Terra Catering and Kristinus Wine Estate have created Hungary’s first exclusive fine dining experience program, and Daalarna was among the first to test it this summer. We sat down with Falko Siecke, CEO of Terra Catering, to talk about some key trends that will shape fine dining experiences in the next few years.
Falko Siecke has experience in what luxury in customer service really means. He has spent his whole life working at exquisite five-star establishments such as Relais & Chateaux, the Hilton, and for the past 14 years in Provence and Budapest at the Four Seasons Hotel. His dedication towards creating a unique experience for diners was also appreciated while he was working for several Michelin Star restaurants, with up to 3 stars.
When and why did you move to Hungary?
I met my wife here in Budapest in 2008 when I was travelling on a weekend trip. On my last day, I was leaving from the airport in Budapest to Berlin to see my parents. Since I was a bit of a flirty guy, this lady in the terminal caught my eye and I managed to sit next to her in the plane. From there we visited each other for two years while I was living in France and working at the Four Seasons Hotel. Finally, despite difficult circumstances, I managed to get an official transfer to the Four Seasons Gresham Palace and join my wife here in January 2010.
What are the key elements of Terra Catering’s fine dining services?
Service, quality and customer experience. In today’s world luxury means personalisation and tailor-made services. Our clients have been travelling the world and it is sometimes hard to surprise them with new and unexpected happenings. Trust starts in reliability and consistency. If your brand manages to keep the same quality over a long time and improve on this year by year with exciting new tools or effects then your clients will return and promote your company by word of mouth. Our key target relies on very transparent and human-based personnel who understand their job all the way through and commit to our clients with passion and integration.
What does a “perfect wedding” in your terms look like?
When the wedding couple comes into our kitchen after the event and praises the food and level of service. Our goal is not to offer a Cinderella Wedding with as many frills as possible. Our goal is rather to satisfy and surprise our guests with exceptional services. Every couple and every event is different and our mission is to adapt as best as we can to each scenario and be the best possible partner in crime for our wedding couples.
Why would you recommend Terra Catering to our Daalarna brides for their weddings?
The question is easy to answer: Because you are striving for the best or nothing. Daalarna offers you a customised experience, and this starts a long time before you get your first fitting and will last for a long time after your wedding and you would strongly recommend Daalarna to any of your friends. What is the reason for this? Simply said, the customer experience and service. With our international team, we strive for the same, to achieve and deliver experiences and not just catering. Every event and happening is designed in a unique and never repeated way. We shape customer dreams and create a real-world out of it. We never commit to several events we concentrate and invest all our time to a very few selected couples to give them our full personalised availability.
Is there a guest limit when it comes to your fine dining service? Would you recommend it as the first choice for small-sized weddings?
Our events department is geared for up to 500 people, and we give the same attention when it is a small engagement happening in very romantic surroundings. Just as for our large events, we still strive and commit to the same experience as you would expect in a fine dining restaurant. As CEO of the company, I take a lot of pleasure in announcing every single course at each table for our clients. This gives a personalised touch and makes people feel at home and welcome in our circle.
What key trends do you think will shape the future of the fine dining experience?
Trends come and go and such trends are copied. I rather believe in setting trends yourself and being unique and experimental in what you do. This sets you apart and makes you more interesting for your customers. I like to brainstorm possible location scenarios which do not exist and combine eclectic venues with fine dining services. It is the contrast which arrests our attention. Customers want the experience this is without question.
Standard Buffet sit down dinners are fading away and do not offer any experimental happening. I believe in thematic events adapted to the environment. Food and service need to adapt to the location. Implement unexpected dinner happenings and build up with light and sound to create a different environment.
How do you personalise your catering style to each wedding?
Events can be personalised only based on customers feedback. Therefore, it is crucial to spend enough time with your clients and be an active listener. Based on their own experience and their partnership, we always come up with special and surprising services to catch the emotional part of the couple where they feel the most connected with.
