The science behind event catering

By Matt White, Chair of TUCO and Director of Catering, Hotel and Conference Services at The University of Reading

With summer just around the corner, university caterers are preparing for the conference season. We catch up with Matt White, Chair of TUCO and Director of Catering, Hotel and Conference Services at The University of Reading, on what to consider during this period…

Molecular gastronomy – the blending of physics and chemistry to transform the tastes and textures of food – is a concept largely associated with fine dining, Michelin-starred restaurants and pioneering chefs such as Heston Blumenthal. However, with the rise in universities promoting their facilities as world-class conference and event spaces, we’re seeing a growing demand for this style of cooking across campuses. 

To help our members stand out from the crowd and maximise the commercial opportunities which events provide – particularly as the food served has higher margins than student menus – we recently ran a molecular cooking study tour.

Robert Grimer, Chef de Cuisine at the University of Kent, who attended the molecular tour, says: “This was a fantastic event held at the multisensory dining experience, Kitchen Theory, in London. 

The course covered everything from the history and theory of molecular gastronomy right through to its practical application. This included learning techniques such as sous vide cooking, how to use hydrocolloids and the culinary use of dry nitrogen. 

“To ensure our events spaces are regularly booked throughout the summer, university chefs like myself need to continually push boundaries and reinvent our menus in-line with the latest food and drink trends. 

It’s through regular training and attendance at courses like the molecular cooking study tour that we can ensure we’re raising the bar and competing with other venues.”

Matt White concludes: “It is this ability to grow, adapt and constantly innovate, which demonstrates the talent that we have in university kitchens across the country and one of the main reasons why I’m so proud to work in this sector.”  

For more information on TUCO and its schedule of study tours, please visit www.tuco.org or follow the organisation on Twitter @TUCOltd.

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