After Service with Caiger and Co.

We sat down with Alix Caiger, founder of Caiger and co. and Bella Haycraft Mee head chef at Caiger and Co and talked about eliminating waste from your cooking, the experience in the kitchen at Refettorio and changes being made in the catering industry.

IMG-5772 (1)

How was your time at Refettorio Felix?

We are so impressed with the quality of the produce and the kitchen is fantastic. It’s nice to work in and quite spacious. It was lovely working with the team, and sifting through the produce in the morning, then doing the service in the afternoon. You also have amazing volunteers.

How does this compare to your normal day?

Seeing the truck and going with what arrived was new for us. It was really nice as a lot of what we do is so planned, people are choosing menus. Even though we might be working with quite different menus every week, you know exactly when you’re placing orders what you’re going to get, so to have that- “ready steady cook” approach where you tick all the boxes, you’re like, right, how can I use this? Not only how can I make the tastiest, but also the most nutritious and most seasonal (dish). Approaching it from a more creative angle is really fun. It would be nice to do more of it!

Please come do more of it here! This is absolutely delicious! How do you think the catering business can change to become more sustainable?

I think there’s a big emphasis right now on sustainability and seasonality, as the two core parts of our ethos. But not every company has adhered to those as fundamental cornerstones of business. Seeing other companies coming more in line with the way that we create menus is really exciting. What is hard about catering is the volumes – you’re creating food en masse. Really knowing your quantities is essential, using nose to tail but with vegetables. We put the baby fennel in the ragu, but we saved all the tops to use as garnish. And keeping waste produce where we can – saving herb stems and making them into oil which can be frozen, and turning bread into bread crumbs. We’ve got a compost, we’re pretty good about waste management in our practice.

Can home cooks do low waste?

I think planning meals is the easiest way to reduce waste. Say I’m making a curry one day so I buy coriander for the leaves, I can make a tagine the next day to use up the stems. So it’s not just about buying on an ad hoc basis or knowing what’s in your pantry. It’s about using all the produce. I suppose there’s also an element of the slow food cooking philosophy. Not all food has to be instantaneous and fast. You can do things like make a jus with the bones of the chicken, save your old vegetables and create krauts and ferments. And it’s all possible at home, it’s not tricky. And use the freezer! Fresh produce. Maybe egg yolks on their own don’t freeze that well, but you can make them into a curd and freeze that. When you buy a packet of herbs, when you freeze it you can just crumble it, you don’t need to chop them if they’re frozen.

Any last thoughts?

Nassim was telling us a lot about how long she’s worked here, how much you guys have grown and incorporated new things. How everyone here is really taken care of and looked after. The fact that it’s not just the food, but also a shower and a shave, and even a yoga class, what a lovely thing!