ArtChat [Blog Interview Number 12] – Tom Burke

This month we are happy to present an insight into the life of one of Brisbane’s and Australia’s most sort after caterer.  A Gold Licence Caterer, Tom Burke from Caxton St Catering  is considered one of Australia’s leading culinary creators.  A member of the ISES (International Special Events Society) Tom is constantly redefining limits and pushing boundaries in the food world, which is why he is up there with Australia’s best. Tom has catered for premier establishments such as QAGoMA, high profile events like the Bledisloe Cup and he has recently, for the 6th year in a row, been selected as the exclusive Australia wide VIP caterer for Cirque du Soleil .In our interview with Tom we have tried to delve into his life, snatch some industry secrets and gossip and of course chatted about his extensive art collection.

AC:     Tom you are obviously a hard working, dedicated and determined business man, how does it feel to be considered one of Australia’s best?| TB: A great compliment, though I impress that it is a team effort and I have been blessed over 20 years with great employees that understand my vision, deliver superbly, and ‘go that extra mile’.

AC:     You come across as very passionate about what you do, how did you get into the industry? TB:      There was not a masterplan or intent, it just evolved. After a career in Ragtrade in Australia I went overseas for 5 years and, out of necessity, gravitated towards the Hospitality Industry. When I arrived back I started to build to where I am today!

AC:     Where do you draw your inspiration to constantly push boundaries and create such innovative and visually pleasing dishes? TB:      My clients, everyone is different and each wants something different. To elect to have a catered function means that my client, private or commercial, wants something different with their personal stamp evident.

AC:     You seem to constantly be setting goals and smashing them, how do you stay focused? What drives you? TB:        Our Ethos at CSC is ‘you are only as good as your last job’ Personally, I am a Leo, I hate repartition, get bored quickly and have a fear of failure, throw in a healthy dose of Catholic guilt and you have it!

AC:     You’ve catered for an amazing array of clientele, what has been your favourite moment in your career so far? TB:      After 20 years there are quite a few though every time you complete an event that was larger or more complex or more strategically daunting than the previous, there is huge satisfaction.

AC:     Your company caters for every occasion from corporate events to weddings, do you have a favourite event you enjoy catering for the most? TB:      Sometimes you click with a client and you ‘get’ what they want – you deliver the dream! They are the favourite!

AC:     You watch chef’s like Heston Blumenthal create the weirdest and wackiest dishes, do you have any similar experiences where you have been gobsmacked at what the clients have requested? TC:  Constantly!

AC:     As a world-class caterer I’m sure you’ve had your fair share of culinary experiences; do you have a favourite meal or most memorable meal? TB:      I have had quite a few, though I think it is very rare when the worlds collide and the food, the setting, the ambience and the company are at one.

AC:     Your website is a clear indication of your playfulness, originality and creative flair, do you appreciate art as much as you do food? TB:      Absolutely!

AC:     How do you feel about your work being considered as art, is this something you agree with?| TB:      I think it is taking it too far! Creative, yes! Sensory, totally! Art, no! We create for the moment.

AC:     Do you have a favourite artist or art period/style that you enjoy the most? Why do you think you identify with this work/style? TB:      Modern Art! The sculptor Alexander Seaton.

AC:     You’ve catered for QAGoMA as well as the Bledisloe cup events, does the catering differ between these audiences very much? Give us a little insight into what needs to be considered when catering for art lovers and rugby fanatics. TB:      So close but yet soooo far away!  For a Sports Event we are under strict time lines…..you cannot miss the start of a game!

AC:     How would you describe yourself in three words? TB:     Committed, Excitable, Eye to detail.

AC:     You’re clearly a very busy man and highly sort after, what do you do to unwind when it all gets too much? TB:      Lock myself away with a good Serial killer Book.

AC:     Do you have a celebrity idol or chef that you admire? TB:      Tetsuya

AC:     I’ve heard you are a bit of an art collector, what do you look for when buying art and how do you decide on a particular piece? TB:      Comes from a connection, I tend towards sculpture. Most of the Art I have is modern and quite bold.

AC:    Do you have any tips for people considering buying art for the first time? TB:      You like it buy it! If you don’t have a place for it now, you will. If you buy with a passion for a piece it has a calming affect which, at unexpected times, excite you.

AC:     And finally, what is your take on the nation’s current food craze? From Masterchef to MyKitchenRules it seems that every second person these days considers themselves a foodie... has this genre of popular culture affected you or the industry in any way? TB:    I cannot stand it! It gives such falsehoods of the industry and it denigrates trained chefs who have studied and worked for many years to get where they are today.

RELEVANT LINKS: Cirque Du Soleil Exclusive National Caterer - Tapis Rouge Member Brisbane Marketing Member ISES Queensland Member Meetings & Events Australia  Caterer to the Gallery of Modern Art & Qld Art Gallery