How to plan for Christmas in uncertain times

Well, well, well, it’s almost Christmas. It seems so far, but it’ll be here before we know it!

I’ve been testing mince pies, and Christmas puddings and the difference in the quality and taste is remarkable. As chefs and caterers, I think it’s imperative to research and test products for our Christmas menus and events. The feeling of knowing you’ve got those boxes ticked will help you out over the festive season.

We only see some items in December, so it’s good to re-familiarise yourself with them and see what has changed over the past year. Look out for new options and twists on pigs in blankets, roast potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, gravy mixes, canapés and brandy sauce, to name a few.

Watching the chefs wandering around munching on pigs in blankets is quite a joy to see.

Over the past years, I’ve used many pre-prepared and frozen items on Christmas menus as I’ve typically been up against the clock with the lunch and dinner services, and they’ve seen me through.

I find that excellent communication with our suppliers is a must; constant checking on availability and costs of produce is what menu and recipe compilation is all about. While talking with our reps and suppliers gives us the tools to create great and exciting dishes and recipes.

At the end of this week, I’ve got Turkey’s coming from four different suppliers, yet only one of them is a meat supplier. Stock and availability will be very challenging.

Above all else, we need to be sure that the quality and taste will be good enough for our menus. Cheaper isn’t always better, and a cook-off and taste test is a great way to get all the team involved and not just kitchen staff. The feedback of different opinions and preferences from the team is fantastic and brings the whole squad together.

I’ve been involving every member from the kitchen porters right up to the general managers in the day-to-day running and organisation of the restaurant and constantly banging the drum of “we’re all in the same team, and without each other, it won’t work”.

It’s fantastic to see the face and the change of expression of someone when they realise that you value their input and opinion.

Nick Martin – Consulting Chef

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