Recipe for success: Eldert Hoebee

Photo: Randy Larcombe

The co-owner of Adelaide’s Plenty Catering likes his events to be strategically planned, whether it’s breakfast for 30 or a ball for 6,000. By Frank Leggett

“While working as a senior weather forecaster for the Bureau of Meteorology in Perth with a transfer to Port Hedland [WA] looming, I was offered a managerial position at Geoff’s Gourmecues back home in Adelaide. After much thought, I tendered my resignation to the weather bureau in order to embrace this challenging and exciting career change. Gathering my young family and all our goods and chattels, we crossed the Nullarbor.

“Geoff’s Gourmecues featured charcoal cooked dishes along with whole cuts of meat and accompanying buffets. This was all very in vogue in the early ’80s. I managed the company for three years until Dianne [my then wife] and I bought the business from her brothers.

“Over the next 30 years, we grew significantly, requiring a move to professional premises with an office, warehouse and purpose-built kitchens. The business evolved from Geoff’s Gourmecues to No Fuss Catering Co to Plenty Catering Co.

“To this day, Dianne, my astute working partner and a qualified chef, has a very good instinct as to where trends are going. She reads and researches extensively and is very good at predicting what people want in catering. Invariably this allows us to stay at the forefront in the Adelaide marketplace.

“In Adelaide at the moment, there are a handful of serious off-premise catering companies. We are significantly in the mix but still manage to keep things personalised and unique. Our business gives us a balanced personal lifestyle while enjoying the interaction with our staff and clients. It’s rewarding to be able to offer casual work for those staff involved with tertiary studies. Some of our staff have risen through the industry, formalised their qualifications and done very well in various facets of hospitality.

“We become an integral part of people’s important occasions, and largely responsible for their success. It’s a huge responsibility and not one to be taken lightly.”

“Functions can be in remote locations, in people’s homes, 15 floors up CBD buildings, on yachts, on trains—pretty much anywhere. Thinking on your feet with the ability to strategise and prioritise are essential skills when running a catering company.

“We provided catering for 4,500 people during the Golden Oldies Rugby Reunion in Mannum on the Murray River. That event required around 100 staff to be bussed in. To make the event manageable, a dozen food/beverage stations were set up, each catering for 300 to 400 people. We have twice provided catering services at the Curdimurka Outback Ball. This involves providing meals from Friday lunch to Sunday morning for around 6,000 people.

“You need to be passionate about production management for those big gigs but you also need an exceptional support team. Dianne and myself are the only two full-timers but we have a loyal team who we utilise for all major events, supported by a large casual pool of employees.

“The lure and excitement of catering is that we’re not in the same establishment every day of the week. We have the privilege of doing business in people’s homes or at iconic locations in the countryside.

“We were engaged by the state government to showcase a South Australian produce-based menu in 2000 at the Bio-Innovations Conference in San Diego—a great accolade and testament to our high-end abilities.

“At Plenty Catering Co, we become an integral part of people’s important occasions, and largely responsible for their success. It’s a huge responsibility and not one to be taken lightly. You never want to arrive at a location, especially a remote one, to discover there’s no power or water. We work off run sheets to ensure all our on-site needs are in place well before we arrive. But we also know there will be occasions when ‘innovation in crisis’ needs clear heads and quick thinking.”

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