New Years Eve @ The Chandlers - Edgbaston

The Feast that lies ahead.

15 guests, 7 courses, 105 plate (equivelant) 1 chef, 3 1/2 hours. Done! Literally Done!

Private dining in someones home is always a challenge.  What will the kitchen facilities be like?  How much room will there be?  What will the clients be like?  Have I remembered everything?  Will all the geusts like the food?  In truth, you can only control what is within your own grasp and everything else is all part of the colourful picture that makes up catering in other peoples homes.  The secret to it is Planning!  Suggest menus, that you know you can achieve.  Have all of your equipment ready well in advance of the event.  Lists, lists and more lists.  Detail everything that needs done and needs making.  This way you leave nothing to surprise.  Preperation, whether that is speaking to the clients to discuss the menu and their requirments, visiting the property to get the "Lay of the land". Speaking to all your suppliers to order the food.  But, even after all of that things might still happen.  Like taking a phone call from the client that starts "You're not going to like me!"  Never a good way to start a call.  So what would be so terrible that could merrit this?  In reality it was only the fact that the numbers had increased to 15 from 12/14.  Not a biggie really.  But come the end of the night I certainly felt that I had gone 12 rounds in a boxing ring.

Homemade Butters & sharing Platter

Unsalted. Bloody Mary & Roasted Garlic. Kentucky Bourbon & Smoked sea salt. The little touches that make all the difference.

Tandoori scallops.

With spinach, fennel, apple.

"Make mine a Kebab"

Keeping the clients interested in between courses is important. Chicken Tikka Kebab served with a shot of Craft beer. Just like being out on the town!

Lamb main course.

Lamb, 2 ways. Jerusalem artichoke, Cavolo Nero, Herritage carrots, Minted peas.

Bonfire Dessert.

Toasted Marshmallow Brulee, Chocolate, Popcorn, Caramelised banana. The fire bucket has edible sand. Caramel, popping candy & Banana chips.

Getting full flavour from the cooking juices of the Lamb.

Let us start from the begining.  Catering for clients in their home is not just about turning up on the night and cooking the dinner.  Hours and even days of preperation can go into a meal.  For a dinner of the size of the Chandlers New Years Eve party took 2 full days of food preperation and a little bit more for sourcing some of the ingredients and dealing with suppliers.  Not to mention the work that goes into making sure the equipment that you use matches the quality of food that you are serving. 

Friday 30th December 9am, lets do this!  The day before, I had done my shopping and spoken to suppliers.  Lists were written and I was all prepared for 2 days of prep and then the all important service on Hogmany.  So where do I start?  3 pages of prep lists, 7 courses to think about!  Oh boy!

But really it's all about working through the lists.  Nothing goes to chance.  And almost everything is homemade.  Home churned butter.  Artisan bread to be made.  Hamd crafted chocolates.  Stocks and sauces from scratch.  Flavoured oils and dressings.  Vegetables to be prepped.  Fish and meat to be butchered.  Desserts to be made.  Phew!!  I'm getting tired just thinking about it.  All of these things make the difference between providing a good dinner party or providing a sensational dinner party

7 courses sounds a lot.  And it is, but when you break it down there are dozens of elements to make over the course of the meal.  For example the starter contained 9 elements that needed to go on the plate, of which 8 of them needed to be made or prepared.  The main course 10 elements that went on the plate.  And the dessert had similar.  Really, starting to look back on it, I have broken all the rules when it comes to catering for numbers!  Keep it simple!!!  But then again, where is the fun in that and the interest and intrigue for the guest.  I need to make sure that the experience for them is as good as it can be every mouthfull needs to have balance and flavour from each and every element.

Lets do this!

All prepped and ready to go.

Loin of Lamb.

Beautiful lamb, all ready for the oven.

Fire!

It's the little details that make all the difference!

Champagne.

Ready for the peach melba Champagne cocktail.

The end is in sight.

Just the cheese course to serve and then it's all about the clearing up!

Make mine a kebab. If you're having a kebab, you have to have a beer!

