Dave Double set up Essex based event catering company Plenty of Thyme in late 2016 as a part-time project whilst working in contract catering. The inspiration for setting up solo began after his experience of sourcing a caterer for his own wedding in 2014 returned disheartening results.
Having worked in restaurants, hotels and large-scale catering venues since 2000, it was time to setup on his own and deliver the tailored approach to special events that was desperately needed.
“I was very disappointed in the offering at the time, and I knew I was more than capable of providing a much more bespoke service for people’s special days.”
Having personal experience of sourcing wedding caterers is what makes the service at Plenty of Thyme unique. “We offer a bespoke service and that involves working with clients to create menus that reflect them as people. Choosing food options from a menu when the event is generally one of the biggest days of their lives takes the fun and excitement out of food.”
Speaking of uniqueness, what attributes should a Plenty of Thyme team member hold? “They’ve definitely got to be able to think on their feet,” says Dave.
“Curve balls are thrown all the time so they shouldn’t be afraid of a bit of hard work. We have lots of fun at events and this is reflected in the friendly approach from all our staff. The hours can be long and unsociable at times, but when you see a group of up to 300 people having the time of their lives it makes it all worthwhile.”
It’s the kick out of seeing people enjoy themselves at events that makes it all worthwhile for Dave and the team, and that’s an aspect of the job which he most enjoys. “No two days are ever the same, there are no limits with food, and you learn something new every day.”
“I’ve got 20 plus years as a chef behind me and I have more passion now than ever. Seeing happiness on people’s faces at a wedding when they receive their food ticks every box for me and the team as a whole.”
The rapid halt to weddings and events during Covid-19 can not have been easy on the business, and the next few months will undoubtedly be a busy time as the calendar builds up again. But what has Dave missed most during the periods of lockdown?
“Going from working most days to closing the doors at work was both emotional and very challenging financially and mentally. No event with us is the same, one day we can be in a wedding venue with a fully fitted kitchen and the next day a pop-up catering tent on the side of a marquee/tipi.
“The pressure of providing a faultless service and then at the end of the day realising it went absolutely perfectly. That’s 100% what we missed most.”
Moving into 2022 brings new opportunities and Dave hopes to “continue growing the business, work with more like-minded local suppliers and make improvements to his allotment which provides food for the business.”
Talking of the allotment and working more closely alongside suppliers, the farm to fork philosophy is a trend that the Plenty of Thyme team has noticed much more of in the past few years and one in which they strongly support.
“Consumers want to know more about where the food they are going to eat comes from, what the carbon footprint is like.” Customer demand and costing is a frequent conflict when starting out in this industry, especially taking into account the inflation that’s occurred in the last couple of years since Covid-19 hit our shores.
“Food prices are continually on the rise so do not under-price yourself, know your worth. Good food and service comes at a price. Sadly, there will always be someone who says they can do it cheaper, but a good reputation within the events industry is everything.”
With 20 years of experience under his belt, Dave has seen many people come and go in the industry. So, what would his advice be for those just beginning their journey in the independent catering industry?
“Speak to your Environmental Health Officer! They get a bad rap for being the bad guys but they are there to help. Do your research, decide what will make you stand out from others. Do not under sell yourself.”
Finally, before we let Dave get back to his busy schedule, we wanted to know which chefs have inspired him most throughout his career.
“Anthony Bourdain, the man was a genius! Marco Pierre White & Gordon Ramsey – I’m not such a fan of Kitchen Nightmares but his work ethos when he was younger was exceptional and his restaurants speak for themselves.
“Also, not a hero as such, but Yotam Ottolenghi. His style and mix of flavours really fascinates me.”