These days it’s not necessary to go to a hatted restaurant with white linen table cloths to enjoy a fine dining experience. In Australia, we are lucky enough to have a wide range of excellent caterers who can create restaurant quality menus in corporate offices, unique venues and private homes. With the help of these amazing chefs and catering companies, weddings, events, private dinner parties and special occasions become exciting food experiences.
We recently caught up with Thomas Johns, Head Chef and owner of Dining Abode. Dining Abode is a boutique catering company based in Sydney, which delivers “refined catering with a relaxed feel”.
Thomas invited us to his kitchen at home to test out his delicious winter menu and to have a chat about his love for catering and find out how he creates fine dining experiences for his clients.
“Catering that’s refined & relaxed”
– Thomas Johns, Dining Abode
1. What do you love about catering for events and weddings?
I started my career in London, working in a 4 Star hotel kitchen, then went to a Michelin-starred hotel restaurant kitchen. However I found the military approach in the kitchen seemed to override the importance and the passion of the cooking which I didn’t enjoy at all. When I arrived in Australia, there was a much more open approach in the kitchen. Having my own catering company allows me freedom to be creative with my cooking and menu design and full flexibility.
I also really enjoy being part of the overall event experience and working directly with clients. I love cooking for and with people. Most of our clients have a good reason for hosting an event. Whether it’s a wedding, product launch, corporate event or celebration – being able to help create that experience with them is very rewarding.
2. How do you describe your catering style?
Refined catering with a relaxed feel and approach. We want to give our clients an amazing experience that they feel has been specially created for them.
We specialise in fine dining catering and our menus are mostly classic European cuisine. However we can tailor menus to suit whatever our clients are looking for. Rustic sharing platters and interactive food stations have been a popular request lately and we love getting creative with and for our clients.
Our clients also love collaborating with our stylist who brings the whole creative flair together.
3. Does fine dining catering mean you need to have a big budget?
No, not at all. Fine dining really is just another way of saying ‘refined and elegant’. This can be translated into any budget and doesn’t mean lobster and caviar. Some chef’s can transform the humble potato into a spectacular and memorable dish that can match any luxurious produce driven meal.
4. What type of clients and events are you working on at the moment?
We have quite a few clients from the beauty, real estate and retail sectors. We often find ourselves working in commercial spaces, boardrooms and unique venues around Sydney.
In addition, we do a lot of catering in private homes and catering for weddings. Whether it is an elegant dinner for ten or a lavish wedding for 250 guests, I love that every day is different.
5. What type of menus work best for a dinner party?
We like to start a dinner party with a few delicate canapés – delicious morsels that are only a bite or two and which work nicely with pre-dinner drinks (like champagne!).
While many of our clients still request a 3 or 4 course plated meal, we are finding more and more people want sharing style menus. This style of service can still incorporate a technically, produce-driven menu. We like to serve quality ingredients that are visually exciting, such as platters of Moreton Bay Bugs with a shellfish dressing or a roast pork rack with quince. To accompany these rich dishes we like to add a fresh salad such as celeriac, fennel, brussel sprouts, avocado and radish. By always using seasonal ingredients, we ensure maximum quality and flavours.
To finish, there is nothing like a rich chocolate luxurious dessert with textures to have everyone truly feeling spoilt. Our dark chocolate, raspberries & pistachio praline is always a crowd pleaser.
6. Lastly, if you were to host an elegant dinner party for any five guests, who would you like to invite and what would be your signature dish?
The most important thing for me is being with people that can relax, have a great time and a good debate. Below is my dinner party wish list:
1. Chris Tucker, the comedian. Have you seen him in the comedy, Friday?
2. Usain Bolt, single handedly makes atheletics relevant and has a laugh whilst smashing records.
3. Charlize Theron, great actress, stunning looks, humble and very active to causes that effect people around the work.
4. Paulo Coelho, for writing one of my all time favourite novels and still producing to this day.
5. I suppose my wife, who is also very funny and most importantly wouldn’t want to miss out on this gathering!
I would start with a few canapés, then succulent sweet North Queensland mud crab meat delicately served out of its shell with a good bottle of Alsace Riesling and finish with a summer fruit driven dessert.
Dining Abode is a Sydney-based caterer who provides fine dining catering for corporate events, special occasions and weddings. For more information or to make an enquiry check out their Event Birdie listing or website.