Choosing the right vegetarian options for your event

By Matthew Tolchard, director of sales, The Chesterfield Mayfair

When planning an event you’ll need to think about your menu – theme, cuisine and you’ll need to include at least one vegetarian option for each course you’re serving.  Nothing frustrates a vegetarian guest more than feeling excluded during the event because of their dietary requirements.  Dishes should be of the same cuisine as those including meat; so if you’re offering a British menu, don’t make the vegetarian option Italian!

When considering vegetarian options, identify dishes from the regular menu that can be adapted to be meat free. Try to avoid the temptation to stick with risotto and pasta dishes; don’t hesitate to be more adventurous and bold with your selections.  A simple yet elegant potato pancake cannelloni served with English asparagus, morel mushrooms and parmesan shavings is a perfect example of an inspired vegetarian dish – imaginatively cooked vegetables that are beautifully presented can work just as well as any meat based dish.

Seasonality plays a big part in the quality of vegetarian food, always try and create your menu around ingredients that are in season and therefore looking and tasting their best – using peppers, tomatoes, asparagus and other Summer vegetables will keep your menu seasonal and light whereas using vegetables such as celeriac, pumpkin, leeks and squash keep your menu wholesome and hearty ideal for the Winter months.

Another good idea to diversify vegetarian’s options is to include dishes on the menu that can be adapted to be meat free, so if they don’t like the set vegetarian option they can request for the meat element of the standard dish to be removed. For example if you’re serving a vegetarian mushroom soup starter perhaps include  standard starter of Parma ham wrapped asparagus served with a poached egg and hollandaise sauce that can be easily modified to suit a vegetarian. Also try and avoid using dairy products (vegan or non-vegan) in every course, dairy produce is extremely heavy and when used in large quantities can be too rich for some people.

These are just a few key points to consider when creating a menu for an event, it’s just as easy to create inspired and delicious vegetarian food as it is when using meat in a dish providing it is carefully thought out, seasonal and presented beautifully.

The Maitre d’ of events

By Susan Heaton Wright, company director, Viva Live Music

We all know how essential it is for an event to be well organised and delivered smoothly. We also know how unforeseen snags; from technical problems, delays in the kitchen and bad weather can create a crisis even at the best planned event. The key to success is ensuring the client isn’t aware of any snags or incidents, prior to, during or after an event.

The analogy of a swan swimming serenely on the water, whilst under water he is paddling frantically is appropriate for any event. What happens behind the scenes may well be a challenge, but the client doesn’t need to see or know about it.

An event is theatre. The audience, the performance, backstage. Yet what happens backstage with all the creativity, troubleshooting and hands on activity could unrest even the calmest of clients. To the untrained eye, backstage at the Royal Opera House or The National Theatre hours before a performance might be perceived as ‘chaos’, nevertheless, the highly skilled and experienced teams of technicians, stage crew, artistes and support staff all know what they are doing and are working to strict time deadlines. They are being co-ordinated by a stage manager, who takes charge of the performance interpreting the director’s vision; working with the different teams to deliver the vision, ensuring the performance is delivered on time and runs smoothly.


For an event the client is the audience who expect a flawless performance; the event manager is the director; the waiting staff, chefs and entertainers create the performance and the venue and technical staff form the discrete team backstage and finally the stage manager who I have renamed the maître d’ of events.

The event manager should be the public face of the event for the client. They should be reacting to anything the client says on the night and then relaying this to the maitre d’ who is then able to liaise with the relevant people. They will also be the person key teams report to so if there is a technical issue or there is a delay in the kitchen he is able to provide a solution; adjusting timings for example, without panicking the client. It is useful if the maitre d’ is also technically minded; an extra pair of hands to move equipment quickly; monitor sound levels or even change a plug at short notice (yes this has happened!) can be extremely helpful. The event manager, who is ‘front of house’ does not need to be hands on with situations such as these but can be kept in touch with proceedings by the maitre d’. They can also relay any requests from the client to the maitre d’ who will act upon them.

An example of an event that has successfully used a “maître d” was an outdoor themed afternoon celebrating the Independence Day (4th July) with a barbeque, live band, cheerleading displays, a brass band, and children’s entertainers. Everyone was signed in by the maitre d’, who was liaising with the catering; co-ordinating timings of the entertainers and overseeing the technical set ups basically ‘running the show’.

Given his technical background, he was able to step in when there was a problem with the sound system. He had a contingency plan for bad weather and when it rained, he reacted quickly, moving the entertainers and guests into a banqueting hall inside where he had already set up a small sound system – just in case. The event manager, who was not technically minded, was able to liaise directly with the client, and reassure him that everything was running smoothly.

Having a maitre d’ or stage manager meant that the event could be managed ‘backstage’ whilst maintaining a professional, high quality event ‘front of house’. For many clients, this is what they want and the addition of a maitre d’ is an invaluable and inexpensive addition to an events team.

Keeping cool & calm

By Tim Bartleet, general manager, In & Out Club

It’s helpful to know how to deal with any last minute problems that may crop up when organising an event; Tim Bartleet, general manager of the In & Out Club shares some top tips for avoiding event disasters right from the outset.

Build a relationship

It sounds obvious, but building a relationship with your client can be all too easily overlooked in the pre-event rush. Go beyond the simple ‘meet & greet’ and you’ll reap the benefits later down the line. Take the time to really get to know them, get a sense of their event and, importantly, run through all the key logistics. This should give them, and you, peace of mind and will flag any confusions at a stage early enough to do something about it.

Read the situation A simple example – you’re running a big wedding and you’ve just heard the registrar’s stuck on the A4 somewhere. Rather than inform the stressed bride, risking a bridezilla style transformation, have a quick word with another of the immediate family and assure them of a seamless adjustment to the new timings.

Keep in contact We’re not suggesting secret service-style updates every five minutes – remember that the client is often there to enjoy themselves as well – but eye contact, occasional check-ins and simply being visible will all do the trick.

If in doubt, check with Chef There are always consequences and, when it comes to food, they can be disastrous.  But don’t despair – an experienced events chef knows the tricks of the trade. Informing them about delays, or that extra table which has appeared from nowhere will ensure there are no nasty surprises (and you’ll avoid the prospect of that exquisite soufflé starter falling flat).

Expect the unexpected That annoying cliché about ‘best laid plans going awry’ exists for a reason. Little snags will crop up. Take a moment before everything gets going and anticipate the crunch-spots and how to deal with them.   This might help you avert problems in the first place, but it should also give you a stock of options to draw upon if needed.

You’ll see that most of the tips relate to good communication – this is really the only ‘secret’ to avoiding disasters and keeping clients happy – but if the worst does occur then keep calm and work out your options before talking to the client.  If the client is unhappy be proactive – a simple gesture like complimentary wine or champagne is extremely effective and can nip a potential dispute right in the bud.