in. If you’re in a restaurant, you can create a dish, serve it and work out the cost, that’s it. When you’re cooking for 600 people, you have to create a dish that will work for those 600 and please everybody. That’s what we do, we look at ways that we can challenge our guests but at the same time not scare them with our food.

“It’s very diverse, there are never two days the same and that’s what I like. From a small dining room to a 500 cover event, each menu comes with its own challenges and I love it.”

Cooking in progress...