Last year I worked with Cassie and the team at Firecracker event (also here on my list of incredible Melbourne caterers), who had created the most majestic grazing table i’ve seen anywhere, let alone in Melbourne, for Liv and Dave’s engagement party in an iconic Melbourne art gallery. The result looked like something of a collaboration between the lush perfection of Annie Leibovitz and impossible symmetry and theatre of Wes Anderson, so I had to ask her how her brain works, how we can capture a slice of it for ourselves, and what genius ideas she has for creating your own grazing table or spread, especially as Covid-19 has cast some uncertainty over what they will even look like in the short to mid-term: how do we create a Covid Friendly Grazing Table?
To that end, Cassie has been generous in sharing some of her own feelings about what solutions there might be and what questions to ask when navigating the scenario of sharing food communally.
Firecracker event’s slogan is “to nourish, connect, and create” and it’s such a treat to have a chat with someone that has their hands plenty full servicing all three of those across a catering business and a venue, both of which have had to be elastic and forward-thinking during covid19 (when for a little while, maybe the only thing on the table is an elopement).
Who are you, whats your background and journey been like to lead you to where you are: a culinary powerhouse with a cheeky venue on the side?
My name is Cassie Lucas and I am the owner and creative director of Firecracker Event. The journey to get where I am today is a long story with a meandering path but in a nutshell it goes like this; born into a loving and affectionate social-foodie family with roots in hospitality, a childhood of caring and nurturing (both receiving and giving) followed by a degree and career in landscape architecture with time spent here and abroad all culminated in me starting Firecracker Event in 2012 and officially launching it as my full-time gig in September 2013.
Our big studio, that we call HQ (stands for heart-quarters as much as head-quarters) is used for all of our event preparation and photoshoots.
During covid HQ has been home to Pick Me Up, our take home meal service and has also become a temporary home for an ice cream van which is fun!
Whats the most rewarding element of what you do?
That’s easy. Seeing people experience and be nourished by the food and atmosphere we create.
Especially relevant now – what motivates you to do what you do, and how has this been challenged lately?
Our motivation has always been to make people feel loved and seen. That hasn’t changed during this time, in fact it’s been more important than ever. Many people feel isolated and unsettled by uncertainty and rapid change.
We do too!
When the pandemic hit my first instinct was ok, how can we pivot and continue to nourish our community while we can’t be together physically? From that place we launched PICK ME UP, which is a take-home meals collaboration with seven other local, small businesses who we love.
It started out as a gift we could give to our community and quickly became a gift we received as so many people showed up to support us and allowed us to safely stay connected and nourished by one another.
This helped keep our business going and has given us all a sense of purpose which has been invaluable for our mental wellbeing. It’s been a beautiful and reciprocal exchange.
Let’s talk about that majestic spread you made for Liv and Dave. Sometimes there’s a beautiful intersection of space, style and food-design, and for me this was one of those really rare intersections. It looked so impossibly considered and it’s the only food item I’ve ever stood in front of and thought “I think we need Annie Leibovitz in to cover this”. Can you run me through how the idea came about, how much of yourselves and the couple was in it?
You’re so right! It was such a beautiful intersection. This will be a forever favourite for sure. Liv and Dave know the owner of the antique gallery and when we went for a site inspection, I was blown away by the visual feast around each corner of the gallery.
One of the many things I’ve carried with me from Landscape Architecture is allowing the site to speak and designing with site specificity. This keeps every day really exciting for us because it means that every grazing table is unique. It also means that when we are in a space like Graeme Geddes Gallery – it’s about sourcing props and produce that will work with the space. Not take away or dominate it.
This grazing table had some gorgeous smaller moments you experience when you’re up close (like cutting a piece of cheese) but then also for the overall wow- expansive view. You managed to capture that so beautifully.
If you could in general describe the expression on peoples faces when they saw the spread, what 80s song would be the soundtrack to that expression? Im thinking wind-in-face, slow motion white snake, Michael bolton, over to you….
