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Polka Dot Bride expert interview with Neil Hudson

What a treat we have for you! Just look at these dishes. Go on. Scroll. We’ll wait. Today we’re chatting to Neil Hudson of one of Melbourne’s leading catering companies, Hudson’s Famous. Specialising in weddings and events, Hudson’s Famous use high quality, locally and sustainably sourced produce to create menus that reflect their clients’ style, needs and wishes. And for the cherry on top, they also specialise in event management. Below, Neil chats about how the Hudson’s Famous team approach weddings, their wide range of menus and offerings, catering trends and what couples can expect from them leading up to and on the big day.

How long has Hudson’s Famous been in the catering game?

After starting as a part-time caterer in the naughties, Hudson’s Famous went full time in 2008 and things really started to take off.

Where are you based?

We were lucky enough to build our dream base a couple of years ago in Abbotsford on the edge of Melbourne city. The kitchen is perfect for our chefs to create incredible food and we have the space and equipment to achieve our best.

How do you and your team approach weddings?

All brides and grooms are different and our number one policy is to say “yes”. It’s important to be able to personalise our offerings to suit their style and ideas.

How many weddings have you been involved in?

Hudson’s Famous caters for around 40 weddings a year, going back for maybe 10 years or more. We have close partnerships with some amazing venues and we can recommend these, or the venues recommend us.

When should a couple book you in?

We have taken two bookings for 2022 already, but the most common lead time is six to 12 months. Popular months like November and March tend to fill up first.

Then what happens? Is there one person the couple liaises with?

Trish is our wedding planner and has spent her life in events. I am a chef so I create the menus and develop the dishes. Then Trish and I work together to create perfect occasions for our couples.

What kinds of menus do you offer?

I lose count of how many menus we have! And then, as they are only really recommendations, we are always chopping and changing between them to suit a wedding’s style. The main ones are canapés, sit down dinners, shared feasts and gourmet barbeques, but we have extensive dedicated vegetarian and vegan menus, small bowls, platters, buffets, grazing tables, drinks packages… How long have you got?

Is there a standout favourite menu for weddings?

Definitely our shared feast. Gone are the days where I would stand behind the buffet carving roast beef and saying, “Would you like jus with that?” while there is a queue of 100 guests holding their plates! Now we create some sensational dishes full of colour and punchy flavours, and bring them to the table. This is true banquet eating with loads of choice and quantity to satisfy everyone. And there’s no more ‘walk of shame’ by having to go to the buffet for the third time!

Where do you source your produce?

Our suppliers are so important to us. Ian from Meribel is the most knowledgable person I have ever met when it comes to cheese. He sources Victorian farmhouse cheeses for me because he knows what I want. Rino from Provincial Produce looks after the fruit and veg, and you need half an hour if you get him on the phone as he doesn’t stop talking about what’s happening at the market! And Aquanas supplies our fresh fish and seafood. They have the lot and you can tell just how fresh it is when we get it.

These relationships and many more are critical to sourcing top quality products. I love adding my herbs and spices, but you need excellent ingredients to start with to make the most memorable of dishes.

Are you able to accommodate dietary requirements?

As this is such a large part of catering today, most dietary needs are written into the menus from the start. Most dishes are already gluten free and we have countless choice when it comes to vegetarians and vegans. Our standard expectation would be 10% of any wedding party having either an allergy or cultural requirement. Where we can’t match a menu items to the guests needs, we just create one.

And because we make all our food from fresh meat, poultry, seafood and fruit and veg, we can be sure of what ingredients are going into a dish. So if the couple says, “No nuts across the whole menu”, then that’s easily done.

What are your favourite dishes?

I’ve been in love with Neil Perry for about a year now. Wish I had fallen for him long ago. His recipes are simply sensational. And many of his creations work so well for modern eating. Simple tasty ideas using wonderful ingredients that pack in the flavour. Don’t tell him I said that.

What trends have you noticed in catering lately?

A big focus on the vegetables. I’m a massive fan of salads and sides, or making the vegetables the star of the show. Half the fun of being a chef is that the possibilities are endless and new ingredients come onto the market all the time. What is that? What can we do with that? We often get asked to remove the red meat from our shared feast and add a vegetarian dish. Some even want to go vegetarian for everyone.

Venues you love working with?

Mount Macedon Winery is absolutely stunning. Elisha has worked hard for about four years now and bring this place to life. Hudson’s Famous has been there with her from the start. The view is spectacular and last year they built a huge deck out the front. It has a wonderful winery atmosphere and is only 30 minutes north of the airport.

What kind of event management do you offer for weddings?

Trish does the wedding planning and is the expert when it comes to working through the details. I do all the tastings and help the couple work out what dishes would suit their ideas. We can source just about anything needed and are always here to help.

What can a couple expect from you and your team on the wedding day?

A team of professionals wanting to make everything perfect.

Most memorable wedding you’ve been a part of?

It was a few years ago but I was driving a van full of food to the Collingwood Children’s Farm for a wedding on Saturday afternoon. All of a sudden, the van got pounded in a hail storm. When we got to the farm, the marquee had been destroyed and flooded.

The farmer said we would have to set up in the barn. We moved all our equipment and food in the pouring rain and made a makeshift kitchen, then we were told to stop. They had to give a milking of the cow demonstration. So we waited for about 30 minutes while a cow was milked for some toddlers.

By this time, everyone was late and arriving with drenched hair and muddy shoes. But we got the show on the road and we were all in this amazing barn surrounded by hay bales, goats, sheep and possums in the rafters. Everyone was in a great mood and just laughed it all off. The atmosphere was the best I have every remembered.

I hate to imagine what the poor bride and groom paid for the marquee!

Best thing about your job?

Food. I get to play with food.

All images: Sammy Green Photography

(Source: Polka Dot Bride)