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NAT’S SUPPLIER CHALLENGE – THOMAS THE CATERER: MAKING A PIE

My supplier challenges continue, and this time I’m off to see the award-winning Tom Bower who is the “Thomas” behind Thomas the Caterer! Now I will openly admit I’m not a great cook. I can do the basics but to be honest, like most of us, I don’t have the time or patients to follow recipes and use 100 ingredients.

Tom is a master of good, honest food and as well as winning several awards for his wedding catering, he’s also bagged some accolades for his pies. So, today I am going to attempt to make one!

The lovely Hannah Hall has come along today too… she’s been promised some pie but she’s definitely going to want Tom’s and not mine after my culinary confessions. After the obligatory cup of tea and catch up, we get started. The most exciting part is I get to pretend I’m a real chef and wear a “Thomas the Caterer” apron!

I can’t remember the last time I made pasty, if ever actually. I’m a cheat and buy it all ready to roll! So, Tom makes his pastry first, showing me the method and talking me through the quantities and measurements. I’ll surprise Tom now, but I still remember the instructions, so I will happily part with the trade secrets for a price. After messing around with the flour bin, weighing out my ingredients and putting it in the mixer, I had what resembled pastry dough. It’s definitely beginners luck and a good teacher, but so far so good and Tom says my pastry doesn’t look half bad. So, we cling it up and pop it in the fridge to rest.

Next the filling. Now this bit I am nervous about and Hannah has captured my dread incredibly well. I can use a small knife to chop my vegetables slowly but watching Tom use the biggest knife known to man to speed chop hard root vegetables makes me fear for my fingers After a conversation about the difference between julienne, brunoise and batonnet (I have not retained this information and couldn’t tell you what these were without Googling it), it’s my turn! I chop a few carrots, but most of them end up in my mouth! I’ll leave the serious stuff to the pro’s.

We make two fillings; a mince filling with carrots and stock, and a chicken, leak and creamy sauce filling. And both smell amazing.

Our pastry’s ready to roll so we flour the worktop, divide our pastry up and roll it out to make the lining for the pie tin, line the tin, put our filling in and roll out a smaller piece of pastry for the lid. We egg the rim of the pastry, put our lid on, pinch the sides down and trim the excess pastry from around the tin. This bit makes me look more professional than I am! We finish off by adding some egg wash the top and cook them for about 20-10 minutes whilst we have another cup of tea.

Working in the industry I know how much work goes into creating a wedding but to hear the full extent of work involved in providing someone’s dream wedding menu is incredible. Not only do you have the food tasting which in itself is a full day’s work; buying small quantities of ingredients to create a private dining experience for the couple, and all of the administration leading up to the big day, but then the preparation for the wedding day itself is insane! When you look at your “price per head” cost for wedding catering and think that this includes all of the above, as well as all of the ingredients to create your actual meal, (which usually consists of canapes, a three course meal and evening food), crockery, cutlery and sometimes glassware and linen hire, then all of the staff before, on the day and the days after for the clear down (the chefs, the kitchen support team and the waiting staff). Food preparation starts a number of days before the wedding. They also have to sort out the logistics of transporting everything they will need onsite to perfectly execute your dream wedding menu; they may need to hire in catering equipment and pay for transport, as well as the companies’ typical business overheads. I’m sure I have missed elements of the process, but I can absolutely see where the cost for providing wedding catering comes from and actually wonder how they make any money at all!

The timer sounds and it’s time to try the finished product. They say the proof is in the pudding but it’s actually in the pie! And oh my goodness me, it tastes so good! Tom’s expert teaching has made me pass for an adequate chef today. I’m not sure I could re-create this at home without his supervision or guidance but today let’s just say it’s thumbs up for a successful supplier challenge! Just to get a second opinion, I take the remaining pies home and cook them for dinner. My three year old, Annabelle loves it and if she says it’s good then it must be!

So, thank you Tom for a really fun day in your kitchen and to Hannah for capturing the challenge so well.

Hannah Hall Photography

Thomas the Caterer 

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