“I’m in this to make memories—create something magical that’ll be remembered,” says Kirsty Handrick one of Auckland’s top private caterers and 24-year hospitality veteran.
Owner of The Kitchen Collective with husband Andrew, they’re “dream makers”—handling all sorts of event requests from the intimate to the extravagant and everything else in between.
It could be a call from a PA wanting a sunrise spread for the boss at breakfast, or a glam celebration at home, the luxe hen party on Waiheke through to a full-blown launch on location for up to 300.
Every day is different yet the consistent factor—the secret to their success—is having an on-call talented collective of professional chefs and polished wait staff that can immediately roll into action.
As a result, the caterers have an enviable black book of clients like IBM, Chivas Regal, and Porsche through to Trelise Cooper along with “privates”—high net-worth individuals with ‘TKC’ on speed dial who shall remain nameless.
While The Kitchen Collective operates in Auckland and Waiheke Island, it also handles assignments as far away as Taupo. They’re taking bookings for Christmas and the summer season already which are a big slice of the business.
Kirsty gives a snapshot into ‘the day in the life’ of a top-tier caterer: “When a client says, ‘The food was divine’ and ‘You’ve made our night’— the hours of fastidious prep you put in makes it all worthwhile.”
Typically she says 10 hours of preparation equals four hours of food service on site. So a 6am corporate breakfast service is actually a 2am start to ensure the buttery croissants and plump muffins are melt-in-your mouth fresh upon delivery.
“We prep everything off-site in our commercial kitchen and then just work with what we’ve got at the other end.”
That could be operating behind-the-scenes off a trestle table in an industrial garage with the deep fryer plugged into an extension cord that runs for miles, or a beautiful marble kitchen in one of Auckland’s wealthiest suburbs.
The Kitchen Collective’s specialities include canapes, the ‘walk and fork’ (a slightly bigger canape of three mouthfuls), the grazing table right up to the substantial spread. The menus are modern, seasonal and totally scrumptious.
“All the recipes are ours,” says Kirsty who trains all her team so they know her expectations and how each morsel is to be perfectly presented.
It’s quite common for her to also carefully guide clients when they’re unsure what to serve. “Some have an idea, while others are vague. I ask lots of questions to get into their heads, then sit back and ask, ‘If it was me, what would I want?’”
Cocktails and canapes are the bread-and-butter of the business. While her bar staff whip up good ol’ classics like the Brandy Alexander, Kirsty has fun experimenting with new flavours.
“The other day I poured elderflower liqueur into a flute dressed with candy floss at the top then filled it with champagne—I called it Cotton Candy. It’s fun, I love it!” Which is the perfect metaphor describing The Kitchen Collective’s mission turning client dreams into reality.