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Food Glorious Food With Rocket Food Catering

TOAST chats to award-winning luxury caterers Rocket Food

Another year and another 12 months of tasty entertaining awaits. TOAST.Life catches up with co-founder of leading luxury caterers Rocket Food, Caroline Hall, to hear what it takes to be the best, how to create the perfect canapé whilst keeping calm in the kitchen, and to get her top tips on 2018’s tastiest trends



Food glorious food! When planning any event catering is of course essential and not only that, it’s also great fun to plan (and eat) too. From exotic street food to imaginative food stations, luxurious fine dining to immersive edible bubbles, there’s a staggering amount of creative, delicious and inspiring options out there and someone who knows this better than most is Caroline Hall, co-founder of award-winning luxury caterers - Rocket Food.

“Guests are more interested and knowledgeable about food than ever, and a food stall is a really good way to have chef and guest interaction, whether it’s one of our patisserie boutiques or a Secret Smokehouse salmon stall” she explains. 

“At Rocket we are influenced by stylish ways of serving and injecting fun into a party, but are also wary of fads”

Caroline founded Rocket Food  in 2000 with her brother Michael Symonds, having both grown up in a food-obsessed family in Herefordshire. Having embarked on regular gastronomic pilgrimages around France courtesy of her parents, when Caroline was just 17 she went to work under acclaimed British chef (and one of the first women to receive a Michelin star) Joyce Molyneux at the Carved Angel in Dartmouth, where she was inspired by Joyce’s skill and use of seasonal local ingredients. After several years working with Jean-Charles and Rose Carrarini at The Villandry Dining Room, Caroline took a job cooking for the Scuderia Ferrari racing division, F1 World Champions with Michael Schumacher at the time, and discovered the joys of authentic Italian cooking.

“It was Joyce Molyneaux who inspired me to take on this career, but my passion stemmed from when I was as little as 5!” she enthuses

“When I was 5 and Michael was 7 we had our first restaurant at the bottom of the garden in our tree house! We served fish fingers, cheese sandwiches, butterfly cakes and Angel Delight - there wasn’t much crudité served to children in the ‘70s!” she laughs. 

Caroline And Michael

So just how did this modest, 70s tree house operation go on to become London’s leading luxury catering company?

“Ultimately our parents gave us the first push – Michael was working in hospitality and I was a chef – they were convinced we should combine our passions to create a business together: thus Rocket was born” she explains.

“Working with Michael is great - we complement each other. We have a fantastic synergy and we both have our distinct areas of expertise and what brings us together is our inherent passion for food”

Now nearly 20 years since it’s formation, Rocket Food are considered specialists at serving exquisite food and drink in virtually any location, and they are an accredited supplier at London’s most prestigious venues including The Royal Academy, The V&A, The British Museum, The Design Museum, Kensington Palace, The Natural History Museum and more, and they also regularly deliver various other events around the UK and overseas.

 “We love the challenge of each event! But some of the most exhilarating highlights have been the first Summer Exhibition party, the premiere of the film Around The World in 80 Days, The Red Bull World Championship summer party and  a spectacular overseas 3 day wedding! We even had a crazy Titanic party where we recreated the first class menus!” she enthuses.

“But each event is extremely important, no matter what size, and is just as important as the next - we thrive on delivering a unique experience each time. And yes, even after 18 years we still feel the pre-event butterflies!”

Food Station Rocket Food

Jamon And Tapas Rocket Food

Caroline proudly describes Rocket’s style as ‘Michelin-level restaurant, chic gastronomy’. All of their dishes feature top quality produce prepared with innovative precision, resulting in wow factor dishes that both look and taste amazing. They bring a restaurant-feel to events by developing seasonally led menus, and each menu is inspired by the ingredients available from artisan suppliers combined with Rocket’s food philosophy, culinary heritage and tradition, whilst remaining on the cutting edge of food trends.

“Having said that I have definitely engrained part of my own style into the Rocket ethos which is more homely, relaxed, seasonal with family values…” Caroline explains proudly.

“Our most popular dishes tend to be the classics with a modern touch. In summer it’s asparagus - every year we have a new asparagus dish. Mozzarella or Burrata with tomatoes is always a winner when the products are sourced from great suppliers” she explains.  

