Five Minutes with Jonathan Rowley, MD

What has been the most dramatic catering situation you’ve ever faced?

It was a black tie catered event for 100 in the Hunter Valley. The road to the home where the event was being held flooded out three hours prior to guests arriving. The client cancelled the event and all wait staff were sent home. Then the client opted to relocate the event to their home in Sydney. The caterer moved a full kitchen to the new location, including canapés for 100, ovens, cook tops, refrigeration, alcohol, glassware… With no staff, friends and family were called to assist. Our caterer used a home kitchen and oven to cater the event within three hours.

Overall a super successful night – but f**cking stressful!

What’s the weirdest catering request or comment you’ve ever had?

“I ordered a dozen hot cross buns but I only received twelve.”

What’s the biggest upcoming trend in catering you’re seeing?

Corporate catering for the office is moving from everyday sandwiches on white platters to rustic, healthy and more innovative offerings. The stiff shirts are loosening up and companies are responding to fresh ideas within the corporate office. Kale and quinoa - healthy foods and superfoods - are the norm now in corporate catering.

Why did you move to Sydney to start a catering business?

Moving from Canada to Australia gave my wife and I the opportunity to start fresh in a new country. I always wanted to own a business and we saw in 2000 that the internet was the new frontier. With Sydney the largest market in Australia, it was the best location to start, and we saw a gap in that market for corporate catering and event catering. Anyone else who has worked in a large corporation will agree – we all get tired of the same old sandwiches and Order-In was developed to solve the problem. The platform gives every business in Australia the ability to order office catering from ALL the best local corporate caterers and cafes. Now we have expanded from looking after just Sydney office catering, to corporate catering in Melbourne, Brisbane and beyond, so corporate Australia can access extensive variety and easy ordering for any corporate event catering – or anyone who just needs to order food for the office.

What are your top tips for ordering the perfect catering?

Catering is a visual feast! Office catering doesn’t have to be boring: have lots of variety of food, flavours and colours on display. People eat with their eyes and as a result colour and texture have a huge impact on the guests’ perception of the meal. When ordering a casual lunch, select interesting sandwich breads and fillings and easy-to-eat finger foods, both hot and cold. Don’t be afraid of individual salads, or soups in the winter. And have a small treat to finish - fruit (a bit boring) or an indulgent treat (more fun!). Baby cupcakes, mini brownies, gooey chocolate cookies, or mini crème brulee tarts make a great end to the meal. Try new things and ask for feedback. Remember the best meetings are the ones with great catering!

Favourite beverage for after-work drinks on a Friday?

Mine is a large single malt scotch! But, having drinks after work is about getting the team together, celebrating the week’s end, a win, or just getting to know each other. If it’s a successful week, nothing is more celebratory than champagne. Ask Order-In for a large magnum of champagne – the extra-large bottle adds to the ceremony and sharing of success (and looks so much cooler than a few separate bottles!) Another fun idea is to do a blind taste test of three wines (this is a great way to generate laughs when the wine snobs have difficulty discerning premium brands from box wine plonk…)

Most memorable moment in your catering career?

I was doing a menu tasting for our second largest account and during the tasting we were trying a line of new sandwiches. As I bit into the sample, one of my teeth split into four pieces.  Without wanting to spit the food out and claim it was my tooth (to which they might have thought there was a foreign item and my tooth was a distraction attempt), I swallowed the broken pieces. Yes it was gritty, and yes, I nearly gagged. But to them, the sample was delicious and we landed the business. 

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