Why luxury catering is the ultimate way to host a dinner party

When it comes to your next milestone birthday, an engagement party or intimate fashion soiree with your nearest and dearest, hosting at home needn't be as daunting as it might sound. In fact, the rise in luxury caterers who bring bespoke canapés, chefs and staff to your home, now take out the guesswork out, so you can have more fun staying in.

From beachside weddings to marquees assembled in your backyard, nothing is off limits for chef Sophie Cookes – who gets a buzz from custom designing everything from menu planning to location scouting. 

For the past 11 years she's been busy serving up a culinary storm for her clients. She perfects gastronomy menus for home parties that become the most talked about events in your friendship circle.

Cookes, who studied at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, says clients want to create high-end events in the comfort of their own home because it makes them feel important. 

While some top clients are happy to bring out their best dinnerware for the occasion, she can also bring in all the extras where required. For example, right now her staff are busy polishing a 30-piece Murano glass set and Waterford crystal pieces that belong to an 80-year-old couple who have a fabulous home party planned. 

"Our service is so personalised it's like getting a suit custom made," says Sophie Cookes. 

"You can't walk in and find something that fits you from the rack. We sit down and get to know the client, work on a menu together and no two events we host are the same," she says. 

"I also don't have a set of 20 canapes I send out for quotes. This is about a personal wish list of what the clients wants to eat and we create them together," says Cookes.

A gap in the market led to her decision to move into luxury catering. 


"People can go out to a fabulous restaurant and eat well, but the demand is up for bespoke at home and to do it in the privacy of your own home," says Cookes.

"My clients also care about what they're eating. They want more than a chicken sandwich it just won't cut it anymore," she says. Cookes will import scampi caviar from Western Australia, sources her meat from Leo Donati butcher in Carlton and says its quality over quantity.

Since 1962, Peter Rowland has been a leader and most sought after luxury caterer in Melbourne. Best known for his famous chicken sandwiches [they are no ordinary kind] and cooked for the likes of Kerry and James Packer, hosted marquees at the Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival and Grand Prix.

"We've always been about high end catering and done events that fit that brief," says Peter Rowland's CEO Emma Yee.

 "But we're also seeing a trend for the same feel at home. Not everybody wants a chef in their kitchen cooking either, so we can do buffet and grazing tables and organise home deliverable packs for your next party," she says.

Whether you want hot or cold dishes, nothing is out of the question for the brand that will relocate to the Docklands from its home in South Yarra with a retail front on the cards too.

 "Hosting at home is easy nowadays because we do all the work for the client. From cheese platters to antipasto, homemade chicken and leek sausages with relish and finger sandwiches for afternoon tea, a luxury treat can take place with your own home and people want the hard work done for them," says Yee.

Sydney's restaurant Azuma is known for its luxury Japanese dining but also offer a luxury catering option for home parties too. Think bespoke omakase to enjoy at home with friends – where abalone, lobster and champagne is ever present. 

Some of their top clients can be found on the Forbes rich list and when these wealthy Japanese businessmen roll into who want Azuma to cater for their private jet business meetings. 

"We create an exclusive kaiseki degustation style menus with nine courses for clients," says chef Kimitaka Azuma who hosts events at home to full flight mode depending on client needs. 

This isn't catering for the faint hearted – it's about fine-tuning a menu that's big on flavour, where a restaurant experience is transported to your chosen location. 

His clients can expect Wagyu beef to wild caught Bluefin Toro Steak too. 

"We always try and present something that our guests have hopefully never seen before at a dinner party or wedding," says Azuma. 

"It's all about bringing a touch of theatre to the home too…We work with our suppliers to ensure the freshest premium produce and our sushi chefs prepare dishes in front of the guests for the occasion."