I arrived at the Chandlers around 1730, giving myself plenty of time to get unpacked, set up and organised.  Having the luxury of a large kitchen with good oven space and a good hob was excellent.  Everything was all unpacked, courses were laid out in different parts of the kitchen ready for when thy were needed, the plates were in the warmer, lamb sauce was reducing on the stove.  Things were looking good, time for a coffee! 

Ding Dong!  It's time!  Heart rate starts to rise as the first guest arrived and Elegant gins were offered on arrival.  The sharing boards were being buit and the start line approached ever so closer and then the host appeared and said they were ready to start with the food.  Bang!  The starters pistol went off and the marathon began, remember, it's al ong one this, pace yourself and all will be fine, I said to myself.  It's all in the detail and the organisation.  I had done plenty of this and was ready to go.

So, what was on the menu then?

With the Aperitifs

Sharing Platter of Scottish Smoked Venison & Gressingham Duck. Iberico Chorizo. Red Onion & Sea Salt Focaccia. Olives & Marinated Vegetables.

Bread & Butter

Rustic White - Seeded Granary - Cumin, Chilli & Cheese Focaccia.  Home churned Unsalted - Bloody Mary & Roasted Garlic - Kentucky Bourbon BBQ & Smoked Sea Salt.

To Start

Tandoori Scallops - Spinach, Fennel, Apple, Cardamon Cream, Curry Oil, Coriander Cress, Radish.

Make Mine a Kebab

Chicken Tikka, Asian Slaw, Flatbread, Sirancha sauce, Mint Yoghurt.

Main

Lamb, Jerusalem Artichoke, Cavolo Nero, Herritage Carrots, Minted peas.

Cleanse

Textures of Champagne - Champagne Sorbet, Jelly & Peach Melba Champagne Cocktail.

Dessert

Bonfire - Toasted Marshmallow Brulee, Cinnamon Doughnut Toffee Popcorn, Caramelised Banana, Whisky Chocolate Mousse, Caramel Shards.

Cheese

Lightly Smoked Red Liecester, Mature Cheddar, French Brie, Kinerton Ash Goats, Shropshire Blue, Stilton.  Red Onion Marmalade, Selection of Oatcakes & Crackers.

Petits Fours

Bitter Chocolate & Mint Truffle.  Cranachan Truffle - White Chocolate, Whisky, Oat, Honey & Raspberry.  Scottish Tablet - As Made By Mrs B, All The Way From St Andrews.

It's any wonder they had any room for anything to drink!  I can testify that they managed to leave plenty room for the drink as well.  To be honest there was a fair amount of alcohol within the dishes.  Well, it was Hogmanay!!  Clean plates, oohs and aahs, calls of "You need to come and eat this before it melts!"  all go down as positive points and that the food was well recieved.

3 hours had gone by and the cheese was on the table.  Mission accomplished!  Chris, one of the hosts leaned over to me and said "Everything seems to have gone to plan, you wanted to be at this stage at this tim."  I agreed with him as that is exactly where I wanted to be at that point.  Food all done and dusted in plenty time for the bells.  They can enjoy the party, let their hair down, a little bit more than it already was.  And I can start to get cleared up and go home.

Clearing up, the worst part of the night!  Piles of plates, cutlery, pots.  Boxes to pack, shot glasses to pollish.  Now on the topic of shot glasses, I planned on cleaning them and pollishing them to put them away.  But some had other ideas for them, who am I to argue with that?  It is new year after all and a round of Tequilla ready for the bells seemed like a better idea than packing them away. 

Everything was all packed away and I was ready to load up the car.  The bells had just struck and great merriment was in progress in the lounge.  The bass was thumping as the New years mix resinated from the subwoofer in the kitchen.  I swear it lifted me off the ground and through the house with my kit it was so deep!  A glance as I passed the lounge wilst walking down the hall, party poppers popping, hands aloft, lights flashing, dancing on the chairs, everyone was there.  I turned back and carried on towards the door and smiled to myself and thought, success!  The night had gone well and the party was in full swing, what more could I ask for?

All I can say was that it was a really successful inaugural outing for B13 Bespoke Catering!

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Stuart Brown