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EFS Chef, Joanna, shares her reflections on the 2023 wedding season.

According to Eastern and Western tradition, 2024 is the luckiest year on record to get married! But looking back on the 2023 wedding season, we’d say that it’s us at EFS who are the lucky ones as we get to be involved in so many peoples’ special days. Last year’s wedding meals included fully vegetarian and vegan menus, ones cooked in – (disused!) anatomy labs and a gluten-free afternoon tea-themed menu (my personal favourite). It is safe to say that our lovely couples provided us with a diverse and exciting season of events.

The wedding venues we cooked in were no less astounding. Fingask Castle, The Cow Shed Crail, John Muir Alpacas, and Summerhall to name a few, provided glorious backdrops for guests to enjoy the celebrations and delicious food. With locally sourced, seasonal sharing-style dishes proving to be the hot choice of the year, our chefs had plenty of opportunity to get creative with ingredients and menus. 

One of my favourite menus from last summer was a meat-free Mexican-Italian fusion meal featuring a tomato carpaccio and miniature tofu tacos served with pea-camole (a local, sustainable play on guacamole) and charred salsa. These canapées were being made in the kitchen as one of our community chefs hosted a class of Castlebrae students, who were so enthused by the concept that they decided to add them to the menu for their pop-up event!

A real highlight in catering for any wedding is that it allows us to support other local suppliers with a similar ethos by using their incredible produce. We are a member of FareShare, an enterprise focused on reducing waste by collecting surplus food from supermarkets and ‘donating’ it to organisations for a small annual fee, so we often don’t get to dictate exactly the type of ingredients that we get in. We love this sustainable model, but it is also wonderful to be able to support smaller, independent suppliers selling the best of what Scotland has to offer. I am hugely looking forward to working with produce from Peelham Farm, Phantassie, David Lowrie, Au Gourmand and many other wonderful suppliers this coming wedding season.

It’s safe to say that the pressure of weddings always makes them a little more stressful than other catering jobs. Whilst we do our best to try to avoid any hiccups, sometimes things don’t go to plan! The day before one wedding last June, we arrived at work to be greeted by two police and the remnants of a huge fire at the unit just a few meters from ours. With plenty of prep still to do ahead of the big day, it was not ideal timing to be told that we could not access the kitchen until the damage and safety checks had been done – perhaps days later. The next few hours involved many (many!) phone calls to try and arrange all sorts of contingency plans with fellow businesses in Edinburgh to work out a best-case worst-case scenario for the couple. Fortunately, moments before we phoned the couple the police told us we could access our premises again. By some miracle, the kitchen was perfectly fine. We were able to get on with our prep as planned (just a good few hours behind!). The wedding went as well as originally planned, and thanks to our incredible FOH team, no one would have known otherwise. We waited until a couple of weeks later to amuse the couple with the tale of how their wedding food nearly had to be changed due to an arson! 

On another occasion, a bride got in touch to request an afternoon tea-themed wedding – with the majority of it being gluten-free. Fortunately, we love a challenge at EFS, and set about creating a coeliac’s dream menu of gluten-free scones, sandwiches, sausage rolls cakes. Mismatched crockery and cutlery provided the perfect tableware for the event, and helped us to host a party that we think that the Mad Hatter himself would have been proud of.

Now, plans for the 2024 season are well underway. Our first wedding is only a matter of weeks away, bringing with it an exciting collaboration with fellow Edinburgh-based business Pizza Geeks (we are already getting excited for the staff food at this one). With the recent launch of our ‘Even Greener’ menu, our chefs are looking forward to exercising their creative flair even more than usual, and to creating bespoke memorable feasts worthy of any couples’ special day. Bring on 2024, and the luckiest wedding year yet!