19th Biennale of Sydney - Catering for the Creatives

The Biennale of Sydney is Australia’s largest contemporary arts festival. This exciting event is presented over twelve weeks running from 21st March till the 9th of June 2014. Currently in its 19th installment, the exhibition – curated by Artistic Director Juliana Engberg – explores the theme, ‘You Imagine What You Desire’. (A tantalising theme for event planners too!)
As a Biennale Contributor, Gastronomy was responsible for catering at the festival’s official events. Working with the fantastic team at the Biennale, Gastronomy produced 11 events over two weeks including the Opening Celebration at Australian Technology Park for 2,000 guests. The Biennale is a highlight on Sydney’s arts calendar and Gastronomy count themselves lucky enough to look after catering for a number of off-shoot events, including exclusive previews and a dinner on Cockatoo Island.
We recently caught up with Miccal Cummins, owner of Gastronomy, to find out how they succeeded in catering for the creative crowd at this year’s Biennale Opening Celebration.

Q. With the tag line, “Gastronomy, the art and science of food” we’re guessing it was an easy decision to jump on board and become a Biennale Contributor?
Cooking is a science; temperature, time and quantities. Cooking well is an art; balance, composition and emotion. We have a lot of respect for anyone who is trying to do something creative and doing it well. So supporting the Biennale was an easy fit.

Q. 2000 people is certainly not a small gathering, how did you design the menu to ensure everyone was fed?

At these numbers it is important to spread out the service areas so they are easily accessible. This event opened at 8pm so it was a blend of people who had already eaten and those who were very hungry. The abundant food stations were great for hungry guests. We also had waiters traying food so the whole room was served. This helps prevent traffic jams at food stations.
Q. What was the brief for the event? How did you get creative with the menu choices?
The Biennale wanted high visual impact that didn’t blow the budget. This is a not-for-profit organisation after all. We created a menu of roving canapés, risotto and paratha food stations to compliment the international cultural focus of the Biennale.

Cheese station by Gastronomy Catering

Cheese and ham station by Gastronomy Catering

Risotto station by Gastronomy catering
Q. The food stations you have designed look fabulous! What is your biggest tip for making food stations look amazing, but also functional for large crowds of hungry people?
Thank you. Food stations must be narrative – the visuals must tell the story and draw in the interested guests. In this case I used iconic set pieces that refer to the food such as the massive cheeses, the miniaturised street food blackboards and potted herbs.
We worked closely with the event planners, The Events Authority and Valiant Hire to put these together. For big event and numbers the service area should be as wide as possible so there are no bottle necks.

Q. The event was held at Australian Technology Park. Other than size, why do you think this event worked so well at ATP?
Well the scale of the room blows you away, and the richly weathered post-industrial textures are visually stunning. It’s the perfect venue for an arts crowd. The light in the early evening through the amazing arched glass windows is both seductive and, how can I say it, the light seems to refer to time passing and passed. The high bolstered ceilings and metal columns are stunning too, can I keep saying stunning?

ATP - Australian Technology Park event space

ATP - Biennale Event Crowd
Q. Valiant Hire was responsible for styling the space, how important is it to work closely with the décor company when designing your food stations?
Big events like these really are a team effort. We worked with Valiant from the beginning; to match colour palate, theme, size, everything. To be honest their bars and furniture far exceeded my expectations. Valiant’s use of shiny black and white perspex and raw woods created fantastic contrasts and defined smaller, unique spaces within the venue.

Valiant Hire event styling at ATP

Q. Can we get a sneak peak at the menu you created..?

The visual highlight of the opening party was the cheese and ham station with its massive rounds and overflowing breads and fruits, while the Paratha station literally drew in swarms of people with its novelty. 

Sashimi tuna, toasted puffed rice and avocado, witlof cup
Mini quiche with leek and gruyere  
Mini quiche with smoky bacon
Cheese and ham station
A sumptuous display of whole Vittoria cheeses including Jarlsberg, Provolone and Grana Padano Parmesan were presented along with a range of accompaniments and fresh breads.
Whole hams baked with Dijon, brown sugar and cloves, which were carved on demand by chefs, were served with crusty sourdough, soft potato rolls and a range of accompaniments.
Paratha station
A range of Parathas and flatbreads served at the station and tray-served around the room.

Aloo Chat Masala, Chicken Kebab and Lamb Korma
Risotto station
Chefs cooked two varieties of risotto to order which were served at the station as well as being tray-served around the venue.
Confit garlic and rosemary pulled pork, parsley and parmesan
Wild mushroom stock, field mushrooms, green peas and cauliflower florets
Gourmet mini pies were tray-served around the room later in the evening.
Lamb and rosemary
Spinach and mushroom
Paratha Station by Gastronomy Catering

Separately on Cockatoo Island, Gastronomy worked with Guillaume Brahimi to produce Guillaume’s bespoke Biennale dinner menu. This event kicked off on the harbour with a cocktail party boat ride over to Cockatoo Island. Guests then toured the exhibition, were spoiled with dinner and beautiful wines, then petit fours and champagne on the voyage back to the mainland.
Hosting events on an island can present a few logistical challenges, however with the right suppliers on board it can be a breeze! Choosing a caterer that has been-there-done-that, like Gastronomy, makes it a whole lot easier.

Gastronomy Dinner at Cockatoo Island

Gastronomy Dinner at Cockatoo Island
The 19th Biennale of Sydney is currently on and it’s FREE! So if you haven’t had a chance to get out to see the mind-blowing exhibition – make sure you do!