Food that sings from Zafferano
When our clients ask us to help them source first class food that will have people talking about their event for months we get on the phone to Zafferano. We’ve worked with this award-winning catering company for nearly 20 years and have seen them bring their trademark mix of food, performance and passion to a number of events. They are appointed to an impressive 40 London venues, including our very own Kent House Knightsbridge, and they bring their creativity and food wizardry to over 300 events each year. With dazzling canapés, tantalising small plates, exquisite fine-dining and theatrical food stations, their menus are designed to fit the brief. We spoke to Creative Director Jo Moody and asked her to give us the low-down on their approach.
What is the Zafferano approach to food?
Our food tells a story – we and our clients see it as an integral part of their event so we approach every menu afresh with intention and purpose so whatever we serve 100% reinforces the client’s personality, message or brand.
Of course it’s also always seasonal, wherever possible local and sustainable and always packed with flavour.
How has Zafferano developed creatively over the years?
We rightly have a reputation of being one of the more creative caterers out there. It’s been a bit of a snowball scenario with clients tasking us with a creative brief and other clients seeing the results and tasking us with another. I don’t think we’re afraid to take risks or approach ideas from a different angle. As a team we also feed off each other’s creativity and ideas. It’s a rare event these days that doesn’t include some element of a creative brief – it keeps us on our toes!
You work with so many of London’s leading venues. Do you have a preference for particular types of venues?
Ones which allow more than 45 minutes set up time and without too many stairs! They are like our children, we love them all equally and don’t have favourites.
What are the best events you’ve been involved in?
We worked on some really amazing briefs in the last year including a lavish private party in an authentic 1920’s “Spiegeltent” big top, a couple of film premieres, the gala dinner for the ATP Tennis Finals with all of the top seed players in attendance, a pop-up Café for a luxury yacht client at the London Boat show and various first night theatre openings. However 2 events from last Summer which will stay lodged in my memory are a lavish “Midsummer Night’s Dream” party styled by a Hollywood Art Director and a really fun macabre “Twisted Circus” event held in graffiti encrusted subterranean vaults. The latter featured a zombie ring-master, taxidermy galore, strongmen bar tenders serving cocktails from punch bowls to dimpled beer mugs and a twisted take on a Victorian jelly and blancmange parlour. Waitresses were dressed as tattooed can-can dancers and waiters had taches, tattoos and bowler hats. No detail was overlooked and the guests bought into the vibe whole-heartedly – some even dressing up.
You have an association with London’s Theatre scene. Can you share some of the first night parties you’ve helped create?
We’re honoured to cater all of Sir Cameron Mackintosh’ private parties and first night openings creating really memorable and spectacular “on brand” parties. Shows we’ve worked on include Kinky Boots, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Beautiful the Musical, Betty Blue Eyes, Miss Saigon, 30th Anniversary of Les Mis, 25th Anniversary of Phantom of the Opera and most recently the first night of “Half a Sixpence.” This association has also allowed us to dip our toe into the movie-world and we catered our first film premieres last year including “8 Days a Week” which was attended by all the remaining Beatles and Yoko Ono, and the first and last night Gala Performances for the BFI London Film Festival. Big numbers but lots of fun!
These days, people seem to want more than food; they want an experience. As demand for more creativity in events grows, how do you respond?
Clients are realising that food isn’t just sustenance or a “must have” at events but with clever menu design and on point presentation and delivery, can actually be used as a really effective marketing tool which can underpin the very essence of a brand message, and consequently boost brand values.
Hosts also want their party to be the talk of the town, creating a buzz across Twitter and shared far and wide across Instagram. Our menu design needs to support these aspirations and be part of the event story. For example we recently catered “The Beauty Awards with OK! Magazine and the Debenhams Beauty Club” and created a bespoke dessert of “Raspberry, White Chocolate and Rose-Scented Lips with a Dark Chocolate Lipstick” which guests could use to write a hashtag on the plate. It was a twitter sensation and the client was thrilled.
Our approach is always to start with a blank piece of paper and build the menu around the client’s ultimate objectives and event message. Our response is the antithesis of “please choose menu A, B or C!”
Where do you get your inspiration from?
Everywhere! Shop windows, exhibitions, films, magazines, markets, restaurants, bars, travel, social media, my 13 year old daughter!
How important is getting the presentation of the food right and how do you ensure that the substance lives up to the style?
You eat with your eyes! Presentation is incredibly important particularly when working with a retail brand – our food aesthetics has to reflect the client’s brand values but at the end of the day it also has to be easy to eat and packed full of flavour – it’s a careful balance
Is there still a place for a traditional sit down dinner?
Yes definitely although today’s hosts may choose to mix things up a little and encourage a little more fluidity and interaction with perhaps an informal sharing course or serving appetisers or dessert from a theatrical food stall.
What trends do you think everyone will be talking about in 2017?
In terms of actual food trends, the buzz words for 2017 continue to be health centric with Sea Vegetables, No or Low Alcohol Cocktails and “Buddha Bowls” taking over Instagram and processes such as smoking, fermenting, pickling and curing taking centre stage.
We’ve just had fun creating some savoury gourmet ice-creams including one with avocado and charcoal – incredible colours, incredible taste!
Gourmet Mexican and South American food isn’t going anywhere although expect to see more of Portuguese flavours and influence too.
And finally, if you could choose just one Zafferano dish what would it be?
It’s a canape – a crisp cone filled with native lobster, avocado and kimchi mayo. Easy to eat, exquisite, luxurious, multi-layered and darn delicious! Everything a canape should be!