Oh hello deliciousness! Something that is always a ‘given’ to look forward to at a wedding is the food – no longer are the options limited to the beef or chicken, there’s an entire world of amazing cuisine which caterers and venues all over the country are cooking up! Today we’re joined by Award winning head chef of Forte Catering and Events Anthony Sullivan who creates the most amazing menus for weddings and events all over Sydney and NSW.
Tell me a little about yourself? Did you grow up in a family where food was important?
I grew up in country New South Wales and food was certainly a focus amongst our family – especially fresh, home grown food! One of my fondest memories is of us eating fresh fruit and vegetables straight from our garden. In particular my favorite memory is of a large white peach tree that grew the most delicious peaches that I have ever tasted. Each Christmas our family would holiday at Lake Macquarie on Sydney’s Central Coast. We would spend the entire day fishing with my grandfather on his boat, then he would teach me how to clean, prepare and cook the day’s catch. We used to catch bream, flathead, flounder and blue swimmer crabs in pots that he showed me how to make. Memories and experiences like these are definitely responsible for my strong interest in food and cooking.
What/who inspired you to make food your career?
One of Australia’s leading chefs, Tony Bilson was the first person to inspire my career I believe he is a true pioneer in the Australian gastronomy industry and he has inspired me from a very young age. Marco Pierre White really perked my interest as well, particularly when he opened Harvey’s in London.
What was the catalyst for setting up Forte Catering and Events?
Directors Ross Mitchell and Mark Tallon who established Forte in 2001 really wanted to create a catering company that offered an event and catering service that targeted the specific needs of their clientele, rather than offering a ‘one size fits all’ approach. They are so passionate about what they do and truly believe that beautifully crafted food should be the centre-piece of all types of events, especially weddings.
What is it about catering (as distinct from ‘just’ owning a restaurant) that inspires you?
The whole idea of creating something special with food in a non restaurant environment has always been exciting experience for me. Tom Rutherford of the Truffle Group was the first person to show me endless possibilities when it came to catering with events such as the Cointreau Ball. We were cooking soufflé for 200 guests from a portable marquee in the middle of the botanic gardens and I found this whole concept totally fascinating.
What sets you apart from others in the industry?
While I have almost twenty years of solid experience in external catering, I have also managed stay abreast on what is happening with the restaurant scene. I believe I have a good balance of both which has given me the ability to create a high end restaurant dining experience in virtually any venue.
Do you have a ‘food miles’ philosophy? And, organic versus non organic – do you have a preference?
If I could choose between standard or organic ingredients, my preference would certainly be for fresh, organic, locally sourced produce. While Forte offers an all organic menu, we always try to decrease the distance travelled from paddock to plate and try to use local suppliers from within a 100 mile radius of Sydney when it comes to purchasing ingredients for our dishes.
How do you keep on learning?
I am very passionate about food so I am constantly learning through eating out, trying new recipes and discussing new food concepts with my colleagues. I eat out as often as possible both here in Australia and also overseas. I travel to Hong Kong every year; where there is unlimited inspiration. There are so many cooking programs on television now as well as great books on the market you don’t need to look far to find something new.
What services (food/wait staff) do you offer the Australian bride?
We offer a huge selection of catering options, from all organic, to vegan, to standard menu items we can create dishes to suit and are always happy to work with the bride and groom to meet their specific needs. We place a huge importance on service and provide only the highest quality of staff when catering an event and we source all of our staff from sister company Nosh Hospitality.
Do you have any tips for brides to consider when booking a caterer?
- Keep in mind who will be eating the food: Always think about who will be eating the food at your wedding, make sure you book a caterer that can tend to your needs and can provide you with dishes for all types of tastes and dietary requirements
- Keep your budget in mind from the beginning: You don’t need to spend up big to impress your guests. Make sure your caterer knows your budget from the very beginning and make sure they can work within your price range.
- Opt for seasonal dishes: Think about the time of year your wedding will be held and choose your dishes to suit. Make sure your caterer can provide you with fresh, seasonal produce and make sure that they don’t use frozen food.
- Recognise the importance of good food and wine matching: Make sure your caterer can provide some wine pairings for you at different price points. You really don’t need to spend up big to have seamless food and wine matches and this is something that your caterer should certainly be able to work within your budget.
- Have a clear vision of how you want the food to be served: Take some time to think about how you’d like your caterer to serve your food and discuss the different options with them. Whatever your vision, make sure you talk it over with your caterer to ensure they can meet your needs.
Do you offer flexibility in your menus to each couples’ requirements?
We offer each couple a unique and tailored menu so that we can provide them with exactly what they want when it comes to their wedding food and service. We can adapt our menus to cater for all types of dietary requirements and work closely with each client to ensure we meet their specific needs.
Are you able to accommodate vegan, vegetarian and food sensitivity requirements?
We can certainly accommodate for vegan, vegetarian and all types of dietary requirements, we even have an all organic menu!
What are some of the wedding food faux pas brides and grooms should be aware of?
My top wedding food faux pas include:
- Splurging in all the wrong places
If you don’t have the budget for expensive dishes, it’s better to have more less extravagant dishes that a scare amount of delicacies. Rumbling tummies is a huge no-no!
- Not sticking to the seasons
Seasonal food always tastes best and it is a lot less expensive than food that is out of season. So make sure you opt for dishes that contain seasonal ingredients!
- The unqualified sommelier
Unless you are an expert, there’s no need for you to do the food and wine matching yourself. Let your caterer assist you with making perfect food and wine matches.
- Forgetting who will be eating the food
Steer clear of making the menu too repetitious or too adventurous. A variety of simple, fresh, clean flavours that are plated and presented well will ensure you have your bases covered.
- Ditching the dietary requirements
Ensure that you are aware of the special dietary requirements of your guests long before the reception and advise your caterer prior to the day so that all guests receive a suitable meal.
- Lack of staff
This is a big no-no. Most people overlook the guest to waiter ratio when booking the catering for an event and there is nothing worse than not having enough staff. Find out early how many staff members will be supplied and make sure you raise this question with your coordinator to ensure you have enough staff on the day.
What inspires you about Australian women/brides?
The thing I love about Australian brides is their willingness to make the transition from the traditional three course meal to something more unique. We are seeing an increase in more modern dining options such as elegant canapés and hand held dining options. These allow guests to experience a large range of smaller dishes in a more relaxed and informal setting – in a garden or courtyard scene for example.
Australian women are also generally quite health conscious and it is great to work with clients who hold such a high appreciation for fresh, healthy flavours.
What are your favorite wedding food ideas?
To me you can’t beat an all organic menu; I also love the idea of starting an evening with a selection of roving entrees, followed by a sit down main and finished off with a dessert tasting plate. A dessert buffet is also a fantastic way to showcase a range of beautiful smaller petit four style desserts where guests can help themselves at their own leisure.
Thanks for joining us today Anthony! To find out more about Anthony and the work he does, check out the Forte Catering & Events website!