Take a three-minute spin on a smoothie-blending bike or walk amongst a massive indoor "secret garden" with chefs picking live ingredients, you'd be forgiven for thinking you weren't at a business event.
Singapore boutique caterer Purple Sage unveiled new catering concepts and elements focused on health, wellness and sustainability under a new brand that emphasises passion and a personal, storytelling approach in a launch event held last Tuesday (September 18) at the Capitol Theatre.
'Farm-to-plate' ingredients such as cress coriander and cress red veined sorrel to non-GMO chicken and fresh barramundi fish from a local farm are the highlights of a new menu that emphasises fresh ingredients from sustainable sources.
"More and more consumers, particularly millennials, want to know where their food products come from. We have brought the farm to plate concept in a sustainable way into the catering service so as to stay ahead in the industry while supporting local farmers," said Alan Tan, co-owner and managing director, Purple Sage.
With Instagram-worthy food creations and displays to storytelling elements, catering companies are racing nimbly ahead, executing a food and beverage experience that's inventive and impressive.
This includes the use of plants in soft decorations as opportunities to encourage delegates to snap pictures and spark networking opportunities, says Chris Loh, co-owner and creative director, Purple Sage.
The catering company unveiled its "secret garden" concept, which includes chefs freshly handpicking ingredients as they prepare food at live cooking stations and opportunities for delegates to interact with the chefs to learn more about the exotic ingredients featured in dishes.
"Also, we've featured two juicer bikes, where small talk about exercise and health can start in a fun and interactive way," quips Loh.
The exact science that goes behind the catering business is increasingly elaborate. Think molecular gastronomy techniques that could be incorporated into food preparations for increasingly large events of 500 and above.
But for Executive Chef Teo Yeow Siang, it's not about using these "fancy" culinary techniques for their sake (he's learnt techniques from three-star Michelin chef Sergio Herman). Rather, it's about finding the best way to serve food to a room of hungry delegates, he explains at a live cooking demonstration. A case in point is the creation of the chilli crab dome: a canapé consisting of chilli crab sauce, held delicately together by gelatine, atop a bed of mantou. It is initiatives like these that create an unfussy dining experience for delegates.
Chafing dishes, a ubiquitous feature in catering, has been phased out in an effort to eliminate food waste and keep dishes served as fresh as possible. The company instead prepares small plates à la minute. At the launch event last week, dishes such as the salmon cauliflower, which won an IKA award, and the quail breast, were standouts.
These new developments in catering in particular look to give food and beverage providers, traditionally hotels, a strong competition.
The company, which has secured catering contracts for venues such as Gardens by the Bay, Marina Bay Cruise Centre and Singapore Flyer and catered for large events such as the 5,000-strong Singapore FinTech Festival, is looking to expand their reach locally, and soon, to the region.
It is keeping a lookout on new venues coming to the scene such as the mixed-use lifestyle destination Jewel Changi Airport.