Meet the Cork caterer offering zero waste weddings

A Cork caterer is offering zero waste wedding packages. PAM RYAN catches up with Orla McAndrew to talk about her latest venture
Meet the Cork caterer offering zero waste weddings

Orla McAndrew taking part in the recent Cork on a Fork Festival. Caterer Orla McAndrew is giving sustainably-conscious couples the chance to opt for a five-star zero waste wedding meal, created using rescued surplus produce. Photo Joleen Cronin

ZERO waste is the keyword of sustainable living in 2022. It’s become synonymous with our home kitchens, wardrobes and beauty routines. However, it’s not the first thing that comes to mind when planning your wedding day.

Award-winning Cork caterer Orla McAndrew, of Orla McAndrew Food, has recently launched her new Five-Star Zero Waste Wedding Packages - which are set to change the face of wedding catering.

According to the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation, approximately 1.3 billion tonnes of food produced yearly goes to landfills.

“I think it’s an absolute sin!” said Orla.

Through her experience and added research, she estimates that the average wedding could save 225kg of food from ending up in a landfill if couples choose her zero-waste offering - which sees her using rescued surplus produce

What qualifies as surplus food?

We’re not talking about food that’s a day past its use-by date, nor will she be picking mould from bread before making it into breadcrumbs.

“The quality of the food has to be exactly as it would be if I were to go out to buy it,” Orla explains. “That’s the grounds on which I’ve chosen the suppliers that I’m going to work with.”

You may think it took some convincing to get suppliers and producers on board with her zero-waste idea, but they jumped at the chance. This was when she knew she had a phenomenal idea forming into a plan and a package.

“The fruit that’s misshapen and a bit gnarly looking and stuff like that, that’s grown locally; I want all that stuff!”

Think a carrot with two legs instead of one and you’re on the right track.

“Nothing is gone past its sell-by date. It’s really the top-quality of food,” she said.

“I’m only one person. I can only do a tiny amount. I’m going to have a wedding maybe once a month, that’s maybe 12 or 14 weddings a year, but it’s the fact that I can use whatever little bit of profile I have to share that with 150 or 200 people. I can give them something to think about.

“That wedding feasts - which are traditionally associated with excess and waste - can be turned into something different, totally unique, shake the whole thing up and show people what can be done with stuff that would otherwise not make it to the table.”

So how will it work?

Well, it requires a lot of trust! But Orla has a stellar reputation for creating sumptuous feasts that get people talking.

Putting your trust in her is simple – which is good because you may not know what your wedding menu will be until less than a week before you say ‘I do’. Maybe even the day before!

“I know it’s a big ask. I’m going to produce something amazing for you. I don’t know what it’s going to be. You don’t know what it’s going to be. But I’m so excited about that!

“When I’m asking for people’s surplus, I won’t know what I’m getting. But it’s a way of me teaching myself further. It’s given me this massive opportunity to be uber-creative. That’s what makes me feel alive!

“I am only just realising I am so creative. This last four years have been such a massive journey of growth and learning. I’ve learned every single day. As soon as I become proficient at something, I have to learn something else.”

What about your guests with special dietary requirements? How can they be fed on surplus food and a surprise menu?

Orla is way ahead of you.

“The people on the table who have dietary requirements are served first at all my events because I know that, usually, they’re the last thought of.

“It’s really important to me that people with dietary requirements are really well taken care of and get equally as amazing an experience as the people who don’t have special dietary requirements. I had a vegan girl recently at the last wedding who said it was the best meal she’d ever had in her life.

“I’m such a feeder. It’s my pleasure in life to feed people and to do it well. I take it so seriously sometimes that I’m really emotionally involved. If it wasn’t amazing for somebody, that would just break my heart. It’s not an option to not blow people away.”

“I’m really looking forward to meeting the people who want this. Anyone who engages with this, it will be magic!”

She guarantees that your wedding day menu will be produced using a minimum of 80% surplus food. The remainder will be dry ingredients and cupboard staples.

The zero-waste package is available for parties of over 90 guests across Munster and over 140 guests across the rest of the nation.

For each package availed of, Orla will donate 5% to The Peter McVerry Trust on behalf of the newlyweds.

Orla was named Network Ireland Cork’s Creative Professional Businesswoman of the Year 2022 and is heading to the national finals on October 7 in Galway.

Follow her on Instagram: @orla_mcandrew_food or @orla_mcandrew_zerowaste and check out her website: omcatering.ie.

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