Could you mention some key dishes from your menu?
Our menus are constantly developing but we have some key players for the finger food: Goat Cheese Praline from Etyek with hand-cut cubes of pear and nuts crumble. Regarding the served meals one very popular dish is our Marbled Salmon a unique technique developed in Michelin star restaurants served with al dente Beluga Lentils, Orange segments, fermented radish and citrus sauce, a perfect summer dish which is light and extremely colourful.
For meat dishes, I could mention certainly our Australian Wagyu Beef with a marbling level of 7 which is one of the highest grades but apart from this exclusive dish, we serve a very popular Irish Beef cheek which is cooked for 24h and virtually melts in your mouth, you won’t need to use your knife on this. This dish is presented as modern Hungarian and offers fermented vegetables, and Vadas Sauce topped up with our famous homemade gravy.
In your opinion, can a wedding be luxurious and sustainable at the same time?
We love to be sustainable, and everything starts from scratch how you plan your logistics and packaging. Sustainability in events means not only reducing the leftover trash it means as well responsible sourcing and here we can take significant steps. It is connected with quality ingredients rather than where they come from. It is more sustainable to buy slow grown food for example to buy meat from farmers who treat animals the way they are supposed to.
Seasonal fishing and responsible wild-caught fishing is much more sustainable than fishes from farming pools treated with endless chemicals. The bottom line is you can feel free to choose any menu items, it is our task to source for you the best and most responsible products in order for you to celebrate not only with a healthy feeling but to savour real and honest food.
What do you think is the future of international weddings? How is this year’s pandemic influencing Terra Catering’s business profile?
Certainly, these days our clients are uncertain and it is painful not to hold any events neither corporate nor weddings. No one can travel and nobody is open to join any public events. I do believe that in a year from now we will return to normal with a better and more responsible way of thinking. We need to circle back and think a little about what has the pandemic created, and where and why is it happening. A lot goes back to the industry, trying to make things cheaper with an even higher profit margin. We see this as well in the catering industry that prices need to be as low as possible to keep spending down.
Our price level is certainly on the high side, but we can be extremely proud of what we serve and give all necessary background information to our clients. And we believe that this will influence the future of events, the emphasis will be on higher quality and being assured that everything goes well, instead of eating overheavy and unhealthy meals.
Which venues in Hungary would you recommend to international couples in the first place?
Hungary has developed a lot in the past decade, and I can clearly speak about myself being part of this experience. The pulse of the city, the view the fascinating nightlife and the uncomplicated behaviour of the city makes it very easy for couples to be here.
Amongst a wide range of historical venues over majestic landmarks around lake Balaton we find endless options to surprise our clients with outstanding values which can’t be found anywhere else. Our favourites are amongst the Kerengő near the Vajdahunyad Castle, Holdudvar on Margaret Island or the Liszkay Winery near lake Balaton.
What is your favourite Hungarian food? And wine?
Good Goulash soup is great when made in the cauldron. I love the authentic dishes cooked in nature with unique and quality ingredients. The stews are my favourite, for sure. Goose liver is a local product as well and if it is perfectly made and not coming from a can even better. We have outstanding products here like Mangalica and a lot of root vegetables. I wish, however, that producers had a better chance to sell more quality food in Budapest so that it would sense for them to invest in good clean food for the future.
With regards to the wines, we are well secured here in Hungary having an extremely wide variety for everybody’s taste. My personal favourites are the white full-bodied which can be found with St Andrea or in the Tokaj region. Recently I discovered the Kristinus Winery, which impressed me a lot in terms of organic and unfiltered wines.
If you are thinking about a special engagement party, bachelorette party or even a wedding, Terra Catering’s and Kristinus Wine Estate’s unique fine dining experience package may be the perfect choice for you. For details of the exclusive fine dining experience program (VIP transfer, wine tour with a tractor, picnic among the vineyards with a panoramic view of Lake Balaton, fine dining experience, personalised gift) click here.