For retreat and activity break planners, what are the options when it comes to catering for your group and how do you decide between them?

Retreat catering considerations

– What is the aim/type of your group stay and therefore what will be expected and appreciated by your guests?

– Costs, your time availability, onsite facilities and options available at your preferred venue.

– Will guests require a standard menu, veggie, vegan or a choice?

– How will specific dietary needs such as gluten/dairy intolerant be managed?

If you’re keen to offer good value, you could choose to have everyone collaborating to cook together whereas on the other end of the scale, if your guests are paying for a luxury stay, they will of course expect something special to be provided without their own involvement.

Three retreat catering solutions

1)   Manage the catering yourself.   If this is your first retreat, be aware that this is very time-consuming along with everything else you’ll be taking care of, so the key is to be ultra-organised and do as much in advance as you can, plus have at least one helper at hand if at all possible.

You’ll need to carefully plan the menu, including all snacks and drinks, divide down into ingredients and quantities and preferably have it all delivered on-site when you first arrive.  Time-wise, remember that in addition to the cooking itself, tables will need to be set, cleared and washed up whilst you’re still on hand to your guests.

2)   Get your group involved.    It can be really good fun and a good chance for everyone to get to know each other to cook together – adding an enjoyable extra activity to the day. Have a rota for 3 people to collaborate each day and they will often only need to help once or twice whilst anyone that can’t stand cooking can give it a miss!

3)   Hand over the catering to someone else.    This leaves you to concentrate on your own area of expertise and certainly will give you a little more breathing space. A venue may have its own caterer, but otherwise you may be able to hire a private chef to cook in-house.

At Orchard Air, you have all three options

The main kitchen is well equipped for in-house catering.  In addition to a double oven, there is a lovely Rayburn-Aga for cosy cooking, a huge American-style fridge-freezer and an additional under-counter fridge.  With a dishwasher and a large selection of dishes, pans and utensils, you’ll have everything you need for you or your guests to take care of the meals.  There is also a separate kitchen attached to the 30 foot detached activity studio which can be used for breaktime refreshments.  And in the summer, there is a barbecue if you’d like that too.

Our local green-grocer can deliver seasonal fresh fruit and vegetables to the door.  There is a very good selection of supermarkets nearby too.  One of the pictures shows a wonderful meal created by our recent retreat organisers, Kalon Wellness Experiences.

Alternatively, if you would like someone else to take care of your catering, we have set up a great partnership with well-loved local eatery, Wood & Green run by Katie Gillmon.  By the Camel Trail, it specialises in tasty filling fayre and if you like your cakes then you will definitely drool over those!  However, Katie is also an experienced private chef and has put together a marvellous sample menu for Orchard Air which covers all needs and budgets, using local and seasonal ingredients.  She’ll deliver delicious buffet breakfasts and lunches for your group whilst evening meals can be brought hot and ready to serve or alternatively can be put it in the fridge for you to heat up a little later.

For a taster:

  • Field mushroom,puy lentil, thyme, Dijon & shallot casserole with crushed parsley, Cornish sea salt and rapeseed potatoes. (vegan)
  • Indonesian Beef rending curry cooked slowly for four hours, with coriander & ginger chutney, garlic yogurt, and pitta breads.
  • Sticky toffee & date pudding with butterscotch sauce, spiked with orange zest and local clotted cream.

And for more information:   Mealtimes

Which catering option would you choose for your group?

Orchard Air