A working holiday entangled with love for food and a special someone gifts New Zealand our very own culinary artist from the Netherlands. We spoke with incredible talent Jeroen Van Bilsen, founder of Whisk Catering, sharing his journey from European training to raising a family in NZ. A heavenly amalgamation of seasonal canapés, an oyster bar and locally sourced produce. Whisk use NZ’s finest artisan cheeses, nuts, vegetables and protein to create mouth watering delicacies. Passionate about a high-end farm to table approach, Whisk have found a home in the wedding industry. Read on for the dreamy recollection of Whisks ethos, approach to weddings and the gorgeous array of imagery on local pottered crockery.
Tell us about yourselves and how Whisk came to be…
I am originally from The Netherland and came to New Zealand 14 or so years ago now to work and travel. This is when I met my partner Sara and decided to stay here for good. Best decision ever. We now have two beautiful kids and I feel blessed every day that I get to live in this gorgeous country.
I have always wanted to become a chef from a very young age. After school and in the weekends, I would work at our local restaurant helping on washing dishes and preparing desserts. This made me decide to follow my passion and do my culinary apprenticeship. Since then, I have worked in some of the finer establishments in Europe before coming to NZ.
Over the past 10+ years I have gained a great amount of experience working in the some of New Zealand’s best event venues and decided to use this to my advantage by starting up my own bespoke catering business.
What part of working with food sets your soul on fire?
I love the way food connects and brings people together. From preparing the meals with a team of chefs and the camaraderie that goes with that to how guests are enjoying it as it sparks up conversations.
What is your business ethos and where do you place yourself in the industry? Are you predominantly focused on weddings, or do you cater for all events?
The business ethos for Whisk is simple. Provide clients with an amazing offer of fantastic New Zealand produce, prepared, and tied into tailor-made menus to create the perfect event.
Our main focus of events is weddings, but we cater to all types of events like social gatherings and corporate functions.
Where do you source your food from?
Our menus are designed with a high-end farm to table approach and uses some of the best ingredients New Zealand has on offer. We aim to use as much of the small artisan produce products as we can.
Our fish gets sustainably caught by independent fishermen, heirloom tomatoes to die for, small batch NZ cheeses and Hawkes Bay organic chickens are just some of the amazing products we use throughout our menus. We ideally source these ingredients straight from the suppliers.
It is a real joy to be able to use these ingredients and makes creating delicious food easy.
We adore all weddings year round and feel that New Zealand is spoilt for seasonal produce. Do you base your menus around the seasonal availability or do your options stay relatively the same year through?
Our menu’s change with the seasons and we use the produce when it is at its peak.
Do you draw inspiration from outside of NZ? If so, what influences have your brought to your menu?
Having a European background, myself and being classically French trained our menu style is mostly European. We re-create some of the classics in innovative dishes with locally sourced produce.
Why have you chosen to be involved in weddings?
Wedding day catering is just fantastic. I feel so privileged to be part of the couples’ special day and contribute to their memories with our passion for food.
From the initial meet with the couples to the actual day, the whole process is super exciting. It’s great seeing their vision come together on the day and working alongside some of the amazing wedding vendors who contribute to that day.
You have beautiful plating and food styling along with your menu, where do you draw inspiration from?
We use the “less is more” approach when it comes to our food presentation. Use only what you need and don’t try to overcomplicate it. The crockery used for plating plays a huge roll these days and we are blessed to have some amazing potters in NZ to work with.
You have a gorgeous range of options for couples planning their wedding catering. What styles of weddings do you cater to?
We cater anything from garden marquee weddings to dry hire venues and are happy to travel bit. Our most popular menu must be the “shared plates”. This is basically a family style dinner where all the food gets placed in the middle of the table for guests to help themselves. It offers a great variety and really get’s the conversation started at the tables whilst the food gets handed around. Best thing is your guests get to eat as much or as little as the like.
What is your favorite staple for sharing menus?
So hard to say as there are many favorites. Tomatoes, cheeses, and nuts do make a frequent appearance in our dishes though.
Can you tell us about your menus and how they are structured throughout the service…?
For most of our weddings we will start off with some post ceremony canapes. The couple gets to choose from our seasonal canape list. We would suggest going for half warm and half cold canapes. The deep-fried goodies are always the biggest hit though.
A real showstopper is our oyster bar which can be added onto the cocktail hour. Such a great look and it really doesn’t take long for these oysters to disappear from their shells.
When guests arrive to their seat ready for dinner there will be a warm bread rolls and whipped butter waiting for them which we freshly make every day.
Speeches begin and we will start getting the final preparation on the way for the mains. Once the last speech has ended, we serve the food and guests get to dive into it.
We also look after the bar service and will be topping up wines and waters throughout dinner.
After dinner, and another round of speeches we serve our petit fours with the wedding cake to a station. The guest can help themselves from there at their leisure throughout the rest of the evening.
What is your most popular wedding dish?
The whole roasted 55-day eye fillet on the shared plates menu. You really can’t go wrong with this crowd pleaser. On our set menu the pork belly entrée is always a hit.
Can couples be a part of the menu design, or do you have a range of options to choose from?
Our menus our designed so the couples can really pick their favorites and create a menu that really suits their tastes. We also encourage them to add some personal touches to the menu if they like. Adding a special dish that bring back memories or has a cultural background can be very special.
We have a super flexible approach to our menu design and love to tailor make menu’s especially for the occasion. And as this is their wedding day, we want them to have the food they love. They can just let us know what they would like to see on your menu, and we will create something amazing.
How do you cater to dietary diverse customers?
The couple can let us know which guests have a dietary requirement and we will look after the rest. We will either substitute some parts of their meal or create a completely different dish for them.
Do you have options for wedding cakes or desserts?
We don’t do wedding cakes unfortunately but have a great range of delicious desserts on offer.
Lastly, what’s next to Whisk and do you have any goals for your business?
We are looking forward at what is in store for Whisk in the next few years. Still looking at growing the number of weddings we can cater per season and expanding on the corporate events market. As whisk grows so does our team which is super exciting. We just love what each individual brings to the company and how we grow together.
How can our lovely couples find you and what is your booking process?
Easiest way to get in touch with us is via our contact page on www.whiskcatering.co.nz but a phone call is perfectly fine too off course.
Is there a booking time frame you recommend for planning?
I would say try and lock in your preferred caterer as soon as you can. Some dates are super popular over the summer wedding seasons, and it would be a shame to miss out.
Loved hearing about Whisks genuine passion and appreciation for our local food sources. Visit our friends at Whisk Catering through our vendor collection HERE or pop over to see more mouth watering imagery on their socials HERE.