Haha! Love this. Really made me think though!
Not Michael Bolton, I think it needs more drama/ energy than that!
I have transported myself to the nights at Cherry Bar in ACDC lane in Melbourne circa 2003 to answer this question. I think it’s more 80’s glam metal, OTT outfits, hair, sets, personalities and expressions!!
Perhaps Pour Some Sugar on Me by Def Leppard or Panama by Van Halen.
What is your usual process for creating the perfect spread for one of your couples, and how do you craft it to their personality, as well as infuse yourself in it?
I like to talk to our clients about what they love to eat, how they dine at home and what family rituals they have. We always do our best to make it feel like it’s their table.
Our use of certain props, like acrylic blocks for height, has really become a signature of Firecracker so there’s always signs of us in our work, that’s what people hire us for!
Have you ever had any interesting, left of centre spread requests that you can divulge without risking a call from ASIO et-al?
We had a client that wanted us to make grazing tables for 3000 people in a car park. I was so pumped about the potential but it didn’t go ahead in the end.
What are some common mistakes you see made by folks creating a spread, and what is in your opinion the most underrated inclusion?
Filling the entire table, edge to edge doesn’t allow the produce to shine. It’s like everything is competing for attention and if there’s one thing I know about Delice, it does not need to compete on a table.
This can also be confronting and confusing for guests as they don’t know what to pick and feel intimidated to touch anything in feat of ‘ruining’ the table. What I would say is, do not be afraid of space. If you have some ‘air’ or ‘zones’ for the hero products it becomes more accessible for guests.
The most underrated inclusion is grapes. The way they fall does so much for how your eye moves across a table. We get a bit sad when they are out of season!
What would be your dream scenario to create an incredible spread in or on? Excluding one full of gobstoppers and industrial strength-toffee on the current whitehouse desk, because, you know, the ASIO thing, I guess.
I would love to create a grazing table on the highline in New York. It’s a public garden that’s been built on an old lightrail train line. I can imagine where parts of the table are wildflowers and then produce so when you look at it, it forms a part of the landscape.
I would also love to make a gallery sized exhibition of grazing. On plinths, with color, lots of height changes. Dramatic lighting. Lots of smaller moments or rooms of grazing. And Lazy Susans. And I’ve been getting into monochrome grazing tables over the last 12 months.
Can someone help make this happen?!
With all the isolation, how can folks at home think about creating the perfect grazing table or spreads for small gatherings?
As with all foods, buy the best that you can.
A small piece of something outrageous is better than a slab of an unripe brie.
What are your general top tips for making the perfect “scream from the mountain tops” grazing table or spread?
The same principles work for a grazing table for 100 as they do for 2 people.
This is the landscape architecture practice of scale.
My three tips for creating the best grazing table or spread are:
- Buy odd numbers of cheese: ie three, five, or just one delicious morsel.
- Build the board – and use a hierarchy – (start with what’s most important or what you want to have more air time. Cheese, obvs). Arrange items in a zigzag on the board – start with cheese, then fruit, then meat/and antipasto, dried fruit, nuts then biscuits last.
- Create sweet and savory sections. ie blue and soft cheese with grapes, nuts and fruit, and antipasto/charcuterie with harder cheeses.
This isn’t a question but I think it’s worth acknowledging the death of grazing tables.
How will people experience grazing tables in the new COVID normal?
Are guests going to want to share food?
To cut cheese with the same knife as another person?
To be in close proximity to another person discussing what looks good on the table?
Will tables just be for looking but not for touching?
We’ve been thinking a lot about what this looks like and how will we facilitate that same 1980’s WOW expression?
We are thinking that it will be more individual serves. But you know, maybe it’s bigger/longer tables with social distancing and that could be really interesting for how we arrange and curate the produce.
We are workshopping some samples. Stay tuned!
But I think that this makes this particular grazing table even more special because who knows if we will be able to create something like this (to be enjoyed and eaten) again.
Hire Firecracker Event for your Covid Friendly Grazing Table
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