|Fresh Catering Santiago Tart with Dried Fruit & Almonds, Catalan Creme with Dark Chocolate & Berries|
Fresh Catering, the company which catered to Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour - La Traviata last year, is back and ready to give Carmen audiences the treat of a lifetime. Says MD Peter McCloskey: “We played it safe in 2012, but this year we’re pulling out all the stops, extending the food offering and pushing the boundaries of what can be done in an outdoor setting. Our aim is to make the Carmen dining experience the best that Sydney has seen at an outdoor event.”
|Fresh Catering Tapas with Paella De Fiesta|
What emerged from 2012’s Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour is that a large percentage of audience members want to eat, and arrive early to do so. But within this broad frame of reference, different people are looking for different dining experiences, and this year Fresh Catering is providing options accordingly.
Top of the range is a newly introduced à la carte restaurant. Instead of providing food cooked on site, kept in bain maries and served as customers come through, as one would usually do for a large outdoor event, at the à la carte restaurant those who want a slightly more formal eating experience can sit down and be served. On offer will be shared Spanish-style platters to be enjoyed with friends, over a glass of wine and followed by a range of desserts. McCloskey says: “If you’re aiming for this type of experience, come when the gates open at 5.30pm so that you have time to explore the site and find your seats before sitting down to a leisurely meal.”
|Fresh Catering Chocolate & Orange Tart |
with Hazelnut Praline, Selection of Spanish
Cheese with Muscatels & Crackers
Some people come straight from work to the theatre, and these audience members tend to look for a quick bite to eat. No better place to find it than at the Empanada Bar. “Last year’s pizzas were extremely popular, and this year we wanted something similar but Spanish in flavour; something that we could cook on site and serve really fresh.” Empanadas were the perfect solution. “They’re going to be big and fresh and we’ll serve them with lovely salads.” Empanada Bar sweet treats will include Catalan crème with dark chocolate and berries, and Spanish-style mille feuilles.
Some audience members arrive 15 minutes before the beginning of the show and still like to have something to eat. For them, there’s the Chorizo Bar, which offers barbecued sausages and Spanish beer. McCloskey says: “Gone are the days when everything had to be formal and stitched up – have a sausage and a beer and enjoy the opera!”
|Fresh Catering Cocktail Party Menu (Spanish)|
If sausage is not your thing, another quick meal on offer will be Paella di Fiesta. “Having chefs on site cooking in giant pans is such fabulous theatre. And paella epitomises Spain.”
From a catering point of view, pre-theatre dining is not the end of the story, since one of the most important lessons that Fresh Catering learned from last year’s experience, is that Opera on the Harbour audiences, unlike their Sydney Opera House cousins, want to eat during interval. “That surprised me,” McCloskey says. “I’m a regular opera goer and I know that at the House opera audiences don’t tend to eat halfway through a performance.” At Carmen on the Harbour, during interval peckish patrons will be catered to with a range of Champagne bars offering chilled wines, champagnes, oysters and other sweet and savoury delicacies.
|Fresh Catering Marinated Chicken|
Guindillas on Brioche Rolls
On colder nights, those in search of a hot drink will be able to grab a quick filter coffee. “Serving espresso coffee to a large crowd is very difficult; even the Sydney Opera House doesn’t attempt it.”
McCloskey is certainly speaking from experience. During last year’s Opera on the Harbour run, on each of the 18 consecutive nights of performance Fresh Catering moved 500 pizzas,150 portions of fish and chips, 25kg pasta, 45kg braised lamb, 40kg tomatoes, 150 bunches of herbs, 20kg pumpkin, 30 bunches of leeks, 50 litres of roast tomato sauce, 20kg beef fillet, 30 bunches asparagus, 300 salads, 150 antipasto plates, 200 portions of desserts and 30kg lamb shoulder.
|Spicy Beef & Green Olive |
Empanadas, and a Spinach &
There were neither shortages nor leftovers to speak of. But no one could have predicted that this would be the case. As McCloskey says: “We’ve catered to 10,000-guest events, but 3,000 people over 18 consecutive nights, that’s daunting – you’re ordering hundreds of kilos of everything, day after day, and there’s the logistics of transportation and delivery and employing and training extra staff.” Plus there’s the imponderable of the weather: “Planning food that you can keep if the event is cancelled involves a very specific kind of thinking.”
Having grown up in an opera-loving family, to McCloskey catering to arts organisations (Fresh Catering holds contracts with the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Sydney Theatre Company and Historic Houses Trust’s Vaucluse Tea Rooms and Elizabeth Bay House) comes naturally. “We know what arts consumers want because we’re arts consumers ourselves.”
As an avid opera lover, he’s passionate about enabling new audiences to discover the art form. “What better introduction to opera than the total experience: Sydney Harbour at sunset, beautiful food shared with friends, and glorious opera!”
Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour: Carmen is showing 22 March - 12 April at Fleet Steps, The Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney. Click here for more information and tickets.