- Published: Monday, 10 April 2017 08:45
- Written by James Bruce
Our team were in recent attendance of a spring menu tasting with one of our catering suppliers Prestige Venues & Events. We caught up with head chef Tom Beauchamp and asked him about the new spring menu.
Tell us a bit about Prestige?
Our Scottish head office and development kitchens are based in South Queensferry from where we deliver events all over the country from Aberdeen, to Glasgow and Edinburgh and pretty much everywhere else in between. Our scope is wide and we cater for many different types of occasions from intimate dinners in castle settings to gala dinners in magnificent venues and major sporting events such as the Scottish Cup final and The Open Golf Championship.
Our core business is conference and banqueting, with events ranging from just a dozen delegates up to hundreds of guests for a gala dinner. The kitchen team at South Queensferry has a full-time roster of 20 employees, but we can triple in size during our busiest periods. All in, we cater for around 200,000 people a year so we’re are a pretty busy operation.
The foundation of everything we do is based on great relationships with clients. Being able to understand a vision, advise using our extensive experience, and create outstanding guest experiences is what we do best.
Where do you draw inspiration when creating dishes?
Inspiration can come from literally anywhere. As a development chef, the most important thing you can do is get out and see, taste and experience as much as possible. It doesn’t have to be expensive restaurants either - a trip to a farmer’s market, a visit to see family, going to see producers on their farms, sometimes just walking down a road and seeing something interesting through a shop window, there are endless places for chefs to draw inspiration from. This is definitely one of the best things about a career in the industry, there are over 3000 pictures of food on my phone and hundreds of notes with ideas!
You have a fantastic new spring menu, tell us about the seasonal elements that go into a menu and why you change with the seasons?
All our menus are guided by the seasons for the simple reason that seasonality is the biggest driver of quality, far more so than locality. We are blessed in Scotland to have various food types peaking all year round. Spring is definitely one of my favourite times of year for the sheer abundance of produce that starts to become available between March and May.
Right now, two of my very favourite ingredients, lamb and wild garlic, have started to appear on menus for the first time; both very delicate, subtle and delicious. There is something special about putting these two things together on a plate, it’s like they are made for one another. It’s no coincidence that they both appear in nature at the same time and eat together so perfectly.
Tell us about the producers you work with?
Our network of producers and suppliers is extensive and has been built over many years. We work with many businesses around Scotland from small family operations to nationwide suppliers. For us, everything starts with relationships.
We take every opportunity to meet people face to face, often on their farms or at their factories so we can see and understand how they operate and really buy in to their ethos. Having this level of communication means we truly appreciate what they produce and they in turn understand our business and our requirements. Being able to integrate suppliers, especially smaller ones, in to a business that can require very large volumes of food takes lots of planning and close collaboration.
A great example of this is the relationship we have built with Gordon Cauldwell, a vegetable grower based in Girvan. We visited Gordon at his farm last year, walked in his fields and met the team that work on site. Through speaking to Gordon we understand how the seasons affect his crops and therefore availability, and he understands how our business works and can tweak harvest accordingly. His vegetables are absolutely fantastic and it’s great to be able to work a Scottish grower and use his produce in our menus.
Tell us about your sustainability efforts?
Sustainability is absolutely central to what we do at Prestige Venues and Events. Through our parent company Sodexo, we have many initiatives throughout our supply chain and operations that ensure we always operate at the highest possible ethical standards. Whether it’s how we save energy, recycle packaging or source fish for our menus, our credentials really are impeccable.
This led us to recently be awarded the highest possible score for the 10th year in a row in the RobecoSAM year book, one of the leading global assessors of sustainability in big businesses.
What is your favourite dish on the current menu (March 2017)?
My favourite dishes are always the simplest, based on great ingredients. Our Hebridean sea salt baked heritage beetroot, with goats cheese and candied walnuts is unbelievable.