(Featured caterer editorial extracted from Issue 17).
Q. Hi Norm! We love Grate Catering & Events and everything you stand for. Please tell the readers what you’re all about…
A. We’re a fire pit catering company where the produce is the focus of everything we do. Our high welfare meat is always sourced from the South Downs or The New Forest. Our vegetables are seasonal and sourced from as close to home as possible. We also run a monthly supper club served at our kitchen table in Southsea. This is where we get to cook some amazing local produce and try new ingredients and dishes.
Q. How did you get into the catering industry? What’s your background?
A. While at school I did work experience in the kitchens at the NEC in Birmingham. I fell in love with it… so much so I worked for free through the holidays! My efforts paid off, I was offered a job and started work when I was 15. And I’ve never looked back. After this I was fortunate enough to work for the likes of Raymond Blanc (twice) and more recently, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall from River Cottage.
Q. What would be your favourite menu to provide for a wedding?
A. After working in restaurants with rosettes and Michelin stars, my style of cooking (and eating!) has now become more relaxed. I prefer to focus on fantastic produce cooked well and served simply, thus allowing the produce to speak for itself. So, a festival-style wedding with beef flank tacos to start, followed by a whole lamb cooked over the fire, served with amazing seasonal salads and sides. To finish, a fire-roasted fruit Eaton mess.
Q. What chefs/restaurants do you love?
As I mentioned before, Raymond Blanc and Hugh have been a huge inspiration to me. But for eating out, Temper in Soho. You can sit kitchen-side watching meat cook slowly over the open coals enjoying small plates while having a chat about food with the chefs.
Q. What can you tell us about the produce you use?
A. We love the suppliers we work with. Our meat comes from a butcher with a small supply chain, so farm to abattoir, butcher to us. We can trace our meat back to the point that I even know the farmer’s name. To me that is a very special thing, when people’s connection to food is so removed. Our charcoal comes from a managed woodland in Waterlooville which in turn helps to keep that woodland going.
Q. You’re a recommended supplier at The Boat Shed, what menus/ideas do you think would work particularly well there?
A. The great thing about The Boat Shed is that it’s a blanc canvas and can be what you want it to be. The great thing about fire pit cookery is that it’s so diverse. If you want a festival-style wedding where your guests come and get food when they want it, we can do it. But if you want a sit down three-course meal, we can do it. Personally, I would always go for the chilled-out festival menu.
Q. What future plans have you got?
A. Eventually, we want to buy a small holding. We want to grow our own produce, raise our own livestock. Hold fire pit feasting evenings serving up the produce we grew and reared with our own hands.