Catering for an Exhibition

I usually have Friday’s off so I volunteered to cater for friend’s exhibition opening. It was a good chance to relive the days of The Flying Forks without lapsing into chain smoking. The brief was 50 people after work; in a kitchen with only a bench and a sink; no serving table; must be pickled onions; two hours; and $150 to spend on food (the sister was very insistent that this was not per person) so about $3 a head.


The best thing was to have three main things on the menu and they would be simple and easy to prepare. Prep would be done at home but assembly on-site to keep things fresh looking. Cold is harder than hot to keep people happy so the ingredients had to be good. I’d have one interesting thing to amp up general impression, it was Josephine’s exhibition, not mine.


Usually I go out with a general plan and the change or add depending upon what’s out there. Costing is really three areas; cheaper carbohydrates; vegetables; and pricier deli goods like meat and cheese.


Polenta cubes, with tapenade, chorizo, and artichokes

Polenta is cheap but quite a few people don’t like it. I think this has something to do with the relatively bland flavour not offsetting the texture. I added some grated parmesan to the polenta at the end of the cooking along with the usual butter and olive oil. It then went into two shallow pans at a depth of about 2cm smoothed over with a cake spatula with some butter on it. When chilled, given a quick sear on the stovetop griddle and then cut into longish cubes and put in an airtight container.

For serving, the cubes were place on a tray and topped with thin slices of Chorizo in Red Wine, artichoke, or olive paste (in a tube for easy application). Takes a minute or two and off it goes. Later I tried a few with a small scrunch of prosciutto.

Chicken Liver Paté

Bit of meatiness and pate provides brilliant flavour leverage. Chicken livers cost nothing and the extra money can be spent on good quality bread. I bought some baguettes and slim ciabatta. I used this recipe from before but skipped the green peppercorn, halved the spices, and cooked the liver in half butter half duck fat.

Sliced the bread on site with an electric knife and a spread of pate on each.


Much in need of rehabilitation. Usually thin dried out strips of carrot hoping to be put in an average cream cheese dip and out of their misery. Lebanese cucumber, carrot and celery chopped generously in length and width. Kept in a slurry of ice and water to keep cool, moist and crisp. Served with a bowl of half red miso/ half mayonnaise in a wooden Japanese bath bucket.

Beef Vietnamese Spring Rolls

Still in a nice triangulation of interesting, familiar and likable. As there was less of this I served it early and that way it stayed on the menu in a you should have been here earlier way. I’ve got this idea of a kind of virtual viral catering where half the dishes are just “plants” going ” oh did you have the kings prawns, fabulous!” withhout actually having to serve them.

Everything chopped up in advance but assembled on site to make them fresher. The beef was sliced finley and marinated in soy, sesame, vegetable oil and a little bicarb of soda. Cooked and then marinated in equal parts rice wine vinegar and hoi sin sauce with a thinly sliced red chilli.

These went in the rolls with thinly sliced lebanese cucumber, shoots, sprouts and capsicum with a bit of hoi sin sauce.


Japanese peanuts and later, two cheese plates – one with a wheel of stracchino cheese and the other with a sharp cheddar both with stuffed olives (no seeds to leave everywhere) put out for the late stayers to graze on.


Went smoothly and I could just keep sending out alternate trays. Everything was well received, celery was least popular. Paté got a few “you should sell this” comments but I’ve recently discovered drunk people say all kinds of crazy things.

Things like this are the track days of the foodie world. They allow duffers like me to hone their skills without the commitment of doing it professionally. It’s also one of these effortless virtue things which are good, you can help people out and enjoy yourself doing it – it’s not like you’ve volunteered to scrub toilets or shift furniture.

An extra point is be nice to staff. As I was doing this as a friend, the “hey over heres” come across as much more clockable than if I’d been staff but really there shouldn’t be any difference.

The real event though was a great success with 7 paintings getting the red sticker.


Joséphine Luhan

free range studios & gallery 359 Hay Street Subiaco

1st to 15th October Wed- Fri 3-7pm; Sat 9am-3pm


  1. Anonymous’s avatar

    Well done, there’s some awesome tips there next time I have friends over. It sure beats that dodgy pink dip and CC’s.


  2. Anthony’s avatar

    containers and lots of ’em, Lebanese bread toasted is better value, make hummous dip aargh I can’t stop.

Comments are now closed.