How to fill your next function with flavour

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How to fill your next function with flavour

Kushan Marthelis' style, charm and innovative food is taking the simcha circuit by storm

Louisa Walters is Features Editor at the Jewish News and specialises in food and travel writing

They came, we prayed, let’s eat. Food is a fundamental part of every celebration, and whatever your budget you want to feed your guests that very best that your money can buy. Kushan Marthelis at Cacao Catering has been doing this for years. He knows how to please your guests even better than you do, and if you want to keep it kosher, he can do that too.

The events industry has bounced back with a boom after a really difficult couple of years, but Kushan, 41, is careful not to tread on anyone’s toes. He recognises that there are many elements to making a function and no one person can do it all. While he can absolutely oversee all elements of your party, his advice is to hire a party planner.

“I am the expert in the food but they are the experts in arranging the party,” he says when we chat at his restaurant in Borehamwood. He lives in the area with his Hungarian-Jewish wife, Kinga and their two children, Kala, 8 and Keyani, 4.  “However, it’s my team taking the instructions so I need to be sure they are up to it. The most important thing for me is that my clients can relax and enjoy the party – and know that their guests are being well fed.”

A Cacao Catering buffet goes down well at a function

Have events changed over the past few years, I wonder? “I don’t think they have,” says Kushan. “The function is basically the same but the food is more interesting. People used to stick to classic dishes but now they travel more and they eat out more, and they want the amazing dishes they have discovered recreated at their party. They are more open to suggestions – they like variety and options. I need to be innovative.”

Born and raised in Sri Lanka, Kushan is no stranger to innovative dishes and training at some of London’s finest restaurants provided the finesse that we in his work today. The creativity and artistry is all his own, though, and canapes such as Korean smoked bbq chicken or coconut sea bass with mango salsa and blackened aubergine are an amazing way to get your party started.

Salmon poke bowls

Bowl food is becoming a big thing at parties and with options such as blackened cod with coconut rice, miso dressing and lime leaves or braised beef with crushed baby potatoes, caramelised onion and wild mushroom, Cacao Catering is a big player in this field. “When you want to invite lots of people but don’t have the space to seat them, buffets, food stations and bowl food are the answer,” says Kushan. “For a barmitzvah I often advise a sit-down Friday night dinner which the grandparents will really enjoy and then a party at the weekend to invite everyone. That way the older people get to spend proper time with the family, and they still come to the party and enjoy that too.”

Rising costs are on everyone’s mind and while Cacao Catering’s won’t be the lowest quote you get (this level of expertise and quality doesn’t come cheap), Kushan will always work with you to accommodate your budget. “People need to look at how to spend their money. They are still investing in the key elements of food and music but some of the extras might be curtailed. If you are having food stations, consider just two or three rather than five. For me it’s not all about the money, it’s about creating what is right for you and your guests – and certainly not about impressing the neighbours! I will always try my best to accommodate and if there’s a dish you once had on holiday or at a restaurant and you want it at your party I will create it for you.”

Kushan points out that putting up a marquee can be cheaper than venue dry hire, and you will certainly save money on alcohol if you buy it yourself. That said, Cacao Bar & Cocktails can take the stress out of that for you.

With dishes like sake marinated yellowfin tuna with Japanese mooli salad, yuzu and mandarin dressing, and butternut squash ravioli with spiced lime and coconut sauce on the menu, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Kushan’s food is too fancy for kids. “We always have kids dishes – and the adults always pinch them!” he says. With options like chicken katsu with Thai rice and katsu sauce, mini fish and chips with tartare sauce, and mac and cheese that’s not surprising.

The most important part of the event is dessert,” says Kushan. Miso brulee with sesame praline cracker or ginger sticky toffee pudding with salted caramel, anyone? Of course he has to cater for vegan, gluten-free, nut free and dairy free diets but none of this a challenge for him.

Kushan keeps a close eye on every event, “To be a success in this industry you need to observe and keep on top of changing habits. What we think we know today will be history in two years. We can never rest on our laurels and think we know everything. If we don’t stay sharp there will always be someone new on the block who will take over.

“Every client’s party is a big thing for them. It’s possibly once in a lifetime, so they want it to be the best. For that they need to hire the best – so we need to make sure that we are the best.”

The Big Event wedding and bar/batmitzvah show is on Sunday 13 November at DoubleTree by Hilton, Elstree WD6 5PU 11am – 4pm. Entrance is free.


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