The coolest food to serve? That prepared by one of the city's finest chefs recommends Nici Wickes

Every aspect of a wedding becomes critical in the planning stages, but one area in particular seems to put couples into a spin - the food!

Perhaps this is the reason why an increasing number of people are turning to their favourite chefs and restaurants, who they know and trust, to provide the nourishment for their special day. We talked to four restaurant chefs about their approach to weddings.

French Kitchen & The French Cafe
What is the top priority when designing a menu for a wedding?
It's about the couple. I don't really worry about what won't work, we just make it work.

What is the most challenging situation you've cooked in?
Once I catered for 200 people out of a garage on trestle tables. The venue was a tennis court covered in a marquee, 200m from where we were cooking and, if I remember rightly, at one point it started raining. We made it work.

How do you bring that extra dimension to wedding food?
I it's really important for us that these types of functions go better than ever - we have so many people now who come and dine with us on their wedding anniversaries because they had such a good time and it's because we treat their wedding like it was our own.

What's the best/worst wedding food you've experienced as a guest?
Worst was a room full of chefs and wait staff, the most incredible spot but the food was so bad that we all had to drink more to disguise the flavour!


Trends you're seeing on wedding menus?
Smaller weddings seem to be more frequent, where the emphasis is more on quality than quantity, so our French Kitchen is a great venue for that.

What's the "ideal brief" for you as a chef if you're asked to cater for a wedding?
We are in your hands.

Sous chef, Ponsonby Road Bistro
What is your top priority when talking to a couple about catering for their wedding?
What they love to eat at home, recipe books that inspire them, what they choose when dining in a restaurant, their favourite foods, so that I can establish their palate needs.

What do you do to make the wedding food so special?
So often ingredients plus bulk cooking equals minimal flavour. It is so crucial to make sure flavours are at capacity when cooking en masse.

What's your ideal brief?
The more details the better! Exactly what "kind" of food is requested, where the cooking will take place (if off-site), kitchen facilities, photos of fridges, benches and equipment, how many people, dietary requirements of guests, timings for of the day.

The more details that are set out in the beginning means less chance of surprises on the day.

Coco's Cantina
What is one of your top priorities when designing a menu for a wedding?
First, it's got to be about what the couple want - the food is what makes the day.

Then for us it's how we can make it a thousand times better than their expectations.

The meal or food is what brings the family and friends together, it merges the crowd and is the difference between a great wedding and an amazing wedding! The food seals the deal.

And, of course, we have to consider the budget. But the days are gone where you have to remortgage your house to have a wedding. You can have an amazing wedding on any budget.

What's the best and worst wedding food you've experienced as a guest?
My own wedding where my friends cooked for me at Cocos was the best wedding food I've had. And the worst have sort of been the rest, ha ha, not terrible - just not memorable or that enjoyable. Weddings have a sort of conveyer belt system with regards to catering for large groups.

Top two trends you're seeing on wedding menus?
Unfussy food. Sharing.

What's the ideal brief for you as a chef if you're asked to cater for a wedding?
Wedding person: Hi Will, we love Cocos and the food you serve there. We would love you to cater our wedding. We want it to be Mediterranean, fun, rustic and delicious!
Will: Cool, when is it?

James Restaurant/Mint Kitchen Catering

How in demand is James as a wedding venue?
James is quite a new event venue but unique. The backdrop is stark and dramatic, with French chandeliers and lace curtains.

We have beautiful carvings from Mexico for a spiritual touch, which some couples appreciate - I cover them in candles and they are very special. Its Stanley St location means we have no neighbours, so guests can make as much noise as they want, until late!

How does Mint Kitchen bring that extra dimension to wedding food?
I like the plating to look lovely and not too rustic - it's got to be beautiful when it arrives on the table. We like to use clients' family or favourite recipes for their special day.

How does designing a wedding menu differ from doing it for the restaurant?
The family involvement is key and getting to know the client means that it's personal and tailored as opposed to a list of offerings for diners in general. It's very satisfying to see it all from the beginning to the day itself - more like a special project that we're working on for a set period of time.

Top two trends you're seeing on wedding menus?
Couples like to keep the sweet items small and focus more on the wedding cake as opposed to a rich dessert. Small plates, bowl food, shared platters and degustation tastes are more in vogue than the traditional three-course plated styles now.

Last word?
Our first same-sex wedding ceremony took place at James recently - with all the excitement of a cyclone happening outside in the mix.

Matthew and Cameron exchanged vows under the chandeliers, witnessed by their parents, siblings and friends and we served Champagne in gold bottles, canapes, had Frankie Goes to Hollywood on the baby grand and more. It was so cute and no hormonal Bridezilla in sight!

The celebrant lost her place in her notes for a long two minutes ... then they were pronounced husband and husband, which was a little queer.

It was a hoot and there was an abundance of candles and tissues. I can honestly say - it was emotional event for a hardened wedding caterer.