Food & Wine : Centre Of Attention

Centre of attention

Banquet table centrepieces get a new lease of life as delicious dishes

Written by Grant Jones

Photography by Alana Dimou

While table centrepieces have long created a talking point and souvenirs for convention 
centre guests, those at ICC Sydney are just as likely to end up as a delicious dish to feed the city’s less fortunate.

While the idea of edible centrepieces had been forming in Director of Culinary Services, Lynell Peck’s mind for a while now, their presence is now being seen, smelt, felt and appreciated not only by clients but their end recipients, diners at St Vincent De Paul’s Matthew Talbot Hostel in Sydney’s Woolloomooloo.

When a client decides they want to give back and use an edible centrepiece — instead of flowers that will end up as landfill — Peck offers them a list of what seasonal produce is available from throughout the Sydney Basin.

The client then discusses produce options with their event organiser, floral stylist, or whoever is doing their theming, working together to come up with a centerpiece design.

“We agree to how many pieces of produce they need per arrangement, and how they’d like to make the arrangement,” says Peck. “The produce is then ordered in, and it is then made on site by the client’s events team or floral stylist in the room where the event will be held.

”Some of the produce may come from Block II Organic’s farm on the beautiful Hawkesbury 

River, just an hour north of Sydney’s CBD. The client’s event floral stylist may use verdant green soft herbs, such as basil and parsley and dill, and contrast them with bottle-green curly kale and highlighted by pops of colour from eggplant, carrots and beetroot.

Post event, ICC Sydney Chefs use the produce to create nutritious meals which are donated to the Matthew Talbot Hostel.

“We might make a frittata using zucchini and mushroom and thyme and we’ll put some cheese in it as well,” says Executive Chef Rakesh Pillai. “We’ve also made a beautiful vegetable ragu of beetroot, sweet potato, dill, and kale chopped through, which Mathew Talbot Hostel staff can portion and use over a period of days.

“We know the men who dine at Matthew Talbot Hostel appreciate the food that is made for them as it isn’t an afterthought. They can get to eat food that is made just for them, which also has great nutritional value.

”Including edible centrepieces into the event plan is simply a matter of speaking to an ICC Sydney event manager about activating the venue’s Legacy Program.

“And its not only the event attendees who benefit. ICC Sydney’s team love facilitating the process to ensure a high quality product is provided for local people in need,” says Pillai.