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Caterer Profile

Cornucopia

Get to know Cornucopia

If you're a festival trader or an Arsenal fan you probably already know Cornucopia husband and wife team, Chris and Alison. They've got the best watermelons on the festival circuit and many handy skills up their sleeves...

What exactly is Cornuopia?

Our family business started back in the 1950s when my parents first moved to London and opened a grocery store which soon became at the heart of the local community. It continued until the late 1980s when we moved to outdoor catering, and used our Greek heritage to develop a menu of traditional and contemporary food that hadn’t been seen before on the catering scene.


We began by selling freshly sliced water melons, an idea that came from the fond memory of my aunty slicing them up in her back yard on a summer’s day in Cyprus. We purchased a decorator’s pasting table and a van full of melons and started working at local events. Unpredictable weather led us to buy a secondhand catering unit to sell hot food, but we continue to sell sliced watermelon to this day.

So what’s it like working with family?

Alison and I actually make sure that we work as far away from each other as possible although we do have walkie-talkies in hand! But in actual fact I’d be lost without her! Together with our 2 sons helping us we’re able to run a smooth operation.

What’s your funniest story from your career in catering?

Probably being knee-deep in mud at Glastonbury in 2006. At the time it wasn’t funny at all… trying to empty water out of marquees, scrambling through the mud to collect hay to soak up the water as well as keeping a smile on our faces for the customers and keeping food safe to serve.  Now we laugh about it, looking at the photos of the staff at the time and their expressions.

What were you doing before you started the business?

I’m a qualified, City & Guilds, wall and floor tiler who introduced Alison to the art of fixing grouting and profiling. We’ve tiled everything from a penthouse wet room to a stone and marble staircase.

So you're multi-talented! Was it easy getting started?

Like any business it’s a steep learning curve. It was so different from a 9-5 job that the hardest part was functioning on a lack of sleep and anticipating stock levels so we didn’t run out of anything.

What lessons did you learn from your first season trading?

Always plan for rain, and lots of it, so that when it shines you really do smile.

How has your food offering changed over the years?

We endeavor to adapt our menu so that at every festival we give every customer the best dining experience, including contemporary Greek dishes alongside traditional favourites.

Do you have a signature dish?

Our secret spiced Chicken wrap and our steak and halloumi, which are traditional family recipes.

Do you think using UK sourced ingredients matters?

We feel it’s very important to support local and countrywide farmers to keep the great catering trade and products available to us all here in the UK.

And what’s it like trading at the Emirates?!

The atmosphere outside any football ground always gives you a buzz but to get that at each game, with a team you support, is an added bonus. I’ve been a ‘gooner’ since I was 9 and our family have a strong link as both my Dad and uncle played for Apoel Nicosia (Cyprus) in the 60s; including a friendly against the Arsenal both home and away.

Do you trade anywhere else?

We trade at music events as diverse as Glastonbury, WOMAD and Cropredy. We also do weddings, a weekly market in the City of London, school fetes and fireworks displays. We’ve worked with Heston Blumenthal on his ‘Home with Heston’ series too.

Do you still enjoy the job?

Both Alison and I still feel the buzz as the season is about to start. We look forward to our ‘on the road’ adventures and setting up our units across the country and meeting fellow traders.

What keeps you going as a mobile caterer?

The thrill of going into the unknown; whether you’re going to have a successful weekend and get the opportunity to meet some great people. It’s always great to speak to our returning customers, as we know this is the best accolade we can get.

Very true (: What do you think makes a successful mobile caterer?

A successful trader is someone who cares about the products they sell, and tries to offer their customers the best value product they can without compromising on good, quality ingredients. We pride ourselves on our customer service and our staff / customer relations.

What advice would you give someone starting out in the business?

Think of a great product, be realistic with your costs but always ensure you use the best quality ingredients you can find.

QUICKFIRE ROUND!

Hardest part of mobile catering?

Missing a comfy bed.


How have events changed?

Standard and variety of food are much better


Biggest achievement?

Being in partnership with my wife and still being married!


Best event?

Glastonbury is nuts! The best show on earth.


Got a marketing strategy?

Most of our work is through word of mouth and of course through NCASS.

What do you think about gas safety?
It's extremely important. The welfare of our staff, customers and ourselves is paramount.


How else has NCASS helped?

Good, friendly advice and a knowledge of the changes in the industry that affect us as we prepare for each season.

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Thanks Cornucopia!
www.greekexpectations.co.uk


What can you learn from
Cornucopia?

  • Try to adapt your menu to suit different types of events to give every customer the best dining experience possible.
  • Always prepare for the rain so that you don't find yourself in a dire (and very muddy!) situation. If you have access to pallets and the forecast is poor, take them to site!
  • Get yourself a pair of walkie talkies! Always fun. Always functional.