The sales director for the Dani García Group sees the world of catering like taking a great play on tour, and in which the actors shoulder the ‘props’ themselves

csoriano
November 15, 2018

The most difficult day that Lourdes Muñoz, sales director for the Dani García Group, ever had in over twenty years working in the world of haute cuisine, was on 30 June, 2018. She was in charge of two great gastronomic events held thousands of kilometres apart. One was in Mauritania, where 1,000 people were attending a congress, and the other was in Mallorca, and was a wedding with 400 guests. Both were serving dishes from the two-Michelin-starred menu, and both required extremely complex logistics and preparation. For the event in Africa, she hired a well-known supplier, an expert in international distribution, to deliver the produce, while for the event in the Balearic Islands much of the produce was transported from the mainland in a twelve-ton truck, travelling during the night so that everything would be there in the morning. ‘A catering company is a chain, we are an industry,’ says Muñoz, recalling that day, one of the 110 events that she organizes every year. ‘There has to be a prior production process, which is carried out in different production centres, in accordance with how far away the event is. I take care of what happens before the event, such as hiring, finalizing the budgets, designing the gastronomic proposal as well as the project itself. Then I let the guys get to work. That day I had the team divided into two. I did the prior event in Mauritania, and I was present at the event in Mallorca.’

Before joining García’s team 18 years ago, Muñoz worked with several of Spain’s great chefs, such as Andoni Luis Aduriz, Ferran Adrià and Juan Mari Arzak. ‘They all taught me about the passion involved in this job, how beautiful and spectacular it is, and also how much it makes you suffer,’ says Muñoz, who will be one of the speakers at Madrid Fusión 2019. ‘They were very demanding bosses and I appreciate that because I like things to be well done. When it comes to food, it’s essential. I’m doing what I enjoy because I create dreams so that people can have fun.’

Muñoz compares the kitchen of a restaurant to a play in which live acts are performed on stage. ‘And if you go into the world of catering, it’s no longer a play, it’s a tour. You set up your own stage and every day you give it your all, no matter how you feel that day.’ To stage a great theatrical performance for an outdoor event requires not only the food and the ingredients to be transported. The actors (from the chef to the waiters) take their trays, tools, pots and pans, spoons, whatever is needed for plating, kitchen equipment, plates, glasses, cleaning products, tents, etc. And the director must also take into account a number of factors such as the geography of the place, the climate, guests who arrive late and, even, things like hurricanes or strikes. ‘If it’s damp or humid, for example, you have to be careful with crispy dishes and snacks,’ says Muñoz. ‘You always have to improvise at an event, even if you prepare it a year ahead and go to the place three times to measure and plan it, like we did for a wedding in Biarritz.’

Muñoz did not go into the restaurant sector without knowing anything about it. She was familiar with many of its aspects thanks to having worked in her parents’ cafeteria in Seville, where they served the workers of Buenaventura. ‘Lots of breakfasts, lots of meat sandwiches,’ she recalls. ‘But haute cuisine did knock me for a loop. The knowledge that these chefs have – they’re like chemists – and the use of new technologies, such as nitrogen or the sous-vide cooking… It’s constantly evolving because there’s always a new ingredient, a culinary culture that you haven’t discovered yet, a particular sector that becomes fashionable.’

What’s the secret to being a good caterer? ‘You must always offer good service, excellent food, waiting staff who smile, good produce and a philosophy behind it,’ says Muñoz. ‘I can have Martín or Dani in the kitchen, but if I don’t have a good waiter who doesn’t understand the food, everything will be ruined. The magic of catering is in the team, the tight-knit group that is formed, the way everyone motivates each other.’

 

-Doménico Chiappe-