Catering for excellence

Executive chef Gary Payne (left) and director Mark Dimmit started Beaumonde Catering after spotting a niche for quality.

Executive chef Gary Payne (left) and director Mark Dimmit started Beaumonde Catering after spotting a niche for quality.

Innovation and attention to detail are among the ingredients that lifted WA catering company Beaumonde Catering to the heights of success

Kylie Kwong and Maggie Beer have graced their kitchens, as have fellow high-profile chefs Neil Perry and Ben O’Donohue. A guest chef program that attracts names as big as these is just one clue that Perth catering company, Beaumonde Catering, takes its food very, very seriously. Along with the big appeal to customers, having such skilled chefs take the pans provides a powerful motivation and innovation for all the Beaumonde staff. “We like to keep ahead of food trends, as the look and taste of food changes constantly,” says Mark Dimmitt, co-founder and director at Beaumonde.

This finely tuned food sensibility ensures the fare it serves at the 1000 functions a year it handles is not what you’d expect from mass catering. Visually exciting, with a focus on fresh local produce, it’s closer to quality restaurant standard.

“We definitely have a reputation for that,” Dimmit says. “We don’t see the restrictions in catering and believe you can achieve a very high standard.”

Beaumonde Catering’s success has been well recognised, attracting numerous awards over the years, including five times National Caterer of the Year at the Savour Australia Restaurant & Catering Awards for Excellence. They’ve also been inducted into the Restaurant & Catering Industry Association’s coveted Hall of Fame.

Dimmit and executive chef Gary Payne started the company 20 years ago, spotting the need for a quality shift in catering in Perth.

“In those days, after the America’s Cup brought a totally different level of catering to Perth, we came in wanting to compete with that,” Dimmit says.

Before starting Beaumonde Catering, Dimmit had worked previously in psychology, sales and marketing.

“I was at a time in my life when I was looking for a change, and we decided to give it a shot together,” Dimmit says. “It’s been quite successful!”

Since then, Beaumonde Catering has swelled to its current size, with 132 staff and a turnover of $3million. Their corporate headquarters, on 750 square metres at Bassendean in Perth, houses the biggest commercial kitchen in WA. All their food is prepped at the main kitchen, then sent onsite to be cooked. The bulk of their work is corporate functions, but ranges from intimate boardroom lunches, to major events feeding up to 2,500 guests. They do everything from cocktail and barbecue events, to table service and sophisticated degustation menus with dishes carefully matched with wines. They specialise in catering for major, outdoor events too, like the open-air concerts put on by the WA Symphony Orchestra, all of which challenge their skills in delivering quality food under unique conditions.

Market challenges

From the time they started Beaumonde Catering, Dimmit and Payne aimed to punch above their weight and offer a standard of food and service beyond anything else being offered in Perth.

One thing that sets them apart from their competitors is their focus on service and the way that focus is imbued in their staff and management culture.

“Even in restaurants, the standard of service isn’t where it should be,” says Dimmit. “We aim to be outside of that. Our industry is full of committed, young people who try to do the best they can, but the owners and managers don’t put enough value in them.”

Keeping track of what other restaurants and caterers in the market are doing is an important part of the job.

“I regularly go to functions and restaurants in Perth and, for example, last week I went with a client to one of Perth’s top five restaurants and the waiter didn’t know any of the cheeses,” Dimmit says. “They’re not briefed on things like that and it’s disappointing. Our aim has been to really work hard on our management.”

In terms of food, Dimmit and Payne like to think more like restaurant chefs than caterers, with a passion for fresh, local produce and exciting flavours.

“We have a great relationship with our suppliers and source really good, local product that’s sustainable and hasn’t travelled lots of miles,” Dimmit says.

About five years ago, the company set up its own farm at a property at Toodyay, north-east of Perth, growing a range of produce, including native herbs and spices.

“We specialise in native products, like native berries, flowers and fruits,” Dimmit says. “Bush tucker food has become much more mainstream now. We produce pretty much all our own herbs and spices and some other foods, like citrus.”

It’s possible, Dimmit says, to work around the limitations inherent in the catering business when it comes to the type of food served.

“There’s a tendency in catering to go a bit to the middle and play it safe with food, especially with the corporates,” he says. “But some are really interested in food and that’s why we developed our guest chef program, to do interesting and different things.”

Working with such high-calibre chefs plays a big role in keeping staff passionate and inspired about food, and in touch with the latest food trends.

“It’s extremely stimulating and really uplifting for staff,” Dimmit says. For example, chef Christine Manfield, of Sydney restaurant Universal, made a big impression on staff at all levels.

“She got really hands on in the kitchen and cooked with us, and she even took the garbage out,” Dimmit says. “She made such an impression on our kitchen hands they put her picture up in the kitchen.”

Dimmit, Payne and the management team also look to other restaurants for inspiration: “Our priority is keeping ahead of food trends, so we look regularly at what people are doing in Sydney and Melbourne, and we keep an eye on the trade magazines.”

They also like to lure chefs who’ve worked in top-level restaurants.

“Every chef who comes from a fine dining restaurant to catering has a bit of culture shock, but once you get used to how to do things and how it all works, it’s fine,” Dimmit says.

Creating and sustaining a vibrant, positive atmosphere among staff is also crucial to the company’s success.

“We have a really good team, an excellent brigade,” Dimmit says.

Mark Dimmit brings his marketing and corporate skills, gained in his career prior to starting Beaumonde, to the running of the business.  There’s a lot of energy put into building the company’s brand and profile in the community.

“We don’t advertise at all, we purely work on relationships and marketing, getting feedback about our work and assessing where we could have done better and what we have done well,” Dimmit says. “It’s like a marriage—you can’t rely on that success but have to keep working on it.”

The company works on developing and retaining relationships with other Perth restaurant chefs and is very much part of the city’s burgeoning foodie network. Relationships with companies like WA Opera are also important to the way Beaumonde is perceived by customers.

“Our industry is full of committed young people who try to do the best they can, but the owners and managers don’t put enough value in them.” Mark Dimmit, Beaumonde Catering

“We’ve signed up a sponsorship with the WA Symphony and invite about 150 clients to a WA Opera event each year, to entertain and feed them,” Dimmit says. “We also support a different charity each year and raise money for that.”

Logistics and little details play a big role in the success of catering events, especially when running outdoor events and having to work with elements like the weather and outdoor kitchens.

“There’s a hell of a lot of detail, so operations are important,” Dimmit says. “We have a fantastic operations manager, who can look at a function sheet and see straight away all the details she’ll need to cover, which is terribly important.”

Keeping a business successful involves a constant process of fine-tuning and re-evaluation, and at Beaumonde they’ve turned to industry experts to provide that essential overview and advice.

“It’s about trying to keep it fresh, and getting some outside eyes to take a look,” Dimmit says. “About 18 months ago we employed a management consultant and he’s helped us a great deal.”

They’ve also just signed up with prominent Perth food critic, Robert Broadfield, to be the company’s food consultant.

“We’re really working on ramping up the quality of our food and presentation, and he’s extremely committed to raising the standard of restaurants in Perth,” Dimmit says.

In terms of the future, Dimmit says they’re content to keep the company at its current size but do plan on refining and improving the quality of what they do.

“We’ve been pretty much that size for five or six years, and we seem to have levelled out,” Dimmit says. “We don’t want to be big, but always better. The Perth market and people’s expectations have changed enormously. Things like Masterchef have really made a difference to people’s knowledge about food. We’re going to continue and expand growing our own produce and really, just aim to be as good we possibly can.”

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