Name: Suki Hudson
Company: Hudsons Catering Ltd
Top Tips for Success
- Be adaptable: every client is different.
- Be attuned to changes in fashion, particularly regarding food.
- Pursue quality.
- Value people you work with, whether colleagues, suppliers or otherwise.
- Try to be different: every occasion is someone’s dream.
What is a catering company? A business that provides food? Most certainly. For formal and informal events? Very much so. Spectacular food for special occasions? Absolutely. But one catering company based in the North East of Scotland does all of the above, and so much more. Hudsons Catering was set up in Aberdeen thirty five years ago by Suki Hudson, a woman whose vision and attention to detail has enabled her company to cope with an impressive array of events from the most intimate of dinners to the very grandest of occasions.
One might have suspected that things would start in a modest manner, but history records that the first event the company took on was a corporate dinner for 250 people. Since then, Suki has learnt that being able to adapt and evolve according to the needs of each client, changing fashions, different tastes, circumstances, and venues, is critical to success. Often providing their expertise in grand houses, halls both plush and simple, and even on the side of a hill with no facilities whatsoever, Hudsons has met each individual challenge with a nimble adaptability. Over the years, health and safety regulations have tightened considerably, making the everyday work of a catering company very different from the early days. None-the-less, Suki says there is always a way of achieving the desired effect. New challenges continue to be met; for example, Hudson’s have recently agreed to cater for Satrosphere in Aberdeen.
One of the keys to success of any food business is finding good chefs, a quest that Suki feels is becoming increasingly difficult. She likes to keep things ‘in-house’ as much as possible and works with a small team. Ann Milne, her partner and a company director, is a prize-winning chef. It is Anne, known as Annie, who runs the kitchen, the heart of the business. There are twelve regular staff with at least eight people working in the kitchen, with others being brought in as necessary – at times Hudsons can be involved in four or five events in one day. Suki describes Annie as a ‘worker of miracles’ and as such, she, Suki, does not interfere in the kitchen itself. The summer is the busiest time, but throughout the winter there are numerous events too, with dinners, office lunches, and even nurseries that use the company’s services. Menus change continually, and have to be adapted according to the client’s requirements and budget. There are times when a client might wish to keep costs down by cutting back on food, so menus are never ‘set in stone’. Suki is passionate about good quality food, and senses that it is not everyone who properly understands the costs involved in providing the very best. The skill is knowing how to provide top quality food at a good price without lowering standards.
While the bulk of their work involves catering for weddings, there are often corporate occasions that can be highly specific and extremely quirky. The word ‘catering’ does not do justice to the service provided. In addition to producing and serving food and drinks, Hudsons will organise the look of an event, if necessary bringing in tables, chairs, decoration of the room, and anything else that is needed to achieve the client’s wishes. At times, this demands ingenious leaps of imagination. In the past they have built a ‘cliff-top’ inside a marquee, with rowing boats and lobster-pots aplenty, and a pool filled with sea creatures. Suki has a particular flair for creating scenes – whether floral or otherwise. She works with the same team of experts when specialist lighting or effects are needed and this builds tremendous confidence for her clients. Continuity and seamless teamwork is a huge part of their success.
Over the years, the company has found that being the sole caterer for one venue is a business model that not only works but has great advantages too. They have been involved from the very start, three years ago, with Logie House near Inverurie and now have a wedding almost every weekend of the year. Knowing the venue in detail helps events to run smoothly, as well as being able to cope with unusual requests.
With their success at Logie House behind them, Hudsons are embarking on a new venture at Elsick House near Stonehaven. Like Logie House, this is a stunning venue with glorious gardens, an idyllic site for any wedding. Suki’s creative imagination is already forming plans for certain spaces at Elsick which would add a unique experience to any couple’s big day. Alternatively, being within easy reach of Aberdeen, the house provides a superb venue to corporate events.
New challenges continue to be met. For example, Hudsons have just agreed to take on the catering at the Aberdeen Science Centre – formerly the Satrosphere down by the beach.
Having discovered that ‘catering’ is much more than the uninitiated might expect, Suki has found that this sort of work is one of the most rewarding businesses imaginable. Not only is her company providing delicious food in wonderful settings, but they are creating memorable experiences for large numbers of people. It might not be as simple as waving a magic wand, but it is not too far-fetched to say Hudsons is in the business of making dreams come true.