“In the winter, dinners tend to start with cured fish. Sashimi of tuna and sea bass has been very popular over the years. Whichever time of year, the prime cuts of fillet of beef and the tastier cut of rump of lamb are always popular”

And not forgetting the canapés of course. Little bite-sized mouthfuls of flavour, texture and – when executed well – perfectly balanced deliciousness. Last year Rocket Food won Country Life Magazine’s Canapé of the Year Award; the canapé in question was their Smoked Trout Royale, developed by their executive chef Tom Duffill.

Country Life Canape Of The Year 2017

“It is the crown jewel of the canapé world as it looks stunning. We eat it with our eyes closed, and it is utterly delicious! It is the sort of canapé that says ‘party party party!” Caroline laughs.

“The key to the perfect canapé is a marriage of colour, texture and flavour.  It has to be a one-mouthful marvel, that you can pick it up easily with your fingers whilst holding a glass of champagne in the other hand”

Canepe Servers Rocket Food

Ritz Cracker

Rocket Food Canapes

Rocket Food Cricket Bat

Quite. But in order to create anything, one needs to be inspired. Caroline tells me that Rocket’s creative juices are kept flowing thanks to their collaborations with the likes of super chefs Angela Hartnett, Yotam Ottolenghi and other big names in the kitchen.  

“Angela is so inspirational in the way she just get involved and shows so much respect to the brigade, who are not hers. Yotam has an amazing eye for detail, not to mention his incredible flavours. And Mr. Roux is a legend - we love to hear his passion in the way he talks about food”

Rocket Food Seafood

In 2017 Rocket Food masterfully catered for over a staggering 400 events – their expert team stands at 35 members of staff consisting of event planners, operational managers, creatives, warehouse porters, accounts, HR, marketing and of course - the chefs.

“We regularly sit with the chefs and menu brainstorm. Once a year, I also go on a culture trip with Rachel the head of creative to Paris to source out the latest presentation trends. We do an incredible amount of research through suppliers, ingredients, tastings at restaurants, finding new techniques and reading books.” Caroline explains.

“The development stage includes writing and re-writing menus with our chef Tom. We then taste, taste and taste again, going through a rigorous tasting process to get flavours and the presentation on point. We then present the menu to the sales team, and then back into the kitchen for training!”

Rocket Food Charcuterie

Rocket Food Royal Academy October 2018

Rocket Food Honckney PV

Milk And Cramalised White Chocolate Rocket Food

Cakes Rocket Food

So whether you want top class canapés, beautiful bowl food, perfect patisserie, or a divine 5 course dinner – Rocket can plate up pretty much whatever your heart (or stomach) desires, but with so much choice how does any discerning host even start to make a decision about what to serve to their guests?

“If you were to call us we’d ask you to write a list of the things that are important to you” Caroline explains. “Restaurants you like, ingredients to avoid, chefs you admire, places you have travelled to and the food you’ve liked there. We’d also suggest that you create a Pinterest page and have a look through Instagram for inspiration, that’s always a good place to start.”

Already in Rocket’s pipeline for 2018 is the Farnborough International Airshow, the prestigious London Fashion Week and a plethora of stylish summer weddings, but are there any particular events on Caroline’s wish list, I wonder….

“Well, we would love to cater a Bond premiere” she smiles.  

“And, er, a certain Royal wedding!”

Having been in the business for over 20 years, it’s safe to say that Caroline has her foodie finger firmly on the pulse of what’s hot and what’s not. For her thoughts on 2018’s tastiest trends head over to TheEdit too see our feature, but before you go don’t miss her top tips for keeping calm in the kitchen this year. 

CAROLINE’S TOP TIPS FOR KEEPING CALM IN THE KITCHEN

  • Plan in advance - flick through a few cookbooks, read a few blogs, do some stalking on Instagram and Pinterest!
  • Don’t over complicate your menu - less is more and good ingredients blow people away.
  • Think seasonal – this is key to keeping it simple and affordable
  • Make a note - jot ideas and eventually a menu on the back of an envelope
  • Shop online for the storeroom stuff
  • Shop local - hit the local market or your butcher, vegetables, etc for your hero ingredients.
  • Prepare and cook in advance – there is a lot you can do preceding the weekend and store or possibly freeze so that you don’t leave yourself too much to do on the day.
  • Lay the table before you go to work
  • Rope in help - your husband, partner, friend to do drinks whilst you do food
  • Relax and enjoy - your friends came to see you - not a stressed hostess!

If you’d like to work with Rocket Food  you can find more information on them and get in touch via their page in TOAST’s Little Black Book

 
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