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From vegans to bacon sandwich devotees: the role food plays in keeping everyone happy...
No matter the event, no matter the attendance, there’s one aspect that delights and disappoints like no other: food.
No matter the event, no matter the attendance, there’s one aspect that delights and disappoints like no other: food. It has also provided an alternative story for media keen to divert some column inches away from Brexit, with the rise of Veganism leading the debate, capitalised on so brilliantly by Greggs and its sausage roll.
For Julian Frost-Wilson, new Head chef at Farnborough International Exhibition and Conference Centre, the bacon sandwich reigns as the favourite way to start the day across all events. In his view, whether people are attending a conference or an exhibition, the break from daily routine needs a reward and for the most part a fruit skewer or yoghurt pot rarely competes with the simple yet satisfying bacon sandwich.
Once into the day, catering has a serious part to play with good food a major contributor to getting the best from people. Lack of choice, a menu that’s too heavy or too light, or failing to cater to requirements all risk casting shadow.
Veganism is more than a media myth and Julian confirms a major spike in demand for vegan and vegetarian options. When planning a sit down dinner, he advocates a vegetarian or vegan starter for everyone although for it has to be exciting as well as elegant: “we need to move away from risotto, it isn’t interesting or new; I’ve even heard it referred to as ‘prison food’”.
According to Julian, planning the menu early is vital and organisers need to put visitors before their personal preferences: “It’s important that organisers think carefully about their visitor base and what will excite them; not everyone has bought into clean eating, for a lot of people breaded and deep-fried is a highlight. The fact is, we can create practically any menu but it’s important that menu suits the people that will be eating it.”
In terms of trends, Julian states that bowl food is on the decline not least because people dislike the lack of choice and fear what might be in the next wave of bowls emerging from the kitchen. Instead, the buffet is back albeit in a more interactive format with chefs up front and preparing food where possible.
With increasing expectation that dietary requirements will be catered for, Julian explains that buffet stations are a good way to ensure everyone feels looked after and welcome; especially as imaginative salads and vegetable dishes are often as enjoyed by carnivores, leaving those for whom it is intended furious as well as hungry.
Catering for the Instagram generation should also be a consideration, it’s a great way to generate additional value from an event, with a visually impressive menu providing a photographic focal point. In this age of social media, it’s no longer about simply feeding the eyes, but feeding the eyes of numerous followers #lookandtastegreat.