David Cavalier, food director at contract catering Charlton House and a former Michelin-star winner, believes many contract caterers are producing Michelin-standard food without the stars.
In a sector historically seen as the poor relation of the food service industry, the contract catering sector has been quietly nipping at the heels of commercial restaurants in recent years.
Over the past five years, in particular, standards have continued to rise, and no more so than within the fine-dining end where food is on par, if not surpasses, Michelin standards.
The competition between high profile City firms to provide the best possible standards of hospitality is driving this end of the market to an all-time high.
Our clients want Michelin standards within their own buildings; it’s a simple as that. It is their quest to be seen as cutting edge that ensures that we, the caterers, reap the benefits in terms of well-designed, well -equipped kitchens, generous budgets and the creative freedom to use our craft skills.
We are also seeing highly skilled restaurant chefs coming into this sector because of those food standards and also because of the different career opportunities and more sociable working hours and lifestyle benefits.
There’s a passion at this end of the market for superb food and service but where are the gongs?
Having achieved numerous Michelin stars before entering the contract catering sector (at Peacock Alley in Dublin, London’s High Holborn and Cavalier’s) I have a good perspective on both.
There is little or no difference in the style and quality of food and service. When it comes to purchasing, we use the same suppliers as many Michelin restaurants, and our chefs are equally skilled and proud of what they do.
I don’t think for a moment that Michelin should extend its remit to include fine dining operations because our executive dining venues are and always will be ‘behind closed doors’. But what I do think is that perhaps the hospitality industry in general should give more recognition to this niche.
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