The meeting room at the Cremorne headquarters of Bright Young Things Culinary Event Makers is relatively simple. A round table with a few chairs sits occupies the centre of a small room. But there’s another feature, spanning one wall, which says much about the young company. It’s a long table, dressed heavily with plump pink roses, magenta hyacinths, a large ceramic toadstool, Cumulus Inc. and Quay cookbooks and Enid Blyton’s childhood classic The Enchanted Wood. There are pumpkins, red apples and a small nest holding golden eggs.
While there’s no shortage of typical catered events requiring chicken sandwiches (of which they do a brilliant flower-shaped version) and tartlets, three-year-old Bright Young Things has become as well-regarded for the visual feasts they provide their clients as for the edible ones.
“We didn’t set out to be this creative visually,” says founder and creative director Kate Stewart. “But we are constantly changing and pushing to keep our clients interested. A lot of people come to different events of ours and arrive wondering, ‘What have they done this time?’”
Stewart has a commerce background but had worked in catering for 14 years before setting up shop. “I saw a gap in the market and catering is my whole world, so I wanted the challenge of my own business,” she says.
The fairytale-like styling table tells the story of the event they were working on when we visited, a wine dinner with Rutherglen winery All Saints. “I went on the website and there’s a castle,” says Stewart. “We thought fairytales and princes and it’s been developing from there.”
Stewart’s right-hand man, the company’s creative producer and event manager Rocco Trimboli, offers his take on the process. “It always starts with an idea and then once we sit down, we play word associations and, in this case, came up with our favourite words to do with fairytales and what we want to bring to the event.”
Both the food and the look are considered for each dish. Inspired by the story of The Princess and the Pea, one of the dishes for the evening is scallop and whiting with pea mousse and fennel puree, a layered dish like the many layers of mattresses the princess sleeps on in the fairytale.
A constant exchange of ideas is a hallmark of the way Bright Young Things operates. As we chat, Stewart and Trimboli somehow end up talking about the golden eggs they plan to feature for the dinner and how they’ll be presented on the table. Will they be quail eggs rolled in gold, asks Stewart? Trimboli wonders about filling them with chocolate. As they realise what they’ve done, they start laughing. “We go off on tangents like this all the time,” says Stewart.
One thing they’re sure of is that the All Saints dinner, held at Richmond cafe Friends of Mine, will be visually rich and textured. “I see Hansel and Gretel,” says Stewart, “and a communal dessert table where guests can mingle.”
Adds Trimboli: “I see tiaras, crowns, the poison red apple, Hansel and Gretel, Cinderella's pumpkin coach, images from story books on a menu.”
Indeed, for Bright Young things, catering is about dedication to a moment and making that moment special. “We love creating something from nothing and having this concept and then watching the event just grow and grow,” says Trimboli. “The constant pressure to improve is what keeps you going.”
Stewart sums up she and her group’s commitment when she says, “It’s really just about asking yourself, ‘How are we going to make these crazy ideas work?’”