“The end of summer is not the end of the world,” says Chef Andrew Walker. Nevertheless, Christmas is the next thing on everyone’s minds, or at least in the world of events, so we turned to the Chartwells chef to discuss the topic of the notorious Christmas party.

“People either love it or hate it,” says Andrew. But it appears that even this self-proclaimed scrooge can appreciate the positives about the festive time of year, “Whilst Christmas is the best excuse for a party, of all the events in the calendar, it gives us all the chance to say the most powerful ‘thank you’.” And this applies to our lives both at home and at work, with office ‘Secret Santa’s’, team Christmas drinks and company parties or balls. At Lime Venue Portfolio, we want to know how to approach a Christmas event and make it truly different? “Christmas is dominated by Victorian tradition, but it’s not all about the polystyrene penguins or luminous red noses on fake reindeer,” says Andrew. Unsurprisingly for him, it all comes down to the food.

“When we think of Christmas in the UK we think of turkey, but as a nation we mostly to add turkey to our menu during December. Other countries such as France and Italy will enjoy cooking turkey escalopes on the BBQ whilst at the beach. In the UK our turkey deserves more thought than a few strips of streaky bacon across its back.”

So how do we make the most of our Christmas feast without turning our backs on the traditional Christmas dinner? “As cooks we are always playing with menus, looking to create new flavours and styles. People don’t mind trying new approaches to things as long as they work and have a reason for being.” So let’s take Chef Andrew’s lead and bring back these Christmas dishes that he declares, “have become so haunted by the ghost of Christmas past. If you’re going to serve up a chocolate log, it needs to make a statement. Make it life-size and cut it with an axe!” A life size chocolate log? We’re listening Andrew…

Mince pies are next on the list. What transformation is in store for them? “The forlorn and lonely mince pie hiding at the bottom of a biscuit tin will be no more. The modern mince pie is going to be a brûlée, torched at the table with rum or cognac, a sacrificial celebration of Christmas! This will bring the experience element to the table as we fill the room with vapours of caramelised cognac, candied fruit and hot trifle.”

Next we have the Christmas pudding, or as Andrew calls it, “the dark destroyer of all Christmas desserts.” His motto is, “if you can’t eat it, drink it! Let’s create a Christmas pudding rum punch daiquiri, spritzed with clementine and darkened with Ximenez sherry, topped with a rum sauce floater that will be dusted with nutmeg.”

But the playful and creative role of the cook in this scenario can be taken a step further. Take SEC, part of Lime Venue Portfolio, as an example. Earlier this year they launched their new concept, ‘Streetspitality’ for catering at conferences, so the hospitality industry is already starting to see a change in the approach to events. This concept offers “healthy, quick, street food hospitality that gives delegates a contemporary and convenient food experience, whilst not compromising on nutrition.” And this is something that Andrew understands, “It’s time to stand up this Christmas! This kind of dining gives opportunity for more conversations and more fun! It’s time to get turkey trending with #nomnom. Why not create a turkey quesadilla with purple Brussels sprout coleslaw and a chipotle cranberry salsa?” Good question - why not?

“But putting the food to one side,” says Andrew, “Christmas is about reflection and celebration. Every year at Christmas time I play the role of Father Christmas at my wife’s primary school and I get to see a number of happy young faces beaming back at me, at Father Christmas. But it doesn’t matter if you’re 5 or 50 years old - happiness is universal. And Christmas is all about happy times, both at home and at work.”

So when it comes to events, as well as Christmas, “great food, great spaces and great people can do nothing but add to those happy times.” Bravo Andrew!


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