The Celebrity Caterers: Star Weddings Have 'Food Link' In Common
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What does it take to cater for a big, fat Indian wedding — especially if said wedding involves celebrities? Foodlink’s CEO Sanjay Vazirani has the answers. The catering service behind some of the highest profile Indian nuptials in recent times — including Deepika Padukone-Ranveer Singh, the Ambani family dos, and Richa Chadha-Ali Fazal — Foodlink is known for crafting menus that marry a couple’s story with their respective cultures and the things they treasure.

Thus, Deepika and Ranveer’s wedding included food from the Konkani-Mangalorean and Sindhi-Punjabi traditions. Koki, dal-pakwan, sev barfi and rabdi were served alongside “rasam, dalitoy (a Konkani-style dal), bibbe upkari (a tender cashew side-dish) and puliogare (tamarind rice) — all dished out on a banana leaf — that the guests enjoyed a lot,” says Vazirani. For Richa and Ali’s Mumbai reception, the menu had a decidedly Delhi vibe, with chole-kulche and Natraj Ki Chaat. The street food counters were the biggest hit of the night, according to Vazirani.

In some ways, catering for a celebrity wedding is not very different from a non-celebrity event. For regular and celebrity couples, the process always starts with “understanding their preferences and the expected guest list segmentation,” Vazirani tells Slurrp. Then, the right culinary team is assigned to the project, a bespoke menu is crafted and the styling of the buffet experience, equipment set-up, service styles etc is finalised. “The key challenge and opportunity is to execute an outstanding gourmet experience,” says Vazirani.

“We let the curation reflect the thought process and the journey of the couple… their memories, their discoveries, their favourites. It’s all about personalised touches that resonate with their relationship and their loved ones. This can include dishes made according to their special recipes or dishes that might be dedicated to a loved one, like a ‘Dadi Ki Khichdi’,” he adds.

It sounds straightforward enough, but there’s an ongoing process of learning, evolving and adapting that colours Foodlink’s approach. The team goes on numerous food trails around the world, picking up new ideas and techniques, sampling new flavours, and cementing collaborations with specialists of niche cuisines. It’s a small part of what goes into staying ahead of the curve. Then, each facet of the catering needs careful attention: it isn’t enough to simply engineer and execute the perfect menu, or even to customise the styling. The service has to be optimal as well, for which Foodlink relies on a team of seasoned butlers and captains. In this industry, “God truly is in the tiniest of details,” says Vazirani. Details that can take even 11th hour developments in their stride. 

For a celebrity wedding, there might be anywhere between 5-7 counters dedicated to Indian and international cuisine. Each counter will feature at least 4-5 dishes. This is exclusive of hors d'oeuvres that are served to guests as they mingle. A ballpark for budgets is difficult to establish; Vaziani says it could range all the way from Rs 25,000 per person to Rs 2 lakhs per person. For non-luxe events, the price band is around Rs 7,000 per person in tier-1 cities, and Rs 4,000 in tier-2. The 1,000-strong operation works out of state-of-the-art, purpose-built kitchens and warehouses in Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Chandigarh, Delhi, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Antalya, Dubai and Milan. 

As for what the typical dinner plate would comprise: Specialty/authentic regional cuisines — especially from Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and the Northeast; the healthier variants of local dishes; lots of fresh local produce; exotic/foreign cuisines; plant-based/vegan meat. Dietary requirements (gluten-free, low-carb, Paleo, Keto) are all accounted for, and Vazirani says, “We offer alternatives like unrefined sugar, honey, or maple syrup for sweetening. We offer a lot of guilt-free alternatives for the health-conscious. Veganism, Reducetarianism, and Flexitarianism are on the rise and so we offer these variants in a lot of dishes as well.” 

Foodlink catered its first overseas destination wedding in 2007, in Thailand. They’ve worked their magic in over 20 countries in the years since, including the Lake Como events for Deepika and Ranveer. Availability of authentic Indian ingredients as also equipment like tandoors can be a challenge, but it’s one Foodlink has sought to circumvent by roping in local experts and brands, be it London’s Bubble Food, Paris’ Potel Et Chabot, or Dubai’s Okku Dubai, Nobu and Cream Stone Creamery, among others. And Vazirani says chefs from hotels like the Versace Palazzo are among Foodlink’s collaborators too.

After all, only the best is good enough when it comes to celebrities.