Creative people always inspire me and Miccal Cummins of Sydney multi award winning caterer Gastronomy is one such person, with creative vision, extensive passions built around his business, and the ability to think outside the square. Working with food and the design of events and weddings must surely be the dream profession for someone like Miccal and his team who strive to offer occasions to remember for their attention to detail, delicious food and excellent service. Here is Miccal’s story…..
When was the dream of Gastronomy born?
I was working as the manager of the Botanic Gardens restaurant in 1996 and people would often come in asking for outdoor events in the gardens which we did not have the resources to do. That gave me an idea and I set myself up as Botanic Events. After two years, I realised it was the food and service that really mattered to me and it was at that time that I met the incredibly inspirational Chef Darren Taylor and Gastronomy was born.
Image by My Lens Of Love
What does your creative background of textiles, fashion and sculpture bring to Gastronomy?
Because I come from a fashion and arts background, I am always aware of the look. Catering adds the next layer that really motivates me, the skills that make good looking food amazing: flavour and texture. Executive Chef Cyril Miletto and I spend a lot of time on recipe development, and are constantly refining the way we cook and present.
My textiles and fashion training gives me the confidence to discuss the entire look of a wedding. I can team with the stylist to create, and I have a massive collection of platters, plates and service equipment to match a variety of designs.
You are based in Sydney – do you offer your service to clients based in other cities/countries?
I will go anywhere somebody wants to fly me and accommodate me, but in reality we are Sydney and NSW country based.
Your chefs create a mix of Australian, European and Asian flavours. Do you see a trend to certain types of cuisine for weddings?
Yes, many couples have some specific ideas they want to bring in, particularly when bride and groom are from different cultures. These have included Spanish / Indian, Vietnamese / Jewish and Filipino / Aussie. I often create new menus to match. As soon as you have another word in front of Australian (Italian Australian, Chinese Australian, Macedonian Australian, South African Australian……) you know there has to be food everywhere. Food is the international language of family.
Image by My Lens Of Love
Do you see a different way emerging of creating and serving food emerging at weddings?
Yes, I see 2 distinct trends, interestingly they seem the opposite of each other, but in reality they are both after the same thing – that is, making sure the wedding is memorable in every way; the look, the way the food is served, of course the wonderful sense of family and friendship.
So with that in mind, for those having a sit-down affair, a lot of thought is put into the tables, the linens and the centerpieces for a gorgeous impression. For some brides we have built stunning table centerpieces of fruit, leaves and old silverware rather than flowers, each arrangement a work of art in itself. This style lends itself to shared plates, there is no plated entrée and main, but rather the table is laden with food to share. This is an extremely social and lively way to eat. A roving dessert or a dessert buffet station tops this off beautifully, as it gets guests up and mingling, and if there’s dancing there’s no risk of desserts being served and then cleared while you are away on the dance floor. Having the speeches between the shared plates and the dessert stations is a natural way to break the evening up and introduce the bridal couple’s first dance, assuming they haven’t been dancing since they arrived!
The second trend is a stand up and cabaret style. This cleverly solves a problem some weddings have with stand-up affairs, and that is, “what do we do about Aunty?” For many brides in unique venues such as Fairground Follies in Sydney, or Hopewood in Bowral, the venue itself is so interesting guests want to move around. At these and other venues where a bride can marry and have pre-dinner drinks in one area and then the wedding party in another, a clever solution is a combination of roving waiters with food and then one or two feature food stations with cabaret size tables and lounges scattered around them. This creates a clubby, ever changing room and gives Aunty somewhere to sit. Those on the dance floor can dance and those who are hungry can graze. The food stations themselves can be the central features of the room, beautifully styled to the mood.
Image by My Lens Of Love
You use many venues for your functions from yacht clubs, botanic gardens to heritage listed buildings and theatres. Which types of venues particularly inspire you for weddings and why?
I mentioned Fairground Follies earlier as it is the most usual, flexible venue we work in. It is not for every bride with its black interior and antique fairground equipment but wow! It inspires me.
Other venues that I find inspirational are the Cellblock Theater in Darlinghurst for its unmatched sandstone interior – so dramatic when lit – and of course that ultimate Sydney venue, a marquee at the Fleet steps in the Botanic Gardens looking across Farm Cove to the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge. Of course not everybody wants something so public, and my own sister’s wedding we held in a marquee in a middle of a paddock, next to a massive old gum tree. A family affair for 60 of us, it was one of the most beautiful and memorable weddings I have ever been to, but then it would want to be, considering two of her brothers are caterers!
Do you work closely with the wedding planner/stylist (as well as the couple of course) to ensure that the food you create suits the style of the wedding?
Yes, we spend quite a bit of designing a wedding menu to suit. I often start by asking the bride if she has a Pinterest or Instagram I can look at, this gives me an idea of what she loves. Not everybody has social media, or a stylist for that matter, so other inspiration I get from brides is their experiences and what they enjoy. I recently designed a classic shared platter Italian dinner for a couple who had fond memories of a holiday in Amalfi: I loved designing it and they were thrilled with the result on the day. We finished off with an icecream cart serving gelato.
What extra catering options do you offer along with your basic wedding packages?
Food stations and fabulous interactive dessert naturally, and I also have an extensive collection of old silver and antique crockery which can create a very personal look for brides.
Image by Liquid Ideas
You are committed to sustainability – what does this mean for Gastronomy’s practices?
We advertised in the Good Living over a number of weeks for growers and suppliers to contact us, with great results. Obviously no produce is grown in the city itself, but the regions around Sydney include amazing mushrooms from disused rail tunnels in Mittagong, grass fed Hunter beef and berries from Dural. Our fruit and vege supplier Matt Brown came on board to deliver for us and is a great supporter of our local farmers.
We have 144 solar panels on the roof our kitchen, generating the equivalent of 20 domestic houses worth of electricity, we compost over nine tonnes of organic waste every year and we change our menus with the seasons to match the produce available. All of our coffee and most of our teas and chocolates are fair trade; in fact I am a member of the UNSW fair trade committee.
We changed all of our disposables to biodegradable and compostable (plates, cups, cutlery and even packaging!).
Which brings us to OzHarvest…
What does being an ambassador for OzHarvest mean to you?
OzHarvest is perhaps the single most important food trend of this century. Previous to OzHarvest, our left over food from events could not be donated to charities because of the then legislation. Ronni Kahn’s amazing work in changing the law and setting up OzHarvest means tonnes and tonnes of food that would otherwise have been wasted, or had gone out of date in supermarkets and was thrown out, is now rescued and eaten.
Every single kilo of food we rescue I do in memory of my mother Fran, who was an early advocate of reducing waste, recycling and preserving resources.
Image by Liquid Ideas
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I go to auctions and collect antique silver and linen, some of which we use for our weddings at work. I enjoy polishing up silver pieces that have been long forgotten in the back of someone’s cupboard. I also spend time with antique napkins and cloths, often dyeing them into pieces I can use at home or in photo shoots.
I eat out at least 4 nights a week with my partner Wallace or with friends, which keeps me up to date with what’s happening (and better fed that I really should be).
Thank you Miccal for sharing your fascinating story. To find out more about Miccal and Gastronomy please visit the website.
Headshot courtesy of Gastronomy staff