18 May 2022
The Emma Catering department consists of thirteen Chefs, five Front of House supervisors, six Kitchen Porters as well as a variety of other staff who work together to make the department run.
To get an insight into the department which is at the heart of the College, we spoke to Matt Carter (Executive Head Chef & Head of Catering) and Nathan Aldous (Head Chef) about how the department copes with the inconsistencies of switching from cafeteria meals, to feeding the Royal Family in the Master’s Lodge. We also get to know the department a bit better, by finding out about some of their favourite meals (Above L: Dishes ready for service)
What is the process like to create and plan menu ideas?
Planning the menu starts very pragmatically: we’re focused on what the occasion is, the numbers, and the equipment available. Our next priority is seasonality, concentrating on seasonal and local ingredients, so Christmas puddings in December rather than Eton Mess. Following seasonal changes in ingredients allows our dishes to have the best quality, so at the moment we are focusing on foods like lamb, wild garlic, and asparagus, as these foods are at their prime during from April–June. We also look at ookery styles, and try and follow the national trends of cuisines, to ensure authenticity in the meals we serve. Finally, flavour pairings equally play a role when planning new menus. These new dishes are often piloted on Informal Guest Nights, so anyone attending the next dinner can look forward to being guinea pigs!
Why does your department have some of the longest serving members of staff?
The three longest serving members in the department; Mandy Shepard and Lynn Flack (both Front of House Assistants) and Ted Rawlinson, our Silver Assistant, have totalled over 90 years working at the College. The amount of staff that choose to stay at Emmanuel for decades of their careers is all down to having a positive working environment. The chefs are given the flexibility to develop skills that, in a traditional restaurant setting, wouldn’t be possible. If they want to learn the techniques of chocolate making, then Nathan is happy to teach them, or if the chefs wanted to refresh their butchery skills then we can get in a whole pig, break it down, then use the cuts for meals that week. Equally, in the Front of House team, there are opportunities for advancement from a casual level, all the way up to the Butler. The chance for career development, whilst remaining a part of the Emmanuel team, means that people choose to stay with us for years to come.
What’s the busiest time of year for the department?
The busiest term is definitely Michaelmas, as there are a whole host of welcoming events like Fresher’s dinners and Matriculation. We’re also swarmed with Clubs and Societies, as well as Tutors wanting to welcome their new students with tea, coffee, and dinners, which is followed by a College Calendar event every week, until we reach Christmas Formal Halls. But our busiest day by far is Degree Day, where the team can be serving up to a thousand students and their families! Despite the enormity of the day, the department know what to expect, and has proceedings down to a fine–tuned machine, with the need to have a fast–paced meal, so the students can return to their graduation celebrations, and helping the day run as smoothly as possible.
Meet the Team
What is the best meal you have ever eaten or your favourite food?
- "The best meal I have ever eaten was from Midsummer House, Cambridge everything from the service to each individual course was amazing"—Matt (Executive Head Chef & Head of Catering)
- "My favourite meals are something I haven’t had to make!"—Nathan (Head Chef)
- "Steak, with lots of chips and loads of peppery sauce"—Karen (Pastry Chef)
- "Pesto salmon from our kitchens"—Karoly (Front of House Supervisor)
- "Ugly Duckling, which is duck with uglyfruit (a combination of orange and grapefruit)"—Andrew (Front of House Supervisor)
If you could go to any restaurant in the world where would you go?
- "Tour D’ Argent, to eat the duck which is slowly pressed between two metal plates"—Alex (Fellows' Butler)
- "The Ivy Asia at St Paul’s"—Lizzie (Waitress)
- "Per Se, New York, or The French Laundry (both by Thomas Keller)"—Nathan (Head Chef)
- "Either Noma in Copenhagen, or The French Laundry, California"—Matt (Executive Head Chef & Head of Catering)
What is your favourite restaurant?
- "Le Bistro de la Place in Tremolat always consistently great!"—Jane (Catering Department Administrator)
- "The Fat Duck by Heston, or Fancett’s Bistro in Cambridge"— Damien (Sous Chef)