For today’s timeless Tuesday, let me introduce you to the beautiful and fabulous Bunmi Siwoniku of Budding Tastes. Bunmi has catered a few weddings that I have photographed and so I can tell you first-hand just how delicious, fragrant and mouth-watering the cuisine she serves up at weddings is. I hear guests raving about the food as I go around taking photos. On one wedding Bunmi catered, the oven at the venue malfunctioned – a completely unforeseen scenario. But Bunmi and her team managed to get on top of it somehow and come up with a sumptuous menu that delighted the bride and groom as well as guests. Just one of the many things that make Bunmi an amazing caterer, on top of being such a lovely, thoughtful and kind-hearted person.
How did you get into the catering business?
I’ve always loved cooking and eating and knew I wanted to be a chef from a very young age. After a few years working in restaurants in London I wanted to travel and cook abroad so I gave up my job at Galvin’s at Windows and got ready to leave for Canada. However, sadly my Nan got diagnosed with terminal cancer and so I ended up staying in London but didn’t want to carry on working crazy hours as I wanted to be around for her. My friends all knew I was a chef and starting asking me to do events for them, weddings, dinner parties, etc and eventually I realised it would actually be a really fun way of making a living. I love the freedom it gives me and the fact that every event is different. I do miss the buzz and camaraderie of a restaurant kitchen though and it is really hard work being self employed. It teaches you a lot about yourself. What your strengths are, your weaknesses, what you enjoy and what is a chore because you can’t delegate to anyone else. It’s all you but that’s part of what makes it great too. It’s all yours!
What would you say your main influences and inspiration are when it comes to food?
I have been massively influenced by the chefs I’ve worked with. Some of them have been absolutely amazing and I continue to follow them now. You learn so much working around people who are passionate about what they do as they just want to share their knowledge with you and that passion transfers across so they have definitely been my biggest influences. I love homely rich flavours and dishes, traditional European cooking. The sort of dishes that you smell as you walk through the front door but I also love fresh flavours and try to incorporate the two.
Fresh produce is an absolute must and I try to be as seasonal as possible as that is always something I was taught. I don’t tend to go for crazy flavour pairing but massively respect the chefs that do it so well and love being wowed by them, but for me, keeping it simple and following the flavour path is the most important thing. I want people to know they could attempt a dish themselves.
What is your favourite dish and why?
I have so many favourites, I love fresh shellfish and a really great aged steak but if I had to choose my last meal, I think anything slow cooked is going to be a winner. You can’t beat an 8 hour slow roasted shoulder of pork, or an amazing braised lamb shank, or a spicy tagine on a cold winter’s evening. The smell alone is enough to get me excited, and then the succulent soft meat that melts in your mouth, it makes me hungry just thinking about it. Pair that with some creamy buttery mash potato and I’d die happy.
What advice do you give to couples when deciding on their wedding menu?
It’s hard because people want to please everyone and cover all the bases but I think the best thing a couple can do is go for something THEY love. It’s their day after all and if they are happy, I honestly think their guests will be too. I try to find out what they like, what their favourite dishes are, or at least they’re favourite flavours, and then I try and offer a couple of options for them to mull over. I will go back and forth with them if they are unsure and then at the tasting will try and offer them a dish that they both love. This hopefully helps put their mind at ease about one aspect of the day.
Do you love what you do and why?
I do love what I do, it is hard being self employed but I am extremely lucky to be doing the one thing I always wanted to do. Like I said, I love eating so the pleasure that comes from that side alone is brilliant however food generally is a great vehicle for bringing people together and getting to see people enjoying my food and spending time together is amazing. It can be hard knowing the dishes you’ve spent three days putting together will be gone in less than 3 hours but when people tell you how much they enjoyed them it makes it all worthwhile.
I think one of my main hang-overs from my time in restaurants is my need for perfectionism. If I’m not happy with something, I feel the customer probably won’t be either and I can be my own worst critic so that makes it difficult, but I try to hold on to the words of one of my head chefs “we’ve not saving lives people, it’s only food” and once you get that back in perspective you can enjoy the event again, even when it does get a bit stressful and the gas stops working midway through courses (true story).
If you were given free reign to creating a wedding menu to delight everyone, what would the menu be?
Such a hard question because you would need to know so many parameters, however I’d probably go with some sort of terrine and a couple of slices of an amazing sourdough, lightly toasted with some rich butter (had some from a bakery in Dulwich recently and it was to die for) to start with as aesthetically these are so pleasing when done well. Main course would be meat focused, maybe large slow roasted shoulders of lamb, or ribs of beef on the bone with all the trimmings, crispy roast potatoes, honey roasted root vegetables, yorkshire puddings, creamy cabbage and bacon, decadent cauliflower cheese, all served up on trays to the tables to be passed around and shared to get people chatting and the communal/family vibe going. For dessert I’d be torn, caramelised apple tarte tatines are amazing but you can’t go wrong with a palet d’or. We used to serve them at Windows, and they are basically a cold chocolate fondant which ooze ice cream when you cut into them. Absolutely delicious!
What is your dream regarding your business?
I would love to open a little cafe serving great, homely food all day long. I used to say it was a bistro type affair but was recently informed by a french friend that it was actually more like a typical “auberge” in France, so I would love my own little “auberge” in London where people can come and get great unpretentious food anytime of the day by themselves or with friends and family. It would be in the local community and would be a completely relaxed environment. I will still carrying on catering but the cafe is the next big goal.
What is your dream regarding your personal life?
Cliche as it sounds, I just want to be happy. My business and personal life are really entwined so continuing to find satisfaction in my work is super important. I’d love to start a family eventually and settle into a nice area with a great local church that I can be a part of. It’s not a life shattering dream, but it’s what I’d love.
If you are getting married or know of someone who is, get in touch with Bunmi for your wedding catering needs and she will help make your wedding day the special occasion that you have always dreamed of.